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MINI Officially Takes Over Factory WRC Team

The day has come that many of us have dreaded – MINI has officially announced that Prodrive is out as the factory supported MINI team for the WRC. MINI is parting ways with the UK based rally specialists and will effectively take over the reigns by handing them to MINI Team Portugal for the 2012 season. That means the banner of the MINI WRC Team will be carried for 2012 by the teams of Armindo Araújo (PT) and his co-driver Miguel Ramalho (PT), as well as Paulo Nobre (BR) and co-driver Edu Paula (BR).

Reports are that the issues that saw this split came down to money. To us it’s a great shame. Prodrive managed to field a rally team that went from nothing to 2nd place in a WRC rally in the span of months. In the recent Monte Carlo WRC rally the team managed a 2nd place beating teams with much more experience and a longer rally CV.

One thing that won’t change is that Prodrive’s MINI rally team will continue to compete in the WRC with Dani Sordo as it’s number one driver. It will just do so without the backing of MINI.

Additionally Prodrive’s involvement in the customer race car program will also continue. That means Produce will still be building rally cars under license from MINI to be sold worldwide.

With this news 2012 becomes a very interesting year for the MINI WRC Team. In our minds using MINI Team Portugal is likely a stop-gap measure for 2012. We’d expect MINI to reevaluate the team structure and potentially even bring it further in-house at some point in the years ahead. This could allow MINI to hire new drivers that are more well known and/or appeal to its largest European markets of the UK and Germany.

Official Release: After Dani Sordo (ES) and Carlos del Barrio (ES) finished second on the return of the brand to the legendary Monte Carlo Rally, the direction has now been set for a long-term MINI presence in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC): On Thursday 2 February, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) accepted a two-car manufacturer entry by WRC Team MINI Portugal into the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers. As a consequence MINI will complete the homologation for the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. The WRC Team MINI Portugal – consisting of Armindo Araújo (PT) and his co-driver Miguel Ramalho (PT), as well as Paulo Nobre (BR) and co-driver Edu Paula (BR) – will contest the remaining 12 events of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.

This long-term homologation ensures that the MINI John Cooper Works WRC can be used in the premier league of rallying, and other series in accordance with FIA regulations, up to and including 2018. The cooperation with Prodrive will be put on a new basis. Prodrive remains responsible for the construction and support of MINI John Cooper Works WRC customer vehicles, and will continue to work with the BMW Group on the further development of the car. The WRC Team, run by Prodrive, will from now on start as a works-supported private team.

“I am delighted that the future of MINI in the WRC has been secured on a long-term basis,” said Dr. Kay Segler, Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management. “We remain convinced that the sport of rallying is perfectly suited to our brand. The situation we now find ourselves in means the MINI Motorsport family can, and will, continue to grow on the rally scene. With three podiums from just seven starts in the world championship, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC has already emphatically proven its potential. I am confident that our customer teams around the world will continue to thrill MINI fans with this car over the coming years. The FIA was just as interested in the long-term presence of the MINI brand in the WRC as we were, and was actively involved in finding a constructive solution. We are grateful for the good cooperation and the understanding it has shown us.”

Segler added: “With its great enthusiasm and hard work, the Prodrive team has played a major role in the remarkable sporting success we have achieved on our initial outings with the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. On behalf of MINI Motorsport, I would like to thank everyone at Prodrive for their efforts so far and we look forward to working with them in support of our MINI John Cooper Works WRC customers in the future.”

Written By: Gabe

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1786586697 Jack Empson

    Let’s hope they have the brains to leave the Dakar team alone,

  • Dr Obnxs

    So, ProDrive will still build cars and support the cars in the field. MINI will still provide drivetrains. A team is getting the designation as the “Factory” team and the current drivers for MINI get the shaft… Am I reading this correctly?

  • http://twitter.com/jwf90 jwf

    Its interesting that you guys think that BMW will take the team in house for 2013 from all the press releases I read I get the feeling that BMW want to stop due to the high costs and where never that really interested in the WRC, obviously the current crisis surrounding the WRC doesn’t help but i guess they decided a customer relationship is the best way forward due to the competitiveness of the Countryman. Anyway I hope to see a full works team in the near future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Eaves/100002517570191 Scott Eaves

    So, Sordo and Meeke (and their co-pilots) are out of jobs? Wow. That’s a shame. I really must be missing something… Hire Prodrive to design and build a competitive car. Field two cars on a partial schedule – and have both drivers do pretty darn well. Commit to a full schedule for 2012. Drop Meeke to partial schedule for 2012. End deal with Prodrive to field 2 MINI top notch cars. Hand 2012 program over to privateers to run.

    Why even start the season with Sordo?

  • jeff

    can someone please clarify: By completing a full 2012 season with a factory team the countryman WRC is homologated for privateers through 2018?  Or will BMW/MINI have to ‘field’ a team for each of the seasons?

    i think both quotes from dr. kay seem to indicate that there will be support for customer cars, but nothing specific about future BMW/MINI factory efforts.

  • Anonymous

    I am not sure what the big deal with this is. BMW Motorsport was unhappy with ProDrive, they have moved on. BMW is supplying the drivetrains and Prodrive assembles the cars- last time I checked the drivetrain was a huge component to winning at motor sport. ProDrive was obviously making money off of BMW on both ends- selling and building customer cars while also getting money to “field” a team for BMW/MINI. 

    People forget that BMW operates extensive customer car racing teams and has been a builder/drivetrain supplier for many motorsports teams so they have been where ProDrive is and must feel that they are being unreasonable or did not generate the sponsors to offset the drivetrain costs. 

    If ProDrive developed this entire program in-house with BMW support (not the case at all) I may feel differently. Subaru left for a reason when it did and now it seems like WRC is having more internal issues so I don’t think BMW is the only brand with issues with how the teams and WRC as a whole are operating. 

    “The car charged with this task is the MINI Countryman WRC, which is being developed by Prodrive, in close cooperation with MINI, and is based on the production model. The powerful heart of the racing car is a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport. “

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Eaves/100002517570191 Scott Eaves

      “I am not sure what the big deal with this is:” – Some of us were obviously a bit more excited to have MINI in a premier racing series than you appear to be. Not BMW but MINI – I could care less about BMW and its racing entries.

      And sorry – BMW has made a half-baked commitment to MINI and racing if they’re dropping out after less than a full season. Why even start the season if they were going to do this? It’s a freaking tease to those of us who do pay attention to WRC and enjoy seeing MINIs with top drivers in them.

      • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com Nathaniel Salzman

        Let’s clarify something here. MINI isn’t dropping out of MINI WRC or even reducing their commitment to the number of races they were already planning to run before parting ways with Prodrive. Furthermore, the thing truly impacting MINI’s commitment to racing rally is in the television coverage (think advertising placement in car form) they’re able to negotiate. That’s what held them up at signing up for the season at the first place, Prodrive tensions notwithstanding. 

        Restated, MINI is still rally racing, they’re just not doing it with Prodrive anymore. And guess what, everybody else racing WRC right now isn’t using Prodrive either. Sure, they’re brilliant, but it’s not like they’re the only path to racing or the only path to victories. BMW won’t be starting from scratch either, as they’ve already got a brilliant factory car thanks to Prodrive. If MINI were going to drop out of racing, they would have done so at the FIA filing deadline. It’s unfortunate that the relationship with Prodrive went sour, but it’s not the end of MINI Rally racing, either officially or unofficially. Today’s news is actually good news, as it’s MINI making a formal commitment to keep racing in the WRC. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Eaves/100002517570191 Scott Eaves

          That press release says that MINI is handing the reigns to a privateer – “will effectively take over the reigns by handing them to MINI Team Portugal for the 2012 season. That means the banner of the MINI WRC Team will be carried for 2012 by the ….”

          That’s not MINI doing the racing as they were in the partnership with Prodrive. Yes, there will still be MINI WRC cars racing, but not MINI. I’m glad there will still be MINI WRC cars.

          Again, seems silly to have done that after one race into the season when, if this was the intent all along, why not do it before the season and get more competitive drivers and have it be FACTORY teams instead of handing it over to privateers?

        • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com Nathaniel Salzman

          That’s the Prodrive component of the team. Meanwhile MINI has essentially created a new factory team, the “MINI John Cooper Works WRC”. 

          From what I’m reading in the release, there are two separate teams being talked about here. 1) The factory MINI team, which is in essence a new team:

          On Thursday 2 February, the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) accepted a two-car manufacturer entry by WRC Team MINI Portugal into the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers. As a consequence MINI will complete the homologation for the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. The WRC Team MINI Portugal – consisting of Armindo Araújo (PT) and his co-driver Miguel Ramalho (PT), as well as Paulo Nobre (BR) and co-driver Edu Paula (BR) – will contest the remaining 12 events of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship.

          And 2) what used to be the factory team partnered with Prodrive, which is now a privateer team. Meanwhile Prodrive will continue to exist and provide MINIs to other “customer” privateer teams on MINI’s behalf:

          The cooperation with Prodrive will be put on a new basis. Prodrive remains responsible for the construction and support of MINI John Cooper Works WRC customer vehicles, and will continue to work with the BMW Group on the further development of the car. The WRC Team, run by Prodrive, will from now on start as a works-supported private team.

          So if I’m reading this correctly, MINI will continue to work with Prodrive, albeit in a different capacity. Prodrive will continue to source hardware and even development, but the MINI factory team essentially becomes like any other privateer team receiving race-ready chassis from Prodrive. It’s now less of a partnership and much more of a customer/vendor type relationship. It even says MINI will continue to use Prodrive to develop the chassis in the future.

          Thought of another way, considering that the former factory team will basically become a privateer team, MINI will sort of be racing against Prodrive, at least for the time being. 

      • Anonymous

        They are not dropping out… that is the problem here people don’t get it. MINI will still be racing. MINI MOTORSPORT is under BMW MOTORSPORT in name, there really is no MINI Motorsport but rather a marketing title- same building same staff, same people. 

        Did people not read the release? They dropped ProDrive; who cares? The teams they support will still race through 2018.  MINI MOTORSPORT will still be represented as will the Countryman and MINI name plate. As for top driver’s- ProDrive will keep them this season and I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other talent land in other MINI’s once some sponsors get on board. Worth noting is that customer teams have been winning for MINI in other race series and it is not out of the question that this can be done in WRC with MINI (BMW) Motorsport with more control.

        The ProDrive situation has been an issue for some time. When the cars failed to register for the season on time- for negotiating reasons it seems they sealed the fate as the MINI Countryman could not be homologated then. This is the only way the MINI Countryman could be homologated for future use and MIN had little choice really since ProDrive could not race in each event. The writing was on the wall. 

        Here are the regs for “maunfuactuer”- 

                        7.2  PARTICIPATION – MANUFACTURER

                    A Manufacturer:

        7.2.1 Undertakes to take part in all the rallies of the Championship with a minimum of two (2) World
        

        Rally Cars.

        7.2.2 Wishing to score points in the Championship must register for the Championship with the FIA no later than 19 December 2011 using a registration form available from the FIA.

        7.2.3 Will be awarded points according to Art. 5.4 of these regulations. For any one Manufacturer, only 2 nominated drivers (see Art. 7.2.6) will score points according to their relative position.

                        7.2.4  Must pay the registration fee of 300,000 €.

                    7.2.5  Must give the name of the entrant at the time of registration. This name must include the name of

        the car manufacturer.
        

        7.2.6 Must inform the FIA of the name of the first driver entered for the season at the time of registration for the Championship. This driver may change only after the agreement of the World Rally Championship Commission. The driver of the second car may be changed for each of the rallies in the Championship. The name of the second driver must be notified to the FIA before the closing date of entries of the rally concerned.

        7.2.7 Which does not take part in a Championship event will be fined the amount of the registration fee and must pay each organiser the due entry fee per event missed and will be excluded. 

        BTW- I think you meant to write “couldn’t care less” rather than “could care less” as the latter means you care!

  • JonPD

    So MINI is actually just supporting a Privater not really a MINI racing team as much as a team that races MINIs with factory support. No big issue with that personally however very disappointed that this has lost any link to the UK.

    I am hoping that Pro-Drive kicks butt…..

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M6F5QTCZ4EOFRZLWIFAVPBPEUE j

    Good to see they are in it still, in whatever capacity….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000346192156 Edward Ng

    Better known drivers than Sordo or Meeke? Unless Petter Solberg or Sebastian Loeb or Marcus Gronholm or the fella from Estonia are waiting to sign up with MINI for WRC, I am perplexed at MINI/BMW’s choice to drop the current crew. Some of the money that they used to burn for F1 could easily covered Prodrive’s contract and then some.

    • Anonymous

      The F1 money created a thing called BMWi, an entire electric mobility company, a carbon fiber production stream and Connected Drive-. the F1 money is well spent rather than on WRC.

      • Tristan

        How about five dtm cars instead of six haha, jk

  • Jay Zee

    Could somebody please explain why Prodrive’s MINI WRC Team has won 28 points (18 – Sordo, 6 –  Campana and 4 – Sandell) but only 26 points of these are awarded in the WRC’s and FIA’s official classification table? Please help, it’s really annoying me!


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