While the full WRC debut is scheduled for Italy later this year, The Countryman JCW did make it’s official debut at a WRC event in the PWRC category at Vodafone Rally de Portugal. The honors went to the privateer Arminda Araujo in a S2000 spec Countryman WRC. How did it go? Read on for MINI’s official account:

Official Release: Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke had wished Armindo Araujo all the best shortly before the start of this first WRC race. When the 2010 PWRC champion was heading towards the top five in the overall classifications at the end of day one of the Rally de Portugal, even the more experienced members of the MINI WRC Team could scarcely believe their eyes and had their fingers firmly crossed for Armindo.

By Friday evening a mixture of skilful driving, clever tactics and a healthy portion of self-confidence had seen Armindo move into seventh place overall in the MINI John Cooper Works S2000, which also showed its class on its maiden outing under rally conditions. At this point in the event, just 1:37 minutes separated Araujo from fifth place, and a significant upset. The Portuguese driver understandably went into the day two of his home rally full of confidence.

However, having revealed on the Friday evening that he was yet to call on the full potential of the S2000, Armindo was hit by engine and tyre problems on Saturday. During special stage 11 he suffered a puncture and was forced to run on reduced engine power. The engine fault ultimately meant the end of Armindo’s race on the following test.

“Obviously I am sad not to have completed the rally in front of my home fans,” Armindo said on Sunday evening. “Despite this I am extremely optimistic looking ahead. The set-up of the car was fantastic. Punctures are part of rallying, and the engine has been sent off for analysis. I am certain we can solve the problem quickly. We have plenty of time before the start of the Rally d’Italia on 5th May.”

In Sardinia, Araujo and the second privateer in a MINI John Cooper Works S2000, Daniel Oliveira, who also had to retire on Saturday having at one point held 21st place, will race in the WRC version of the MINI Rally Car. “We will have the larger rear wing, which will make us even faster,” said Araujo. The Rally d’Italia also marks the long-awaited start to the WRC season for Kris and Dani. “It is good that the waiting is almost over,” Kris said.

Sébastien Ogier (France) picked up his third WRC victory in Portugal, finishing ahead of team-mate, compatriot and reigning world champion Sébastien Loeb. Second place sees Loeb draw level with overall leader Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) on 58 points in the Drivers’ Championship . The MINI WRC Team will get its season underway at the Rally d’Italia (5th to 8th May).

Photo: A. Lavadinho