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.”