Mini has announced its surprise exit from the World Rally Championship (WRC) after just one year, blaming a “difficult commercial environment” for its decision to leave the pre-eminent racing series.
Mini senior vice president Dr Kay Segler confirmed the German-owned, UK-based manufacturer would end its partnership with WRC Team Mini Portugal, which is funded by Mini and run by British operation Prodrive, at the end of the 2012 season.
“By the end of the season, WRC Team Mini Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012,” Segler said.
“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.
“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.”
Mini confirmed its entry into WRC in July 2010, at which time the team set itself the ambitious target of winning the World Rally Championship by 2013. It competed in six rounds of the 2011 season as development before launching into the first round of the 2012 championship at the start of this year.
The team earned 26 points in round one in Monte Carlo, placing it second behind Citroen in the overall standings, but has failed to score a point in the subsequent 10 rounds. Mini will compete in the Rally of Italy this weekend, before concluding its WRC involvement in Spain on November 11.
Despite withdrawing from the series, Segler confirmed BMW Motorsport would continue to develop its 1.6-litre turbo engine in conjunction with Prodrive.
“As such, the Mini family is retaining its presence on various international platforms and getting even closer to its customers,” he said.
“We would like to see the Mini John Cooper Works WRC continue to run competitively in WRC and other championships.
“We would like to thank Prodrive, WRC Team Mini Portugal and our partners for the good cooperation, and wish all drivers, teams and customers a successful future in rallying.”
International reports suggest Prodrive is keen to continue rallying Minis in the WRC next year without the financial support of Mini.