After months of speculation, Mini and Prodrive will announce a World Rally Championship program this week, according to AUTOSPORT.
Mini's first-ever World Rally Car, which will be based on the Countryman road car, has been in preparation for months at Prodrive's Banbury, UK base and the BMW 1.6-liter turbocharged engine recently arrived to turn a rolling shell into a full World Rally Car. Testing of the new machine is expected to begin soon and, as technical director David Lapworth said, once it starts testing it will not stop.
"When we start testing on our rally car development program, it will be intensive," said Lapworth. "We still have a good timescale to work towards for testing and we're happy with where we're at."
Some sources have indicated Mini will formally launch the car in Rome just ahead of the Rally d'Italia-Sardegna in May next season – the car is not expected to compete in any of the first four rounds of next year's World Rally Championship.
Prodrive has remained tight-lipped about any announcement this week, denying that it has anything planned. The British preparation firm has yet to even admit to any kind of agreement with BMW or Mini.
Norwegian driver Mads Ostberg is being tipped to do some of the early development driving and to take one of the factory seats in next year's WRC program. Ostberg is a long-standing customer of Prodrive and is expected to run a Mini-based team in next year's WRC as well as driving a works car.
Ostberg has resisted the opportunity to drive any other cars in the WRC or Intercontinental Rally Challenge this season, including a Peugeot 207 S2000, out of loyalty to Prodrive.