July 28th, 2010

A Mini WRC adventure

It’s official, MINI is back in the WRC. Well, MINI isn’t actually back from anything because it has never rallied. But the loose strains of Mini DNA which BMW bought in 2000 are finally going to rally again.

MINI will be using the CoUNTryman to try and relieve their previous rally heritage, which I think is a big mistake. I am not a fan of the CoUNTryman as I think it completely defecates over what a Mini was originally meant to be and is purely a brand exercise to make the BMW bods richer.

My theory is that BMW want to make the CoUNTryman look rugged and off-roaderish by handing it over to Prodrive and then putting it in the Kenyan desert and seeing what it can do in the WRC. And they probably will do well, or at least alright, as Prodrive could make a toothbrush competitive in the WRC. If MINI succeeds BMW will think that CoUNTryman’s will be flying off the forecourt.  But they won’t because they are hideously ugly and out of proption, in addition the car which is up for sale is nothing like the one people will see going sideways on their TV.

Obviously I am not naive to think that the CoUNTryman won’t sell, because it will, and in the bucket load. But it won’t be rally fans who will be buying it; it will be all the MINI mums and their daughters.

Mini’s tradition in rallying stretches back decades. Pat Moss clinched the first victory with the Mini 850 at the 1959 Mini Miglia National Rally. But Mini became legendary on the rally stages due to the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967 where the MINI Cooper S celebrated three overall victories at the most iconic rallying event in the world. If MINI really wanted to inherit their rallying heritage they should have given a Cooper S to Prodrive to tinker with.

It will be no easy task entering the S2000 class expecting success because Citroen and Focus are pretty locked in to destroying all other manufactures. Suzuki, Hyundai, Skoda and Mitsubishi have all tried and failed at conquering the WRC.

I am happy that MINI is back in the WRC because more manufacturer competition needs to happen. But whether the CoUNTryman was a good choice, I am not sure.