The rumored change in the relationship between Mini Motorsport and Prodrive became official in early February, when Mini announced that WRC Team Mini Portugal, which had been running the cars as a privateer team, would campaign the Mini WRC in the remaining twelve rounds of the 2012 World Rally Championship.
The release said, “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.”
Prodrive will continue as constructor of the WRC Mini, will provide support to customer teams, and will work with BMW on development of the car. Prodrive has announced that it will continue to compete in the WRC as a factory supported privateer team, running Sordo and del Barrio.
Mini’s Dr. Kay Segler said, “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.”
Autosport.com quotes Prodrive principal David Richards as follows: "Fundamentally, the nature of the relationship between Prodrive and Mini will not change. We will still be working very closely with them on the test program for the car and, in fact, the development of the car will be enhanced by this news for reasons which will soon become clear. There will be more resource for the development of the Mini, which will further improve the performance of the car in the future."
No doubt the behind-the-scenes negotiations have been intriguing. We will keep you posted as more information is revealed.—Brian S. Morgan, motorsports editor, bmwcca.org
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