Following reports last year that a return to rallying was on the cards, MINI has revealed details this week of its plans to make an assault on the World Rally Championship in 2011.
Partnering with Prodrive, the BMW-owned British carmaker has announced today that it will field a race-prepared MINI Countryman in the 2011 series, powered by a BMW Motorsport 1.6 litre four-cylinder turbo engine.
The rally-spec Countryman will race under the new Super2000 regulations, which requires competing cars to use turbocharged 1.6 litre engines and all-wheel-drive.
Vehicles racing in this class must also have "an increased emphasis on road-relevant technologies" - a factor which has helped reduce competition costs by about 25 percent for participating teams.
With its first test drive planned for September, MINI says it will make the rally-prepared MINI Countryman available for purchase by private racing teams.
Prodrive boss David Richards said this week that his company has been working on the rally version of the Countryman since early 2009.
" I believe our new MINI will become a firm favourite of the latest generation of rally fans, just as it is adored by its millions of owners across the world," Mr Richards said.
"We already have a significant number of confirmed customer orders for the new MINI rally car with the first deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season."