The new MINI John Cooper Works WRC was officially launched at the MINI Plant in Oxford this morning, to a rousing welcome. The spotlight was initially on Hopkirk and Aaltonen as they drove onto the stage behind the wheel of the legendary Classic Mini Cooper S, then the guests and media representatives were treated to a first look at the MINI John Cooper Works WRC in its final World Championship design.

The car was developed by Prodrive, based on the MINI Countryman production model and will contest six rounds of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in 2011, starting with the Rally d’Italia Sardegna from 5 – 8 May 2011. The goal in the debut season is to gain valuable experience to be perfectly prepared to take on the entire 2012 World Rally Championship.

MINI John Cooper Works WRC launch in Oxford

“On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story,” said Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of the BMW AG for Sales and Marketing. “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 represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship. 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.”

David Richards, Chairman and Chief Executive, Prodrive Group, is also looking forward to the first rally for the new MINI John Cooper Works WRC. He said: “We have been working towards this moment for more than two years and it is truly exciting to be launching the MINI WRC Team and what I believe is the most stunning car in World Rallying, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. We have an experienced team, a talented driver pairing and, most importantly of all, a strong partnership with MINI. We are now eagerly looking forward to demonstrating the performance of the car on its debut in Sardinia in just a few weeks.”

“The excitement of everyone involved in the comeback of MINI to the rally stage is building with every day we get closer to our maiden rally appearance,” added Dirk Hollweg, Head of MINI Motorsport. “With the MINI WRC Team we not only want to please the loyal fans of the MINI brand, but also aim to address new motorsport enthusiasts. We want to thrill them with fascinating pictures, technical know-how and pure performance. In addition, the special MINI lifestyle is always part of the equation. For us, it’s always about a bit more than just motorsport. I think the rally fans will love it.”

Having already completed several thousand kilometres of tests behind the wheel of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC, drivers Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo can hardly wait to finally compete in the first rally for the MINI WRC Team. “This launch is the next milestone on the long way to our first rally,” said Meeke following the presentation of the car. “I cannot wait to get the season started. It’s nice for everyone in the team to see the result of their work presented in such a spectacular way. The heritage of MINI in motorsport is fantastic. Now we want to make sure we play our part in adding some more chapters to the success story.”

The Car

The MINI John Cooper Works WRC is powered by a 1.6-litre turbo engine also used in MINI production cars, which was developed by BMW Motorsport for use in series complying with FIA Super 2000 regulations, including the World Touring Car Championship with the BMW 320 TC.

It is based on the MINI Countryman road car bodyshell with the addition of a Prodrive-designed roll cage. The inherent strength of the original MINI Countryman bodyshell ensured that engineers could minimise the amount of steel roll cage required to meet its safety targets. The MINI Rally Car has a uniquely designed rollcage which not only creates one of the most protective rally safety cells in the world, but also makes the interior of the car one of the most spacious.

Underneath the MINI John Cooper Works WRC has Macpherson strut suspension front and rear. Prodrive has designed many of the suspension components to be fully interchangeable between the four corners of the car, for instance the front and rear anti-roll bars are the same. The suspension has also been developed in collaboration with motorsport damper specialists, Öhlins.

Three-way adjustable dampers are used, so that it can be tuned to specific surfaces and the needs of individual drivers. A major advantage of the MINI Countryman road car is the amount of suspension travel. This has significantly enhanced the suspension characteristics of the car giving it even better performance over rough gravel stages.

MINI John Cooper Works WRC

The engine is based on the standard 1.6-litre unit found in the MINI Countryman and retains the road car’s cylinder block and heads before being extensively re-engineered for competition. The engine is virtually identical to that used by BMW in its World Touring Car programme, except in the MINI Rally Car it is fitted transversely in the engine bay and the ECU remapped for the unique demands of the rally stage. Under FIA regulations, the performance of the engine is limited by a 33mm air restrictor and a maximum turbo boost pressure of 2.5 bar (absolute).

AP Racing brakes provide the stopping power. In tarmac specification with the larger 18” wheels the car has 355mm four pot disc brakes on the front and rear. In gravel specification with 15” wheels, the brakes are 300mm front and rear. Unlike the production MINI Countryman there is no ABS.

Like the MINI Countryman, the MINI John Cooper Works WRC has four-wheel drive. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is mated to the drivetrain via an Xtrac six-speed sequential gearbox and AP Racing sintered twin plate clutch with the driver selecting gear via a manual shift mounted on the steering column. The car has no centre differential, and has a passive limited slip plate and ramp differentials on the front and rear axles.

As well as being responsible for the works team’s MINI John Cooper Works WRC cars, Prodrive also supplies customer cars to teams lining up in the World Rally Championship, so we look forward to seeing more than just two MINI’s out on the stages during the year.


Type: Four-cylinder inline turbo engine with direct fuel injection and air restrictor
Capacity: 1,599cc
Bore x stroke: 77 x 85.8mm
Compression: max. 12.5:1 (FIA regulations)
Max. output: approx. 310bhp
Max. torque: approx. 420Nm
Max. engine speed: 8,500 rpm (FIA regulations)

Length: 4,110 mm
Width: 1,820 mm
Height: adjustable
Weight: 1,200 kg (FIA regulations)

MINI Countryman bodyshell with Prodrive roll cage exceeding FIA regulations
WRC rear wing, WRC front bumper
Permanent four wheel drive
Front axle: Plated limited slip
Rear axle: Plated limited slip
Gearbox: Xtrac 6-speed sequential
Öhlins Prodrive Macpherson strut, 3 way adjustable
Front brakes system:
Tarmac: AP Racing four-piston brake with 355mm in diameter Gravel: AP Racing four-piston brake with 300mm in diameter
Rear brake system:
Tarmac: AP Racing four-piston brake with 355mm in diameter Gravel: AP Racing four-piston brake with 300mm in diameter
Hydraulic power assisted
ATS wheels
Tarmac: 18” diameter
Gravel: 15” diameter
Michelin (FIA regulations)


Written By

Steve Davies

Steve is an investor, private equity advisor and former Partner at KPMG, PwC and Bain.   Most importantly he's a life-long car enthusiast, mountain biker and active sports enthusiast. He designs and builds technology platforms and is the architect behind Transmission.

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