MINI Withdraws Factory WRC Team

MINI announced officially today that they are pulling out of “works involvement” in the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of the 2012 season. What does that mean? It means that MINI is no longer fielding a factory racing team in the WRC. Does this mean the end of MINIs racing in WRC? Not at all. In fact, BMW will continue to develop the 1.6L racing engine with Prodrive, and Prodrive will continue to develop the Countryman racing chassis and sell it to privateer racing teams.

By fielding a factory racing team for two years and competing in the entire WRC series, MINI has accomplished what it set out to do: get MINIs officially back into rally racing.

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.

Now it’s up to BMW Motorsports, Prodrive and privateer teams to keep MINIs competitive. Obviously, we’re sad to see the official MINI team go, but the car has been proven competitive with several podium finishes — including a second place podium finish at Monte Carlo. Now it’s time for the right team to come along and push their MINIs through to the championship. Full press release after the break.

[Official Release] MINI will terminate its works involvement in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the end of the 2012 season. The company has made this decision after careful consideration.

Dr. Kay Segler, Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management: “MINI will abandon its works involvement in the WRC at the end of the 2012 season. 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 rallying 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 cooperation, and wish all drivers, teams and customers a successful future in rallying.”

MINI Motorsport has secured the future of its customer teams, while Prodrive will still be able to run, optimise and sell vehicles in the future. BMW Motorsport will continue to develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine and provide Prodrive with parts.

From its rallying debut early in 2011, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC turned out to be a successful model: MINI drivers collected three podiums and many top-ten finishes at the wheel of this car. Arguably the biggest success was achieved by Dani Sordo (ES) in January 2012, when he finished second at the comeback of MINI at the legendary Monte Carlo Rally. With three wins in the Principality – back in 1964, 1965 and 1967 – the Mini laid the foundation for the unique reputation of the brand in rallying.

[Source: MINI]
  • What a shame. I don’t think they gave it a chance to mature. Now that Loeb is retiring who knows what would have been. I wonder how this will affect the Dakar team.

    • The two programs are unrelated. MINI is also dominating there, so I be shocked to see that change.

      • r.burns

        Easy to dominate without opponents

    • It won’t affect the Dakar team at all.

  • that.guy

    Quitters never win. Winners never quit. Etc.

  • BimmerFile_Michael

    I think what people are missing here is that BMW is not fielding any “works teams” outside the DTM which as a series is designed to be works only. BMW, like Porsche is in the business of supporting customer racing projects. ALMS is essentially BMWNA fielding a team, not BMWAG so BMWNA is a customer, which is morphing into BMW USA racing. MINI supported the team to get the cars homologated so it could then produce cars for customers. The basically dropped real support earlier in the year so this is no surprise. Team Portugal was just racing under the MINI flag.

    When a manufacturer builds “works” teams they limit the cars they can produce or field (who wants to compete against the manufacturer?), by offering customer cars BMW/MINI will have more cars on the grid…. the Z4 GT3 is a prime example of this. The MINI Countryman WRC will now be used by more teams in the series.

    I would not be surprised if other “works” teams also pull out of WRC, there is a lot of back story to this. If you ask some, Loeb retired bc PSA will not be fielding a works team next year and they couldn’t pay his salary bc they are broke- he helped them save face.

    BMW Motorsport/ProDrive will continue to develop and produce the MINI WRC and I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a few more entires next season.

    • r.burns

      Certainly not Loeb stops WRC bc nothing to prove anymore (one of best all-time driver, ) 2014 : with PSA on WTCC, new challenges…

      BMW : just one more race retirement without success, sadly as usual

      • BimmerFile_Michael

        That is what they are saying but in racing circles the talk is that they are not fielding a team and he is making the move to save face-not that he wants to. WTCC is not as prestigious as WRC, not on any level- not even for driver development. I am sure he could get a seat in something better than WTCC.

        The WTCC investment is much less than WRC to run a team. PSA may not race at all next season depending on the outcome of the French bailout they are seeking and what they owe BMW.

        If that is the case I hope he gets some seat time in the Blancpain endurance series and drives some real cars.

  • Dr Obnxs

    We can spin this all we want as “Good news” but there is no doubt that this outcome is very different than the one implied when the effort was launched. The best case possible is that BMW/MINI and ProDrive get along well enough to keep the car as a viable platform. Let’s hope it all works out well. It would be a shame if it didn’t.

    • Mr Remi

      Agreed on the spin.

    • Call it spin if you want, but the way the press release is worded, it sounds like this was the plan all along. Personally, I’d love to see them invest heavily in a factory team, but the reality is that this was always a BMW Motorsport initiative. MINI threw some brand weight behind it for marketing purposes (and to comply with WRC regulations), but it sounds like this was the idea from day one — to get the car into the series.

      • Dr Obnxs

        That’s called “revisionist history”……

  • John

    You have to give them credit for doing it in the first place even if they are stopping the factory team…

  • This is just another blow to the WRC, which unfortunately is in serious trouble.

    • BimmerFile_Michael

      Ford just pulled out as well… who’s next ?