MINI Countryman WRC

Clear the decks for the new MINI WRC.

Paris. Visitors to the 2010 Mondial de l’Automobile in Paris (FR) can look
forward to a special treat: The new MINI WRC, which will contest the FIA World
Rally Championship from 2011, will receive its world premiere at this
international motor show. In addition, Kris Meeke (GB) has been confirmed as
one of the drivers who will contest the championship with this brand new rally
car.
The MINI WRC, powered by a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder Di turbo-charged engine,
recently received a baptism of fire, acquitting itself well during initial testing at
Prodrive’s rally track. The company commenced development of the car in
2009, and a concept of the MINI WRC will be displayed in Paris.
“The Paris Motor Show is the perfect stage, on which to launch our MINI WRC,”
says Ian Robertson, member of the Board of Management of BMW AG,
responsible for Sales and Marketing. “The response to our announcement that
MINI will return to the world of rallying next year was very positive. The FIA World
Rally Championship is the pinnacle of rallying, making it the ideal platform for
demonstrating the competitive spirit of our brand. The development of the car is
running on schedule, and the preparations for the world championship are in full
swing. The MINI Countryman production model provided the ideal basis for our
new world championship challenger.”
The 2011 World Rally Championship will see the new MINI WRC contesting in
six of 13 scheduled rounds, with MINI competing in the full 2012 season. In
addition, Prodrive plans to make available customer versions to independent
teams for use in the championship.
Rallying is hardly unchartered territory for MINI. In the past this popular motor
sporting genre decisively shaped the image of the brand. The MINI Cooper S
became a true legend through its numerous victories on Rally Monte Carlo. The
European Rally Championship, too, saw MINI notch up serial successes.
“MINI can look back on a successful tradition in rallying,” says Dr Wolfgang
Armbrecht, Senior Vice President Brand Management MINI. “The interest in
motorsport among the present generation of MINI customers is massive. The
WRC provides an excellent communications platform for the MINI Countryman,
upon which the MINI WRC is based.”
Prodrive, an experienced motorsport operation, was chosen as the partner in the
quest to continue MINI’s success story. The company, founded by David
Richards, is viewed as one of the most respected and successful in rallying.


Ian Robertson: “MINI is returning to its roots.”

Paris. Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management, Sales and
Marketing BMW Group, speaks about the importance of motorsport for the MINI
brand, the goals in the World Rally Championship and the MINI Countryman, on
which the MINI WRC is based.
Mr Robertson, MINI is back in motorsport. What does this move mean
for the brand?
Ian Robertson: “Our involvement in the World Rally Championship effectively
sees MINI returning to its roots. In the early years, success in the world of
motorsport contributed significantly to the rapid rise of the MINI. Back then,
people saw that this little car not only looked good in everyday traffic, but also
had a sporty side. This has not changed since then. We chose the World Rally
Championship for our stage in order to prove the sportiness of MINI cars to
today’s generation of drivers. The commitment also reinforces the key values of
the MINI brand, ‘excitement’ and ‘energy’ as well underlining the manly side of
the brand.”

Why is the MINI brand so well suited to rallying?
Robertson: “On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story. On
the other hand, MINI is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the
world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to
authentically and sustainably represent through our motorsport involvement in
the World Rally Championship, with its big TV and media presence. Thrilling rally
events, ultimate performances by man and machine, and as much success as
possible, of course: motorsport is pure emotion – just as MINI is for its fans.”

How are the roles distributed in the World Rally Championship involvement?
Robertson: “MINI is the manufacturer of the MINI Countryman series car. It forms
the basis for the MINI WRC, which has been developed by Prodrive since the
start of 2009. MINI is also playing the role of Team Partner. The 1.6-litre Di turbo
engine was developed by BMW Motorsport in Munich, based on the new FIA
Super2000 regulations. Prodrive is also responsible for our appearances in the
WRC and the production of customer rally cars.”

What goals have you set for the first season in 2011?
Robertson: “Anyone wanting to be successful in a World Championship must
first gain experience and put in a lot of hard work. We will do that together with
our partner Prodrive. David Richards’ team is very familiar with the World Rally
Championship , so we can start at a very high level. Six rallies are planned for
next year. In 2012 we will compete for the full season. It goes without saying we
want to be competitive as quickly as possible, and I am optimistic we will
succeed.”

When do you think you will be able to challenge Ford and Citroën for
the title?
Robertson: “Experience is a very important factor in motorsport. For that reason
it is essential that we learn as much as possible within a very short time, in order
to make up ground on our rivals. The new regulations mean the gap to the top is
smaller than it would have been another time. We want to annoy the opposition
as soon as possible. You can plan your own performance in motorsport, but not a
title win. All you can do is work as hard as possible to move closer to your goal.
Our goal is to win the World Championship.”

What are the outstanding characteristics of the MINI Countryman, on
which the MINI WRC is based?
Robertson: “The MINI Countryman is a car, the type of which there has never
been before in the history of MINI. As a crossover it combines the classic MINI
concept with the characteristics of a Sports Activity Vehicle – in a MINI that is at
home far beyond the boundaries of the urban environment. It is the first MINI
with four-wheel drive, which makes it predestined for the World Rally
Championship. With its four doors and four seats it fits the motto: MINI on the
outside, maxi on the inside. Because it is a true MINI, the Countryman is
particularly low on fuel and emissions.”

What will MINI’s involvement in the Rally World Championship cost?
Robertson: “The costs of developing a car and running it in the World Rally
Championship have fallen significantly since the introduction of the new FIA
Super2000 regulations. We assume the costs will be about 25 percent lower
than would have been the case in previous years. This was a huge influence on
our decision to become involved. The 1.6-litre turbo engine was developed by
BMW for use in a wide variety of fields. In addition, the sale of customer rally cars
has a positive effect on the total calculation. The WRC offers MINI an attractive
platform – with manageable costs. The cost/performance ratio is excellent.“

David Richards: “I am very proud of what our team of engineers has been able to achieve.”

Paris. After studying accountancy, David Richards became a professional rally
co-driver, finishing his competitive career by winning the World Rally
Championship title with Ari Vatanen (FI) in 1981. Following the 1981 season, he
devoted his time to developing his business interests, which led to the formation
of his own rally team and the creation of Prodrive in 1984.
In this interview, the chairman and chief executive of the Prodrive Group talks
about the development of the MINI WRC and MINI’s contribution to this process.

Mr Richards, what does working together with MINI mean to you?
David Richards: “I have been involved in the World Rally Championship for more
than 30 years, firstly co-driving Ari Vatanen and then subsequently managing
several teams. I can honestly say that in all this time, I have personally never
been so excited or seen so much interest in a new entrant, as we are seeing
today with MINI. In the 1960s the original little red and white MINI captured the
imagination of the world and won what was then the most challenging motor
race in the world, the Monte Carlo rally. More than 40 years on and people still
talk about this achievement with great fondness.”

Is it possible to add a further chapter to MINI’ success story in rallying?
Richards: “I firmly believe the new MINI WRC car will capture the imagination of
today’s generation of rally fans just as it did then and, as in 1964, this interest will
spread well beyond the world of motorsport. I have had so many people coming
up to me and say that they had read about the new programme and would be
cheering us on. I’m therefore sure that MINI’s participation will lead to a
rejuvenation of interest in the World Rally Championship and bring a whole new
audience to this spectacle.”

When did you start to develop the MINI WRC?
Richards: “While we are only now unveiling the new MINI WRC, Prodrive has
been working on its development since the beginning of 2009. It is the most well
prepared and best engineered rally car we have ever built, and in its first tests, it
is already exceeding the targets we set ourselves for the project. I have to be
honest and say that when we started on this road towards designing a rally car to
the new 2011 WRC regulations, we never thought we would be working with
MINI. Right at the beginning of this journey, we established a small but focussed
team of engineers with the task of developing a new car with complete freedom
to design the ideal rally car to meet the new 2011 rules. For the first three months
we did nothing but analysis. We mathematically modelled every aspect of a rally car.”

Why was the MINI Countryman such a good basis for a WRC version?
Richards: “This initial work threw up some very interesting findings and
fundamentally changed the way we approached the design of the MINI WRC car
and also where we focussed our engineering resources. We analysed more than
a dozen cars from various manufacturers, measuring key elements like wheel
base, centre of gravity, weight, track etc. It was only then that one of my team
mentioned he had heard about a new MINI. Having run race and rally
programmes with BMW in the 1980s and 1990s I was still in touch with many
people in the company and they were able to confirm that this was indeed the
case. A few quick measurements of the new car and we soon realised that it
would be a great base for a World Rally Car.

How does MINI contribute to the development process?
Richards: “By the end of last year our focus was totally on the Countryman. MINI
shared all its technical and engineering data on the car and we began applying
our generic rally car design to the Countryman. I have to say that the support
from both the engineering and commercial teams in Munich is extraordinary. At
the early stage there was only a gentlemen’s agreement in place, but since then
there has been commitment to the project from all levels within the company.”

On which areas of the car did you put particular focus on?
Richards: “One of the key tasks we set the engineering team was to make the
car practical and economical to use for private teams without in any way
compromising its performance. The car will be produced in reasonable volumes,
in motorsport terms of 25 to 30 per year, and thus it has to be easily maintained
in remote locations across the world. As a result, if you look at the new MINI
WRC, its design is very clean and simple and, in engineering terms, that has
taken a lot more time and effort. For instance, all four uprights are
interchangeable as are the anti-roll bars, so our customers don’t need so many
spare parts to run their cars. There are also many innovative features around the
rest of the car including the roll-cage design which will make the MINI extremely
safe.”

Are you happy with the results of your team’s work?
Richards: “I am very proud of what our team of engineers has been able to
achieve and the early testing results are extremely promising. By combining the
experience of David Lapworth our technical director, who has been with Prodrive
since the very beginning, with the inspiration and new ideas from a team of
young engineers we have been able to produce a radically new car. However,
let’s not underestimate the challenge that faces us as I’m sure our competitors
are working equally hard on their new cars for 2011, but if you are going to be a
new entrant to any championship, there is no better time to join than when
there’s a new set of technical regulations and a new tyre supplier.”

Historic victories: MINI in international motorsport.

Paris. The MINI carries motorsport in its genes. While Alec Issigonis, credited
with creating the classic MINI, concentrated primarily on the every-day suitability
of the car, his friend and business partner John Cooper immediately sensed
potential of a different kind when he first saw the sketches: In this novel small
production car the successful racing car constructor recognised the basis for a
promising sporty vehicle, and zealously set about converting the MINI.
Thus the foundation for an unequalled motorsport success story was laid, with
the name John Cooper still being inextricably entwined with the sporting legend
that is MINI. Victories in the Rally Monte Carlo are as much part of its history as
are the successful production cars which bear the Cooper badge.
MINI scored its first success in the year of its birth: In 1959 Pat Moss (GB) won
the Mini Miglia National Rally with a MINI 850. Spurred on by early successes in
the Rally Monte Carlo in 1960, Cooper proposed a GT model based on the MINI.
Despite initial scepticism from Issigonis, but with the blessing of BMC chairman
George Harriman, the 1,000 cc MINI Cooper, which benefitted from
comprehensive modifications to the engine to raise power from 21 to 55 bhp,
went into limited production. The MINI Cooper was capable of approximately
130 km/h after suitable transmission ratios were specified to match its sporty
potential, while front wheel disc brakes ensured adequate retardation.
The result of these endeavours inspired Issigonis, who, together with John
Cooper, immediately set about the next stage of performance enhancement. For
the MINI Cooper S, the engine was bored to the maximum possible, with the
ensuing capacity of 1071 cc enabling the car to contest motorsport’s 1100 cc
class. The result was impressive: The engine delivered 70 bhp at 6,200 rpm,
revving to a maximum of 7,200 rpm. This version, too, received upgraded brakes
– servo assistance further improving braking power.
In 1962 the MINI Cooper S first caused a stir in Monte Carlo. With Rauno
Aaltonen at the wheel, the small car embarked on a David versus Goliath crusade
against obviously more powerful opponents. However, just three kilometres from
the end, Aaltonen, leading at the time, misjudged a corner and rolled out of the
event. The following year, though, the Finn made up for this disappointment:
Driving a MINI Cooper S he was placed third overall and won his class.
It would get better: During the 1963/1964 winter rally season power was
increased even further. Driving spectacularly, Paddy Hopkirk (IR) was placed first
overall in the Rally Monte Carlo in the tiny sprinter. Thus the MINI acquired
legendary status. In 1965 Finland’s Timo Mäkinen and co-driver Paul Easter (GB)
repeated the Monte triumph. They were the only crew to complete thousands of
kilometres without penalty – despite gruelling winter conditions. Only 35 cars –
including three MINI Cooper S –made it to the finish out of a total field of 237
entries. A hat trick was targeted for the following year. Drivers Timo Mäkinen, Rauno
Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk sensationally achieved the feat by mounting the
finish ramp in first, second and third respectively. However, bitter disappointment
was to follow: The trio was disqualified after the rally’s stewards decreed the
MINI’s headlight dipping mechanism did not conform to homologation
requirements. For the general public this technicality, though, mattered little, with
their enthusiasm for the three MINI drivers remaining undiminished.
Hopkirk, Aaltonen and Mäkinen entered the annals of the Rally Monte Carlo as
the “Three Musketeers”. The MINI’s third Monte Carlo victory, achieved in 1967
by Aaltonen, was celebrated all the more enthusiastically after the events of the
previous year. This time there were absolutely no doubts about the car’s
eligibility. In 1965 the “Rally Professor” Aaltonen had triumphed in the European
Rally Championship, with Tony Ambrose (GB) and Mäkinen completing an
excellent result for the MINI Cooper S by finishing second and third respectively.
In addition, various MINI drivers celebrated numerous individual victories across
Europe.
However, the MINI did not shine only in rallying. In the 1960s the car achieved
equal success on motor racing circuits. With its sporting qualities, it became one
of the definitive racing cars of the decade, with many legendary drivers starting
their careers with MINI. In April 1968 Niki Lauda (AT) contested his first hill climb
near Linz (AT) in a classic MINI, finishing second. Just two weeks later he scored
his first victory, displaying the sort of talent which would ultimately net him three
Formula One titles. Like Lauda, other Formula One world champions such as
Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, John Surtees, Jochen Rindt and James Hunt all
collected their first competition experiences in a classic MINI.
The MINI is also present on the contemporary motor racing scene. The MINI
CHALLENGE, introduced in 2004, has established itself as one of the world’s
most popular club racing series, with the category currently being hotly
contested in six countries – Germany, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, Argentine
and Brazil. The series will continue in parallel with the World Rally Championship
programme.


Prodrive – a strong partner for MINI’s comeback to rallying.

Paris. Prodrive is one of the world’s largest and most successful motorsport and
automotive technology businesses, with 500 staff operating in Europe, Australia
and Asia.
Today the company runs motorsport programmes for Aston Martin Racing in
world sports car racing, Ford Performance Racing in the Australian V8 Supercar
Series and MINI in the World Rally Championship. The company also works with
vehicle manufacturers to help develop new technologies and performance
vehicles for the road, and is increasingly involved in the aerospace, marine and
defence industries, manufacturing specialist components for applications as
diverse as commercial passenger aircraft, satellites, nuclear submarines and
racing yachts.
Prodrive is the world’s leading independent motorsport business. It has won six
World Rally Championship titles; five British Touring Car Championships (BTCC);
three GT1 titles at Le Mans; and the Le Mans Series title in 2009; as well as
managing the BAR F1 team to second place in the 2004 F1 championship.
Prodrive was behind the Subaru World Rally Team’s rise to fame from 1990 to
2008. However, Prodrive’s rallying history is far more than this. Over the years, it
has won more than 130 international rallies with other great motorsport names
like BMW, Porsche and MG. Indeed, it was with a BMW M3 that Prodrive won its
first ever World Rally Championship event in Corsica in 1987.
In touring car racing, Prodrive has worked with BMW, Alfa Romeo, Honda, Ford
and Volvo, winning BTCC titles in the 1980s, 90s and in 2000. In 2003, Prodrive
moved into the Australian V8 Supercar Series, creating Ford Performance
Racing, now one of the leading teams in this championship.
The same year, the team achieved its ultimate circuit racing accolade by winning
the GTS class at the Le Mans 24 Hours with a Ferrari 550 GTS Maranello. Now
the company manages Aston Martin Racing, which saw the British company
return to sports car racing in 2005 with the DBR9. In 2007 and 2008 the team
won the GT1 class at Le Mans and in 2009 its new LMP1 car took the Le Mans
Series title. In September 2010, Prodrive announced that it was developing an
all new Aston Martin LMP1 car to challenge for outright honours at Le Mans.
From the beginning of 2002 to the end of the 2004 season, under the
stewardship of chairman, David Richards, Prodrive managed the BAR Honda
Formula One Team, taking it from the middle of the grid to second in the
manufacturers’ championship.
During the 1990s, Prodrive began offering itstechnical expertise and project
engineering skills to the mainstream automotive market. Over the years, this
part of the business has grown rapidly to represent nearly half the company’s
turnover.
The company has the capability to take concepts through to full working
prototypes. It has particular expertise in the design, calibration and testing of
powertrains, drivelines and vehicle dynamics, as well as control and systems
integration. In recent years, it has begun to specialise in the development of
emission reducing technologies such as electric and flywheel hybrids and
variable compression ratio engines.
In the UK, Prodrive has its own 250-acre proving ground, including a 2.5 mile
test track; low friction straights; areas for suspension and dynamics performance
testing; and a high speed, six lane, mile-long straight. It is this track that has
been used in the development of the new MINI WRC.


MINI WRC driver Kris Meeke in profile.

Paris. After leaving Queen’s University in Belfast with an honours degree in
mechanical engineering, Kris Meeke spent his first three years working as a
designer for a leading rally-preparation business. But it was the draw of active
competition that saw him make his first move into becoming a professional rally
driver after winning a competition for new rally drivers in 2000. The prize was a
fully supported drive in a national rally in Wales. The following year, while
competing in the Peugeot 106 Super Cup, he took his first category win at the
Swansea Bay Festival National Rally. The same year, he drove a 300 bhp Group
A Subaru Impreza in the Galloway Hills Rally. It was his first time in a four–wheel
drive car and he clinched his first outright rally win.
In 2002, Meeke secured a contract with McRae Motorsport and drove a Super
1600 Ford Puma in the British Junior Championship. Under his mentor, Colin
McRae, he managed to secure victory in the series at his first attempt, and in
only his second year in rallying.
With the backing of Colin McRae, Meeke graduated to the JWRC (Junior World
Rally Championship) in 2003, driving an Opel Corsa run by Team Palmer and
continued to compete in the UK, winning both the British Junior and Super 1600
titles. 2004 saw him record ten fastest stages on JWRC events and take second
place in the Rally of Spain.
In 2005, Meeke joined Citroen for the JWRC driving a factory supported C2
Super 1600. He set 36 fastest stage times during the year winning the first event
of the season in Monte Carlo and finishing third overall in the championship. At
the end of the year, Meeke competed in a Prodrive-prepared Subaru Impreza
World Rally Car on Wales Rally GB. He made an impressive debut in this car,
finishing tenth overall and only 11 seconds behind his mentor, Colin McRae.
Meeke continued to compete for Citroen in the JWRC during 2006, setting
more fastest stage times than anyone else, but was unable to challenge for the
title due to a number of mechanical failures. Recognising his testing ability,
Citroen also asked Meeke to help in the development of the Xsara WRC and the
new C4 WRC, working alongside Sebastien Loeb.
In 2007 Meeke continued to build up his World Rally Car experience, competing
in a Prodrive-prepared Subaru Impreza in the Irish Tarmac Championship,
winning three events from four starts. Meeke also competed in the inaugural
WRC round of Rally Ireland and held sixth place after the first day.
The following year, Meeke continued to compete in Ireland, but this time in a
Renault Clio Super 1600. Despite giving away significant performance, he still
managed to set fastest stage times against a 20 strong field of World Rally Cars.
This pace led to events with Renault Sport in Russia in the Intercontinental Rally
Challenge (IRC), as well as in Spain and Germany in the WRC.
2009 saw Meeke return to Peugeot to compete in the IRC in the 207 Super
2000 car. With co-driver Paul Nagle, he took outright wins in Brazil, Portugal,
Belgium and San Remo helping him clinch the IRC title. In 2010 he resigned for
the team and early in the season won in Brazil and later took second place in the
Azores.
Fast facts:
Lives: Northern Ireland, UK
Date of Birth: 2 July 1979
Qualifications: BSc Mechanical Engineering – Queen’s University, Belfast
Interests: Moto-X, Mountain biking, Squash

Technical specifications MINI WRC.

Paris. The MINI WRC was developed by Prodrive in accordance to the new FIA
Super 2000 regulations on the basis of the MINI Countryman production model.
Get to know the challenger for the FIA World Rally Championship in detail.
Dimensions:
Length: 4,110 mm
Width: 1,820 mm
Weight: 1,200 kg (FIA minimum weight)
Engine:
BMW Motorsport 1,600 cc, direct injection petrol
Garrett turbocharger – maximum boost 2.5 bar
Dry sump
Transmission:
Permanent four wheel drive
Gearbox: Xtrac 6-speed sequential
Clutch: AP Racing sintered twin plate
Front differential: Plated limited slip
Rear differential: Plated limited slip
Steering:
Hydraulic power assisted
Chassis:
MINI Countryman bodyshell with Prodrive roll cage exceeding FIA regulations
Suspension:
Front: Prodrive Öhlins Macpherson strut, 3 way adjustable damper
Rear: Prodrive Öhlins Macpherson strut, 3 way adjustable damper
Wheels:
ATS wheels and Michelin tyres
Gravel: 15” diameter
Tarmac: 18” diameter
Brakes:
AP Racing
Gravel:
Front: four piston, 300 mm
Rear: four piston, 300 mm
Tarmac:
Front: four piston, 355 mm

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: