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The AutoGuide News Blog is your source for breaking stories from the auto industry. Delivering news immediately, the AutoGuide Blog is constantly updated with the latest information, photos and video from manufacturers, auto shows, the aftermarket and professional racing.
 |  Oct 12 2012, 10:37 AM

In a shocking turn of events for MINI, the spunky British automaker, has announced it will cancel its World Rally Championship program at the end of the 2012 season.

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 |  Jan 30 2012, 8:30 PM

MINI was proud to announce today that a John Cooper Works Super Production Car (SPC) captured its first FIA International event win this past weekend. Driver Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari took the checkered flag home at the Qatar International Rally, the first found in the 2012 Middle East Rally Championship (MERC).

Al Kuwari had his brother, Nassar Al-Kuwari as his co-driver, and the pair captured the race victory by a margin of 2m 24.9s and was the team’s first career MERC win. It was also a successful debut of the Prodrive-built, Tok Sport-ran MINI John Cooper Works SPC. The MINI SPC is the regional rally specification of the MINI World Rally Car. It is nearly identical to the WRC except the SPC runs with a smaller engine restrictor (30-mm versus 33-mm) and a smaller rear wing.

“It is a fantastic feeling to win this rally,” said Al-Kuwari, who became the 32nd driver in history to win at least one round of the MERC.  “I have achieved success in national rallies in Qatar, but this was the big one. This was the rally I wanted to win. It was a great battle with Nasser. The new car was fantastic. This is the biggest win of my career.”

The team is now looking forward to becoming a force to be reckoned with in the 2012 Middle East Rally Championship.

 |  Dec 22 2011, 5:15 PM

MINI‘s hopes for capturing the 2012 World Championship Rally title took a big blow before the effort even started. Mini has missed the deadline for signing up for next years championship, which expired at midnight, last night.

The Mini rally car, which is based on the Countryman model is prepared by Prodrive in Banbury, U.K. Now Prodrive, Mini and its parent company BMW are in talks with the FIA to seek an extension to the deadline.

The driver’s for the Mini WRC; Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo made no comment on this situation, but sources say that the team has a strong desire to compete in the WRC 2012 season.

Despite the setback, Mini is expected to make a return to the Monte Carlo Rally next year, an event that made the Mini a legend back in the 1960′s.

Will the FIA grant Mini the extension it needs? We’ll keep you posted on any developments.

[Source: Autosport]

 |  Oct 20 2011, 10:30 PM

Prodrive is synonymous with turning everyday family runabouts into championship winning rally cars. Most recently, they have competed with a Mini Countryman, which is faring quite well so far.

Now Prodrive is turning its attention to making a special version of a Countryman for those who don’t have a race seat in the FIA Rally Championship.

Based on information by some industry moles, the Prodrive Countryman sports a more muscular body, a large rear wing and some tasty alloy wheels.

The changes won’t be just cosmetic as it will also feature a Milltek exhaust and a performance enhancing chip by Superchips, which will easily boost output to 230-hp. It might get even more if they decide to replace the current turbo unit with a larger one.

No pricing or availability is known for now, but since North Americans never got to sample any other products Prodrive produced in the past, chances are we won’t get this one either.

Mini will eventually offer its own John Cooper Works version of the Countryman, which will be exciting enough for most of us.

[Source: Autocar]

 |  Apr 12 2011, 5:22 PM

It’s been 40-some odd years, but Mini is finally returning to the world rally stage.

The Mini WRC Team will be competing in the 2011 World Rally Championship with the John Cooper Works Countryman, as modified by legendary performance company Prodrive. The team was recently launched in its factory in Oxford in a nostalgia-laden gala that saw Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen show up in the Mini Cooper S that won them three rally championships in 1964, 1965, and 1967.

“On the one hand, MINI can look back on a unique success story,” said Ian Robertson, a member of BMW’s board of management. “On the other hand, MINI is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to authentically represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship.”

This year’s drivers and navigators in the Countryman will be Kris Meeke of England and Paul Nagle of Ireland, and Dani Sordo and Carlos del Barrio, from Spain. Their first race will be at Rally d’Italia Sardegna from May 5th to the 8th, and they will enter five more races in the season.

 |  Sep 17 2010, 9:56 AM

Jaguar debuted an XF sedan that utilizes a new type of hybrid system, one that recaptures energy through a mechanical flywheel rather than a battery system.

Dubbed Flywheel Hybrid System for Premium Vehicles(FHSPV), the new technology is being developed with engineering powerhouses like Ricardo, Prodrive and Xtrac, who all have significant experience developing parts for race cars. “The FHSPV is really an engineering due diligence exercise,” says the project’s engineer Daniel Loftus. “We need to look at mechanical flywheels and see how they compare with electric hybrids. And then see if they have a production future.”

The flywheel puts power to the ground via an Xtrac-developed CVT gearbox, and can produce an extra 80 horsepower for a seven second time period. Combined with a start-stop system and a package size that weighs half of a traditional hybrid system, the FHSPV can also deliver a 20 percent fuel economy savings.

The one obstacle stopping the FHSPV from production is the falling cost of battery systems. Hopefully, the technology sees the light of day, as it seems to offer a lot of promise.

[Source: Autocar]

 |  Sep 15 2010, 10:01 PM

Last week we reported that MINI’s new Countryman WRC had completed its initial shakedown, and now we’ve got a trio of videos to prove it. The Prodrive-developed WRC car has been testing out in Portugal with Markko Märtin behind the wheel.

As we mentioned before, the aerodynamics seen on the MINI Countryman WRC currently won’t be the final components used as the final WRC bodywork is under construction. We’ll see limited competition out of MINI for 2011 as they’ll only be participating in select WRC rounds. But their plans is to be full on competition for 2012 and beyond.

As for our initial impressions of the MINI Countryman WRC in these videos, it looks to be a very formidable opponent and it sounds just awesome.

Check out all three videos after the break.

[Source: German Car Scene]

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 |  Sep 09 2010, 9:17 AM

MINI‘s new Countryman WRC car has just completed its initial “shakedown” by Prodrive, the incredibly successful motorsports company that is building the rally car.

More importantly, however, we’ve been provided with the first glimpse at the rally version of the MINI crossover, with a massive rear spoiler, big off-road tires and a significantly lowered suspension. MINI has confirmed, however, that the aerodynamics on the car are not the ones that will be used when it makes its WRC debut.

Prodrive ran the car for four days at its facility in Warwickshire, driving mostly on tarmac, but also on dirt. The car is now scheduled to travel to Portugal where it will undergo a week of gravel testing.

“As with any totally new car, it is vital to take time to ensure all the systems are working as intended before embarking on a week long gravel test,” said David Lapworth, Prodrive technical director.

MINI intends to run some of the 2011 WRC before preparing for a full season of racing in 2012.

 |  Jul 27 2010, 7:21 AM

MINI has officially announced that it will enter the World Rally Championship (WRC) next year, teaming up with Prodrive and running a Countryman crossover. The MINI Countryman WRC is being developed by the legendary Prodrive race team (which helped Subaru win six championships) to run part of the 2011 season as it prepares for a full 2012 season of competition.

The modified Countryman model will meet new FIA Super2000 regulations, using a turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder BMW Motorsport engine, mated to MINI’s new All4 all-wheel drive system.

In the future, MINI will offer the Countryman WRC model to customer teams, so expand the number of MINIs competing in rally racing internationally.

Rumors suggest several well-known drivers may compete for the official MINI team, including Mads Ostberg and Marcus Gronholm.

Official release after the jump:

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 |  Jul 20 2010, 7:59 AM

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Rumors that MINI will enter the World Rally Championship have been swirling for almost a year now, but that could all end later this week. According to the most recent reports, MINI will confirm its intentions to join the WRC series later this week with renowned British racing firm Prodrive set to take over operations of the team.

Based on the Countryman crossover, the MINI rally car has been under secret development at the Prodrive facility in Banbury.

Once the car is unveiled, testing will then begin with Norway’s Mads Ostberg believed to be signed on as both an official test driver and as a factory driver in next year’s WRC season. Due to significant development time, however, its unlikely that MINI will be prepared to start the 2011 WRC season and is likely to join later in the year, using the remaining stages to properly develop the car in competition for a championship run in 2012.

[Source: AutoSport]

 |  Apr 21 2010, 5:41 PM

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Subaru’s Impreza WRX and STI models are some of the best performance cars money can buy, but customers in the United Kingdom will now have an extra incentive to buy one of Subaru’s boxer-engined hatchbacks. Prodrive, a British motorsports engineering firm long associated with Subaru, is offering a free upgrade package for the WRX and STI (valued at £3100) that adds a revised ECU, upgraded mufflers and 18-inch wheels.

No new power numbers are available, but the increases are expcted to be in the 30-hp and 30 ft-lb range for each model. Subaru claims the upgrades are expected to shave 0.6 seconds from the 0-60 mph time of the WRX (bringing it down to 5.9 seconds) and 0.4 seconds from the STI’s time (helping it reach the mark in 4.8 seconds).

[Source:  World Car Fans]

Official release after the jump:

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 |  Oct 30 2009, 9:50 AM

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Subaru will showcase three vehicles at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas next week, including one vehicle that owners can replicate, thanks to the company’s Subaru Performance Tuning division. That car is a WRX STI, which has been completely outfitted with a long list of SPT parts straight out of the factory catalog. The car retains its turbocharged 2.5-liter engine but gets an SPT exhaust system to raise power slightly to 315-hp – up from 305-hp. Under the hood, there’s an SPT turbo heat shield and a selection of shiny bits, including a billet oil cap and battery hold down. Outside, the car also gets some extra style with a new front lip spoiler and exhaust finishers. Oh, and let’s not forget the 19×8.5-inch Prodrive GT2 wheels in Glitter Gold.

Wrapped in wear Michelin Pilot Sport rubber to help the car’s cornering abilities, the STI also gets some assistance from STI performance springs, an SPT strut tower brace and lower chassis brace.

Inside, the car is mostly stock with an added SPT boost gauge, a media hub audio system, an STI shift knob and some all-weather floor mats.

The second vehicle is definitely one that won’t be offered in the SPT catalog. It’s a VIP styled 2010 Legacy 2.5GT. Sure you can get the SPT oil cap and battery tie-down, but the air ride suspension and 20-inch wheels (with a 4-inch lip) are most certainly one-off items. To fit these wheels on the car’s body, the fenders had to be flared. Other body mods include a long list of JDM Legacy parts (overnight parts from Japan anyone?) like a hood, bumper, grille as well as HID headlights and fog lights. The car also gets a roof spoiler as well as a rear decklid spoiler. In order to fit the smooth JDM hood, the Legacy’s top-mount intercooler was replaced with a Mishimoto front mount intercooler.

And if the exterior seems extreme, just take a look at the interior, which gets a complete diamond-stitch leather treatment. The rear seat area was changed significantly with two bucket seats, two LCD screens and a huge audio setup.

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A third vehicle will also join these two Subys. It’s a Subaru SPT Parts Delivery Van, that’s based off a fully restored 1969 Subaru 360. This is no performance machine with a 356cc engine that makes 25-hp and 25 ft-lbs of torque. But hey, it does get 66 mpg.

We’ll be sure to bring you more on all of Suabru’s SEMA show vehicles with live coverage from Las Vegas starting next Tuesday, November 3rd.

See AutoGuide’s live SEMA Coverage here!

Official release after the jump:

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 |  Feb 24 2009, 1:17 PM

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Prodrive, the company behind Subaru’s successful World Rally Car program, has just announced that it is selling off many of its decommissioned race cars, including the very first Impreza WRC car.

This 1997 model Impreza WRC car made its debut at the 1997 Rally Monte Carlo and was used that year by Pierro Liatti, Kenneth Erikkson and the late Colin McRae.

In 1998 the car was sold to a private Prodrive client and has since been fully restored to its original condition by McKinstry Motorsport in Ireland. The car has been brought back to its original condition with paint and decals from the 1997 Rally of Finland.

The asking price is set at 85,000 British Pounds ($121,000).

The sale of the car is aimed at creating a buzz around Prodrive’s new website dedicated to selling old race cars. Currently listed on the site are seven other Impreza WRC cars, as well as 17 Prodrive Impreza Group N cars. Prices range from 50,000 Pounds ($70,000) to 350,000 Pounds ($500,000) for a 2008 spec Impreza WRC car.

A full list of all the cars with specifications can be found at:

www.prodrive.com

Subaru Pulls out of World Rally Championship (WRC)

Blames poor economy, not poor results

 |  Dec 17 2008, 10:58 AM

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Not two weeks after the final race of the 2008 season, Subaru has made the surprise move to withdraw from the 2009 World Rally Championship. The move follows a similar announcement the day before by Suzuki.

For the past 20 years the Subaru WRC team, under the direction of Prodrive, has won six WRC Championship titles with drivers like the late, great Colin McRae. Arguably Subaru’s continued existence as a manufacturer in the international marketplace has relied heavily on its reputation for success in racing.

Citing the worldwide economic downturn, Subaru was quick to blame a tight pocketbook and not the fact that the company hasn’t won a race since 2006. At the end of the 2008 season the Subaru team finished 3rd overall with drivers Chris Atkinson and Petter Solberg grabbing the fifth and sixth positions, respectively.

If no other teams join before the 2009 season starts, only Ford and Citroen will be left battling it out in the top class.

Team operator Prodrive will apparently begin preparing to enter a private team in 2010.

Official Release, plus 2008 Subaru WRC Gallery after the jump:
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