The Countryman will comply with the forthcoming Super 2000 WRC regulations, which specify 1600cc turbocharged four-cylinder engines (tick) and four-wheel drive (tick again). The other crucial aspects of the new regs are an 'increased emphasis on road-relevant technologies' and a 25 per cent reduction in overall costs (appropriate for a tough economic climate).
BMW and Mini seem pleased to have clinched the deal with Prodrive - who had been rumoured to be flirting with Toyota over its possible return to the WRC. "In Prodrive, we have a strong and experienced partner," says BMW sales and marketing man, Ian Robertson. "We will work hard together over the coming months to ensure we get the project on track right from the word go."
Mini, of course, has a history of success in the rallying, particularly in the 1960s, with famous overall victories in the Monte Carlo rally back in the 1960s.
As well as being a works effort, the new Mini Countryman will also be available to customer teams, with the first test of the new car planned for this autumn. "We already have a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new Mini rally car with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season," says Prodrive chairman, David Richards.
"I believe our new Mini will become a firm favourite of the latest generation of rally fans, just as it is adored by its millions of owners across the world."