The Oxfordshire-built Mini makes World Rally comeback
The Mini will return to the FIA World Rally Championship from next year, it has been revealed.
The Banbury-based Prodrive team will prepare the car for selected races in 2011, and then enter it for a full programme of racing in 2012.
Four hundred people work at the north Oxfordshire factory while at least another 30 jobs will be created to work on the Mini Countryman WRC.
The first test drive is planned for autumn 2010.
The car is based on the production model, with a 1.6-litre, turbo-charged engine from BMW Motorsport.
Mini's tradition in rallying stretches back to the late-1950s.
Pat Moss clinched the first victory with the Mini 850 at the 1959 Mini Miglia National Rally.
Mini won three times in the Monte Carlo Rally, with overall victories in 1964, 1965 and 1967.
The company also had successes in the European Rally Championship.
Ian Robertson, member of the board of management of BMW AG, said: "I am delighted Mini will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport.
"I am convinced we will add a few more chapters to our success story in rallying.
"The Mini Countryman provides an excellent basis, from which to create a competitive racing car for the world championship.
"In Prodrive, we have a strong and experienced partner. We will work hard together over the coming months to ensure we get the project on track right from the word go."
Prodrive Chairman, David Richards, said: "This is a very exciting new motorsport programme.
"During the 1960s, Mini captured the imagination of the world when the tiny car took on the might of V8-powered Fords and won what was then one of the toughest motorsport events, the 4000km Monte Carlo rally."
He said there were already significant orders for the new Mini rally car, with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season.
Prodrive has been working on developing the Mini Countryman WRC since early 2009.
Although the standard Mini Countryman is assembled in Austria, the rally version will be built in Banbury, Oxfordshire.
The company was formed in 1984 by Mr Richards, who won the World Rally Championship as co-driver to Ari Vatanen three years earlier.
Prodrive's successes currently include six overall victories in the World Rally Championship, five titles in the British Touring Car Championship and three class victories at the Le Mans 24 Hours.