ben treston

Mini WRC, maximum impact

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It was with great interest that I was able to check out the debut of the Mini World Rally Car (the first official outing on UK soil) at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire over the weekend.

This car has been long rumoured in world rally circles and last year it broke cover, with a very strong driver line-up of Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo.

Based on the Mini Countryman, it has a 1.6 litre turbo power-plant to the current WRC regulations. The first thought when looking at the car is that it looks bigger than both rivals - the Ford Fiesta WRC and Citroen DS3 WRC. The car just looks long - as it is a four door it seems to exaggerate it’s length. The bonnet seems short, with an aggressive overhang for the front cooling and a high bumper. The rear is very squat and squared off, and at some angles, looks like the back of the Mini clubman.

However as soon as the car launched itself into the asphalt stage (on gravel tyres) it was apparent that it is extremely nimble, agile and pointed. Dani was giving it a lot of beans and was inch-perfect darting around the obstacles on the stage.

If this is the car in development, then the future does look very bright. The recent 6th place in Sardinia was testament to all the hard work done by Prodrive, and Kris Meeke’s early pace was even more encouraging.

The biggest win may not be on the stages just yet, the buzz around this car and the column inches it has generated has been a huge PR coup for Mini / BMW, and this is very promising not just for them, but bringing the much needed attention to the WRC in general. This season has been the best in years, and throwing a new car into the mix (albeit briefly), has really had the maximum impact the WRC needs.