Well that’s that.
To not very much surprise, Dr. Key Segler, senior vice-president of MINI business coordination and brand management, today called time on BMW’s endorsement of the brand’s WRC programme. Let’s recap:
- August 2010: BMW and Prodrive confirm that they are building a car based on the 5-door Countryman model
- April 2011: MINI John Cooper Works WRC revealed
- 2011 season: Six rallies contested with Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke. Podium finishes for Sordo in Germany and France, Meeke wins ‘Power Stage’ in Catalunya
- January 2012: BMW withdraws backing from Prodrive team, makes MINI Portugal its ‘works’ effort using Prodrive-built cars
- 2012 season: Prodrive carries on with a cast of pay-drivers instead of Meeke. Sordo takes second on the Monte. MINI Portugal employs lots of drivers and Chris Atkinson does well in the tail end of the season.
- October 2012: BMW drops the whole programme faster than a once-treasured Jim’ll Fix It badge.
Dr. Segler said: “By the end of the season WRC Team MINI Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012. As such, in accordance with FIA regulations, we will have achieved the WRC homologation for the MINI John Cooper Works. In doing so, we would have achieved the prerequisites to allow those interested to continue to run the car in the WRC on a customer rallying basis.”
Many people have wondered why BMW got involved in the whole enterprise, given that its commitment lasted for a grand total of eight months at a time when, by the standards of most European motor manufacturers, it has prospered. Perhaps anticipating this question, Dr. Segler added:
“In a very difficult commercial environment, MINI has played an active role in ensuring that friends of the MINI brand can continue to participate in motorsport.”
That’s right: they did it for you. They spent all that money for ‘friends of the brand’, and in no way for themselves, you cynical old so-and-so’s. Now that their charitable work is done, these very same BMW execs are now going off to make world a better place in some other way. A bit like Spider-Man.
Meanwhile back on Earth, Prodrive’s business development director Richard Taylor said: “We understand MINI’s decision and in the current challenging economic climate it was not unexpected.”
WRF has no doubt that Prodrive expected the announcement. The clue probably came back in January when the funds were cut off and BMW attempted to prevent the cars competing at all in 2012… although we could be wrong.
Prodrive remains committed to running its MINIs in 2013 (or ‘focussed’ [sic] according to its website), aiming for a two-car squad with top drivers rather than a pay-as-you-go customers. We at WRF are committed to playing strip poker with the Brazilian women’s beach volleyball team in 2013 and are, frankly, getting better odds.
MINI Portugal is also understood to be entering two cars in 2013 for Australia’s Chris Atkinson and former IRC, ERC and SWRC champion Juho Hänninen.