Mini has confirmed that Prodrive's involvement with the Mini World Rally program has been reduced to the status of a works-supported private team.
The company has announced that the Motorsport Italia-run WRC Team Mini Portugal will contest the remaining 12 rounds, with Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre driving. Prodrive will retain responsibility for construction and support of Mini John Cooper Works WRC customer cars, while working with the BMW Group on the further development of the car, which made its WRC debut last year. The long-term homologation of the Mini has been underwritten until 2018.
"I am delighted that the future of Mini in the WRC has been secured on a long-term basis," said Kay Segler, Mini's senior vice president of business coordination and brand management. "We remain convinced that the sport of rallying is perfectly suited to our brand. The situation we now find ourselves in means the Mini Motorsport family can, and will, continue to grow on the rally scene. With three podiums from just seven starts in the world championship, the Mini John Cooper Works WRC has already emphatically proven its potential. I am confident that our customer teams around the world will continue to thrill Mini fans with this car over the coming years.
"The FIA was just as interested in the long-term presence of the Mini brand in the WRC as we were, and was actively involved in finding a constructive solution. We are grateful for the good cooperation and the understanding it has shown us."
Segler then paid tribute to the work the Banbury, UK-based Prodrive team had put in to turn the Countryman road car into a front-running World Rally Car.
"With its great enthusiasm and hard work, the Prodrive team has played a major role in the remarkable sporting success we have achieved on our initial outings with the Mini John Cooper Works WRC," he said.
"On behalf of Mini Motorsport, I would like to thank everyone at Prodrive for their efforts so far and we look forward to working with them in support of our Mini John Cooper Works WRC customers in the future."