Yesterday much of the World's press and rally stars from MINIs past descended on the Plant Oxford base for the official launch of its World Rally Championship (WRC) campaign.

The team, which will be run in conjunction with previous WRC winners Prodrive, also announced ambitious plans to be challenging for the WRC championship by 2013.


This is despite the fact that the car is competing in just six rallies this season. Prodrive Boss, David Richards said at the launch: "This year is a test year, next year we aim to be winning rallies, and by 2013 we hope to be challenging for the title."

Obviously based on the brand-stretching MINI Countryman, don't expect to find any Countryman badging on MINI's new contender, as its official name is the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. This is because the John Cooper Works badging is exclusively for the fastest MINIs and the WRC has to be up there with the quickest.

As a MINI fan, the Countryman wouldn't be the first car I'd choose as a basis to go rallying. However, according to Richards, this bigger MINI was perfect for the new WRC regulations: "it was fitted with a four-wheel drive system, with the right dimensions and had a superb 1600cc turbo engine. So every element ticked the box."

With Prodrive's enthusiasm for this project and the news that a customer car built to S200 sub-WRC specifications won a recent Italian rally, you've got to admit that drivers Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo have every reason to be confident against Citroen and Ford when the car competes in the Rally d'Italia Sardegna next month.

Fancy following in Kris and Dani's tyre tracks? Well if you've got a spare £350k burning a hole in your back pocket, this will buy you a car and spares package for a seasons rallying. You'll not be alone either; as David Richards expects 10 MINI WRC's to contest in the 2012 season.

Check out the gallery below of yesterday's action:

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