The latest addition to the growing MINI lineup, their micro crossover, the Countryman, has already attracted interest as the shortest length all-wheel drive automobile to be sold in North America. In a move that will no doubt gain more curiosity, the 2011 MINI Countryman will be the basis a new motorsport revival. Harking back to the 1960s when the original Mini (note the different letter casing in distinguishing between the old and new car), the small British car settled into victory lane for the Monte Carlo Rally 3 times within a 4-year span.
About to become a showcase vehicle in the FIA’s WRC (World Rally Championship) Super 2000 class, the new WRC category devotes itself as championing cars that are more production-based resulting in a more affordable medium for drivers to compete on the world rally stage. Featuring a MINI’s factory ALL4 all-wheel drive system, MINI Countryman is almost guaranteed to be the perfect counter against the Volkswagen Polo and Opel Corsa.
Powered by a MINI Cooper S-sourced 1.6 liter gasoline engine, turbocharging and direct injection will allow 184 brake horsepower to be generated coordinated with variable valve management technology which mirrors the BMW Valvetronic system. This engine power is field to the rally car’s drive wheels using a spec-gearbox in accordance to the FIA rules.
Planning a MINI rally car effort since last year, the BMW subsidiary gained the experience race engineering company Prodrive. Bolstering the image of British auto maker Aston Martin through world GT class competition prior to Prodrive’s owner David Richards buying the prestige brand, Richard’s company was also instrumental in aiding Subaru’s popular WRC efforts which is highlighted by the 3-straight manufacturer championships from 1995 to 1997.
While this sighted as a return to world rally competition by the company now known as MINI, the entrance of the Countryman into FIA Super 2000 World Rally Championship, the MINI (or Mini) name in he series is not the only sense of nostalgia. MINI’s German parent company BMW have certainly not forgotten about their rallying history which included the BMW 2002 in the 1970s and a BMW M3 victory in the 1987 Corsica Rally.
While MINI will compete with a factory-funded works team, the manufacturer has also indicated that customer or privateer efforts are going to have a chance to race this race-prepped Countryman. Showing off their new Countryman vehicle in pro racing trim, MINI will be entering the specialized vehicle into select 2011 FIA World Rally Championship event before graduating to a full season schedule for 2012.
Seeking victory in one of the most grueling motorsports, mastering the rocks and sailing over snow will be no small order for the MINI Countryman. However, history has taught us that strength is not always a physical quality.