Everything is coming together for MINI’s entry to the World Rally Championship.  For 2011, the WRC is making changes to the specifications of the cars.  From the WRC website:

The new World Rally cars to be used from the 2011 season will remain four-wheel drive, but will be smaller, cheaper and will the first to run on the FIA’s Global Engine concept. Designed to increase competition amongst drivers and teams, the new rules are set to revolutionise the sport.

The forthcoming World Rally Cars will be based on the current Super 2000 regulations, but the S2000’s normally aspirated 2-litre engines will be supplanted by a 1.6-litre turbocharged unit with direct fuel injection. From 2011, all new homologations of Super 2000 cars must be fitted with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine.

This is the global engine specification that is being developed by FIA and will be available for use across a number of championships, starting with WRC and World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) in 2011.

A “1.6-litre turbocharged engine” is exactly what’s under the bonnet of a MINI Cooper S.   Of course, with MINI introducing an all-wheel-drive MINI Countryman this year, they have the required platform.

AUTOSPORT.com says that MINI and Prodrive are set to announce their entry into the WRC in the 2011 season.

Mini’s first-ever World Rally Car, which will be based on the Countryman road car, has been in preparation for months at Prodrive’s Banbury base and the BMW 1.6-litre turbocharged engine recently arrived to turn a rolling shell into a full World Rally Car. Testing of the new machine is expected to begin soon and, as technical director David Lapworth said, once it starts testing it will not stop.

The irony is not lost on the MINI enthusiast that MINI is getting back into rallying using a larger “SUV” that some think doesn’t belong in the MINI lineup.  We are eagerly awaiting the official announcement and photos of the forthcoming MINI WRC cars.