Mini has officially launched the definitive version of its 2011 World Rally Championship challenger ahead of its return to the series in Italy next month.
The final spec of the Prodrive-built John Cooper Works WRC, which is based on the Mini Countryman, was unveiled in an event at the Mini plant in Oxford today.
Prodrive boss David Richards emphasized that Mini's part-time 2011 campaign would be a learning experience, but that his squad was determined to be challenging Ford and Citroen in the very near future.
"This project is a truly passionate opportunity," he said. "Mini is a cult brand which left a lasting impression during its previous motorsport campaigns. We are both extremely happy and proud to be on board as a partner when Mini returns to rallying.
"We aim to use 2011 as a preparatory year, amassing experience in order to ensure we are fully competitive from the start of the following season. But let's not underestimate the task ahead of us or the stiff competition we will face on the way. However, our target is firmly set on winning the world championship title again with Mini."
Richards said the new alliance between Mini and Prodrive was serendipititous:
"It was almost a very happy coincidence that we came together," he added. "As you know, we had produced a generic design of a World Rally Car under the new regulations, but the first Minis we looked at were too small to use. Then the Countryman came and everything fitted perfectly with the generic car we'd been working on."
Two of Mini's most famous names from the past, Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen, both of whom won the Monte Carlo Rally with Mini, were present at today's launch. Ex-Citroen driver Dani Sordo and 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion Kris Meeke will be Mini's works drivers this season.