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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.
Subaru may decide to have a separate WRX line different from the Impreza family in a move to create a more dedicated performance range for the automaker. The new Impreza goes on sale this fall and is expected to be a significantly higher volume model than any of its predecessors. Subaru may chose to separate the WRX and Impreza for the first time in nearly 20 years.
With plans to launch a new sporty car in 2014, there is speculation that the new performance model will actually be the next generation WRX. “Apart from a few nuts and bolts, every part on the WRX will be unique. Even the engine and body. Obviously the WRX’s platform will be inherited from the new Impreza, but it will be radically modified and significantly shortened,” according to a Subaru insider.
Motor Trend has also speculated that the new WRX may use a 1.6-liter four-cylinder boxer engine, with a massive turbo, producing as much as 270-hp. The new model would be sized more like a subcompact and would feature extra-wide tires. Subaru is also said to be considering returning to the World Rally Championship from which the Impreza WRX got its name. Subaru pulled out of the series in 2008 because of the economic downturn .
After years of Citroen dominating the World Rally Championship, Fiat is getting ready to challenge the French automaker’s dominance with their own entry, based on the Punto Abarth.
The Abarth has been racing in the International Rally Challenge and national rally championships with the Punto S200. The S2000 has done considerably well in a number of lower-tier motorsports campaigns, and a WRC campaign would mark the first time the Punto Abarth has competed in a high level race series.
If the Punto Abarth does compete, it will likely be adapted to WRC specifications, which now closely mirrors the S2000 spec used in the IRC.
Known for pulling wild stunts behind the wheel of his Ford Fiesta rally car, Ken Block had zero intention of rolling the high-powered machine five times. But that’s just what happened during a shakedown of the car ahead of the Rally of Portugal event this weekend.
Block, and co-pilot Alex Gelsomino were both admitted to hospital, after he lost control of the car in a ‘fourth-gear incident’ (read: going stupid fast). Both have since been released without injuries – although early reports indicated Block’s flatbill cap may never be the same.
The car, unfortunately, was damaged too severely for Block to compete in this weekend’s third-round of the World Rally Championship.
See video of the crash after the jump:
One obvious sign of economies returning to full steam is increased involvement by automakers in the incredibly expensive field of motorsports. A valuable R&D experience regardless of the outcome, the marketing aspect depends solely on if you win.
With a Charlie Sheen obsession for “winning”, Volkswagen aims to get involved directly with the prestigious World Rally Championship, pursuing dominance in motorsports as well as in the global sales race. An announcement is expected by the end of the month, with a special event to celebrate VW’s three consecutive wins at the Dakar rally taking place on March 22nd.
The vehicle that will form the basis of the VW WRC entry was originally thought to be the Scirocco coupe, but now it appears as though Volkswagen will campaign race-prepped versions of its Polo sub-compact.
VW is working with Darak driver and WRC veteran Carlos Sainz and is tipped to sign Petter Solberg as a driver after talks to hire Sebastien Loeb away from Citroen failed.
Volkswagen will join MINI as new entrants into the 2011 WRC season.
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]
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.
Saab is reportedly considering a return to the World Rally Championship. News of this exciting development comes after executives at Saab’s new parent company (Dutch sports car maker Spyker) recently met with WRC bosses in private.
Not having competed in the world’s premiere rally car series since 1979, the Swedish automaker is believed to be planning to compete in the 2012 season, possibly with the new 9-2 or 9-1 mini car (rendered above) – which is believed to be based on the current MINI Cooper platform.
Powering the MINI-based Saab would be a BMW-sourced 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder, meeting with the series new standards. That same engine will also power MINI’s upcoming Countryman entry.
With an important history in rally car racing, the return would make sense for the Swedish brand, possibly following in Audi’s tire treads, promoting its AWD system through motorsports.
New rules for the 2012 season are bringing a lot of interest to WRC, with VW expected to be the next manufacturer to announce participation in the sport.
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:
Toyota appears set to return to the World Rally Championship (WRC) next year after an absence from the sport of over a decade. Last week we reported on Toyota’s fact-finding missions at several WRC races, and now the Japanese automaker has been linked to Prodrive – a motorsports company that helped Subaru rise to fame in the sport. Prodrive is also part owner of Aston Martin – which Toyota has a good working relationship with, donating the iQ Chassis for Aston’s Cygnet mini-car.
An unnamed Toyota Motorsport representative was recently quoted as saying that, “We want to be prepared if and when we get a call from Japan to go and compete.”
The news comes as Prodrive boss David Richards announced he would not risk the company’s financial stability on a Formula 1 gamble. Toyota recently pulled from F1, suggesting it may look to other motorsports activities.
Prodrive has also been linked to a MINI entry in WRC, although rumors suggest the holdup on that side is BMW’s unwillingness to fun the entire project.
Either way, a Prodrive spokesman has confirmed that, “we will be back in the championship next year with a manufacturer.”
Toyota has won 43 rallies and 3 world championships in the WRC series, with famous drivers like Carlos Sainz behind the wheel, often using vehicles running the now famous white, red and green Castrol livery.
Rally driving requires serious concentration on both the part of the driver and co-driver. If the co-driver reads stage notes wrong, or a driver doesn’t react quickly, a crash and possible rollover is almost a given. Many seasoned rally drivers have trained themselves to ignore the spectators along the sides of the stage, but one man distracts Mark Tapper in his prepared Mitsubishi Lancer in a most interesting way, by showing him his ass. The distraction is enough for Tapper to overshoot the next corner during the Rally New Zealand race and end up on his roof. Amazing video after the jump.
Several months ago Subaru announced a more hard-core WRX STI Spec C model exclusively for Japan and now the reason for that car has become clear. With just 900 units being offered, that is just enough to qualify for Group N (production car) homologation set by the FIA for such series as the World Rally Challenge.
Subaru dropped out of WRC back in 2008 but now it has announced its return with Toshihiro Arai taking the wheel of the STI Spec C model for the Rallye Deutschland of Production World Rally Championship, taking place this August in Germany.
Some mild changes are sure to be made to the car for racing, not to mention the usual safety equipment additions. In stock form, engine output is 304-hp and 311 ft-lbs of torque, up from the standard 295-hp and 299 ft-lbs. Weight has also been cut through the use of an aluminum hood and a smaller battery. A plexiglass windshield and side windows also drop several pounds, as do new lightweight 18-inch wheels. For improved handling the Spec C gets stiffer springs, a larger rear stabilizer bar, stiffer sub-frame bushings and new shocks. A new mechanical limited slip differential (SD) out back also improves the car’s ability to get all that turbocharged power to the ground. Reinforcements to the front cross member, new Bridgestone Potenza RE070 tires and increased power steering pressure result in better handling and driving feel.
GALLERY: Subaru Impreza WRX STI Spec C
Official release after the jump:
American stunt driver and Subaru USA Rally America driver Ken Block (left) is close to getting the call to the big leagues. AutoSport is reporting that Block is close to a deal with Ford that would seem him driving in the World Rally Championship (WRC), the world’s premiere rally car racing series.
The deal will reportedly see Block keep his Monster Energy Drink sponsorship from his Subaru days as he drives for Ford with team mate Chris Atkinson – another former Subaru driver. With both Ford and Block on board, the WRC series, which is immensely popular overseas, finaly has a chance at real fame in the lucrative North American market.
WRC marketing expert Simon Long described Block, who’s two viral YouTube Gymkhana videos have received tens of millions of views, as “an iconic figure in US motorsport and a major box office personality.” He also went on to say that, “It wouldn’t get much better than this for the WRC going into North America.”
The deal is reported to go through next month and will see Block sign on with Ford for three seasons, starting next year.
Is this the face of a race car? Subaru certainly thinks so.
The latest rumors indicate that the automaker intends to enter a version of its new 2010 Legacy model (launched at the New York Auto Show this year) into Japan’s top-level Super GT series. The car will no doubt receive numerous modifications, but engine output won’t be changed all that much. The reason for this is that Subaru will race the car in the 300 (meaning 300hp) class – rather than the highest 500 class.
A Legacy 2.5GT is the likely choice to form the basis of the race car, especially as it sports a new 2.5-liter boxer engine with 265hp and 258 ft-lbs of torque.
The move is surprising as the cash-strapped automaker pulled from the World Rally Championship (WRC) this year, citing economic reasons. Subaru teams had, however, performed poorly the past few years.
No doubt the Super GT entry will be much less expensive to run than a full WRC team and besides, it would be a shame to reassign those Subaru racing engineers to the accounting department.
[Source: Nihon Car]
Rally legend Marcus Grönholm will attempt to set record with sub 10 minute pass
In an attempt to drum-up interest in the launch of the Fiesta in North America, Ford is putting on a serious publicity stunt by running two 800 horsepower versions of the economy car in the legendary Pikes Peak race.
Ford is eager to appeal not just to econonomically-minded individuals with the Fiesta sub-compact, but also to enthusiasts as it attempts to set a Pike Peak record with a sub-10 minute run up the mountain.
To do this not only will Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution race team owner Andreas Eriksson be piloting one of the turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder Fiesta racers, but so will rally legend Marcus Grönholm. In World Rally Championship competition Grönholm has won 30 races and clinched the championship twice.
Both Eriksson and Grönholm will certainly need all 800 horses when they take on the 12.4-mile, 156-turn dirt and tarmac climb on July 19th.
“We’re pleased to have a top independent team like Olsbergs MSE coming to the U.S. with their Fiesta Rallycross cars to take on the challenge of Pike’s Peak,” said Brian Wolfe, director, Ford North America Motorsports. “This will be a great chance for enthusiasts here to see in this unique setting what a lot of the rest of the world is already talking about – that the Fiesta is a great road car and a great race car.”
Ford Motor Company’s director of Global Motorsport Business Development, Jost Capito, said: “The Pike’s Peak event is another step forward for the new Ford Fiesta as a core vehicle in Ford’s future global motorsport aspirations. We’re looking forward to seeing Andreas and Marcus in action on this unique event.”
GALLERY: Olsbergs Motor Sport Evolution Ford Fiesta Rallycross
Official release after the jump:
Series veteran Sébastien Loeb ready to quit over new rules
Subaru recently announced it would not compete in the 2009 WRC Series due to economic concersn, however, new “no turbo” rules for 2011 would most likely have seen the Japanese automaker pull out anyway.
The World Rally Championship’s governing body, the FIA World Motor Sport Council has just confirmed that as of 2011 competing vehicles must use non-turbocharged naturally aspirated engines – a move that has series veteran and all-star Sébastien Loeb considering a new career path.
The new rules will allow for certain aerodynamic changes to the Super 2000 (or S2000) cars, however, the decision to move away from turbocharged powerplants was made to open up the series to more manufacturers – including Skoda, Abarth, Peugeot and Proton – by making it less expensive to run a competitive car.
These rules may also be to blame for other manufacturers leaving the series. Several months ago Subaru announced that it would not compete in the 2009 season, stating economic concerns, however, it is just as likely that the the company had no intention of running with the new rules (which don’t take effect until 2011).
Turbochargers are set to return to the series in 2013, but mated to smaller 1600c (1.6-liter) engines.
Five-time WRC Champion Sébastien Loeb, who’s contract with Citroën is up at the end of this season, has expressed his displeasure with the new rules and his desire to try his hand at other forms of motorsports.
“The excitement will not be the same,” Loeb told AutoWeek. I always said it would be better with the turbo, and this is how I feel.”
“We don’t have to decide anything until 2011,” he continued. “When that comes, maybe I can move to something more interesting.”
What exactly he might move to is the Le Mans series, as Loeb is already scheduled to test a Peugeot 908 HDi Le Mans prototype this year.
“Sébastien’s contract is up at the end of this year,” a Citroën source told AutoWeek. “There’s really nothing for him to prove to stay on in WRC. He has won every rally and broken every record. Maybe he can leave at the end of 2009 and start racing straight away next year.”