Just when things were looking up for the MINI WRC Team following Dani Sordo’s second-place finish at Rally Monte Carlo, recent news of MINI's decision to drop Prodrive from the factory team has clouded the future for MINI in the WRC.
Prodrive has been effectively demoted to customer-team status meaning they will now be forced to secure their own funding for future competitions – no more help from MINI. Meanwhile, the MINI WRC Factory team has since adopted the drivers and crew of MINI Portugal (a former customer team) who will be competing under the official MINI team banner for the 2012 season.
“I am delighted that the future of MINI in the WRC has been secured on a long-term basis,” said Dr. Kay Segler, Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management. “We remain convinced that the sport of rallying is perfectly suited to our brand. The situation we now find ourselves in means the MINI Motorsport family can, and will, continue to grow on the rally scene.” - (Taken from Official Press Release)
MINI will maintain some ties to Prodrive, and continue to consult the British rally specialists on further developments to the WRC vehicle. Remember, Prodrive was largely responsible for transforming the MINI Countryman in the 2011 Rally Car of the Year. As such, Prodrive has retained certain intellectual property rights that BMW will need for future changes to the vehicle.
Sordo will race for the Prodrive MINI team as their number one driver so long as the team is able to secure funding. It is believed that the Prodrive MINI team possesses a more talented stable of drivers, leading to a potentially embarrassing scenario where the MINI Factory team is repeatedly outperformed by its customer-team opponents driving the same vehicle.
The decision to part ways with Prodrive stems from the MINI team’s financial concerns which first came to light late last year following a missed WRC deadline and the termination of Kris Meeke’s contract.
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