MINI has announced that it is to terminate its works involvement in the World Rally Championship at the conclusion of the 2012 season.
While the decision raises concerns over the future of the Motorsport Italia-run WRC Team MINI Portugal outfit, Prodrive will continue to work towards a full programme with the John Cooper Works WRC next year.
The decision, taken after 'careful consideration' according to a statement issued by MINI's company BMW, will mean only privateer teams will now represent the brand going forwards.
MINI will continue to work with Prodrive on development of the 1.6 litre turbo engine used in the WRC machine, although it will withdraw its financial support when the current season ends and homologation obligations have been fulfilled.
“MINI will abandon its works involvement in the WRC at the end of the 2012 season,” Dr. Kay Segler, Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management, said. “By the end of the season WRC Team MINI Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012. As such, in accordance with FIA regulations, we will have achieved the WRC homologation for the MINI John Cooper Works. In doing so, we would have achieved the prerequisites to allow those interested to continue to run the car in the WRC on a customer basis.
“BMW Motorsport will continue to further develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine in conjunction with Prodrive. In a very difficult commercial environment, MINI has played an active role in ensuring that friends of the MINI brand can continue to participate in motorsport. As such, the MINI family is retaining its presence on various international platforms and getting even closer to its customers.
“We would like to see the MINI John Cooper Works WRC continue to run competitively in WRC and other championships. We would like to thank Prodrive, WRC Team MINI Portugal and our partners for the good co-operation, and wish all drivers, teams and customers a successful future in rallying.”
Prodrive's existing long-term contract with MINI will remain unchanged despite the announcement, with the company producing both WRC and S2000 machines for customer use.
Despite no financial backing from the manufacturer, Prodrive remains committed to putting together a programme to run in the WRC again next year having competed in selected events this year.
“We understand MINI's decision and in the current challenging economic climate it was not unexpected,” Richard Taylor, Business Development Director at Prodrive, said. “It is however good news that MINI remains enthusiastic about the WRC and wishes to see MINI rally cars continuing to run competitively in the WRC and other championships. We look forward to continuing to work with MINI and BMW Motorsport to maximise the performance of both WRC and S2000 MINIs on behalf of our mutual customers and our own WRC team.
“We have been developing our own plans for 2013 WRC participation with the MINI John Cooper Works and will announce next season's Prodrive WRC Team entry and driver details in the due course. We have a number of further enhancements to engine, chassis and transmission scheduled for introduction in the first quarter of 2013 and look forward to making these available to our many rally partners, who already operate MINI JCW cars around the world.”