The Prodrive-run MINI World Rally Championship effort has revealed the events on which it plans to enter cars for Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke in 2011 – with the first of them barely two months away.
In January, Prodrive chairman David Richards – the mastermind behind MINI's return to the WRC with the Countryman this year – confirmed that the project would take in half-a-dozen rallies over the latter part of the 2011 campaign, without specifying which ones [see separate story – click here
The MINI John Cooper Works S2000 – the forerunner to the MINI John Cooper Works WRC that will be entrusted to Citroën refugee Sordo and Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) graduate Meeke over the coming months – was unveiled at the 81st International Geneva Motor Show in Switzerland today (Tuesday).
“We are delighted to present the MINI John Cooper Works S2000 here in Geneva,” commented Dr. Wolfgang Armbrecht, MINI brand management senior vice-president. “MINI has joined forces with a highly-experienced partner in Prodrive, and our colleagues in England continue to oversee the development of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC.
“When you add the turbocharged MINI engine and the BMW Group's expertise in the world of motorsport to the mix, you can see we have an exceptional blend of attributes which will take us quickly to the next stage. The car's technical make-up and driving characteristics make it the perfect fit for rallying. Entering the WRC takes MINI back to its rally roots and brings this heritage right up-to-date.”
Following a series of tests and the public presentation of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC at the MINI plant in Oxford on 11 April, Sordo and Meeke will debut the car in the WRC on the Rally d'Italia in Sardinia from 5-8 May. Further entries are planned for Finland in July, Germany in August, France at the end of September, Spain in October and on home turf in Britain in November.
By dint of the new WRC regulations in 2011, privateer teams are able to line up with the same cars as the factory operation, with Prodrive currently working on twelve MINIs – in both WRC and Super 2000 spec – for delivery to customers across Europe.
In Portugal at the end of this month, the Brazil World Rally Team will be sending Daniel Oliveira into action in a MINI John Cooper Works S2000, whilst reigning PWRC Champion Armindo Araújo will similarly compete in a MINI for the Motorsport Italia outfit. Oliveira and Araújo will subsequently swap over to the MINI John Cooper Works WRC for Rally d'Italia.
Three key areas set the WRC car apart from its Super 2000 sibling. The MINI John Cooper Works WRC will benefit from a larger rear wing and its front end will boast greater aerodynamic efficiency. On asphalt rallies, the WRC machine will be fitted with water-cooled brakes on the front axle, whilst the side windows of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC will be made from ultra-lightweight plastic.
Both cars will be powered by the same turbocharged 1.6-litre engine used in standard MINI production models, but optimised by BMW Motorsport for use in numerous race series including the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC).