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by Tim Beissmann

MINI has announced it will compete in selected rounds of the 2011 FIA World Rally Championship before stepping into the series full-time in 2012.

MINI, in collaboration with Prodrive, has been developing a Super2000 MINI Countryman WRC for around 18 months, and the first vehicles will be available for test drives by customer teams towards the end of 2010.

Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Ian Robertson, confirmed MINI’s involvement in the WRC was planned to span several years and would add another chapter to the MINI story.

“I am delighted MINI will be represented on one of the most popular stages in international motorsport. The MINI Countryman provides an excellent basis from which to create a competitive racing car for the world championship,” Mr Robertson said.

“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 MINI had the pedigree to make a successful return to rallying.

“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. 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.

He said interest in the 1.6-litre turbocharged all-wheel drive MINI Countryman WRC was building.

“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.”