Sordo arrived armed with knowledge of how
the greatest WRC team operates. (FAR LEFT)
The Spaniard shows off his new office to his
successor at Citroen, Sebastien Ogier.
machinery as the Frenchman. Over the
same period, Loeb took 42 wins, and
Sordo 42 less than that.
One of the biggest question marks
over the Mini team is Sordo. Certainly,
he comes with exceptional insight into
what made the sport’s most successful
team tick, but his data is dated already.
These are the days of the WRC’s new world
order; two liters and hi-tech are old hat
now. So, does Sordo have what it takes?
“I don’t want to be beaten by my
teammate any more,” he smiles, “I’ve
had enough of that.”
But, in Meeke, he’s going to find a
competitor every bit as psychologically
tough as Loeb. The Northern Irishman
has had to fight tooth and nail for the
WRC opportunity his mentor Colin
McRae fully believed he deserved. And
you get the feeling he’s desperate to
further Sordo’s su;ering.
Sordo is with Mini until the end of
next year, while Meeke is committed
until the end of 2013, with massive
desire, but as-yet unproven ability at the
highest level – although he has won the
world’s second-tier rally series, the
Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
And 2013 is what everybody’s talking
about. That’s the target year. The team is
looking for rally wins next season and
titles the year after. On paper, that’s
realistic. The reality might not be so
straightforward. This Mini team is not a
super-funded manufacturer e;ort in the
style of Citroen or the inbound
Volkswagen e;ort (see sidebar).
This is a manufacturer-blessed
venture, more akin to the
The commercial side of the business –
the selling of private Mini WRCs – will be
a precursor to sporting success, with
profits plowed back into the evolving
John Cooper Works WRC.
With that in mind, is BMW genuinely
behind this e;ort to take Mini back to
the front? It would be folly to think the
backing is anything like that which went
into its Formula 1 project – or even the
company’s return to DTM racing – but
there appears to be genuine, and
growing, enthusiasm for the program.
Sixth in Sardinia was a solid start, but
upcoming rallies in Finland and Germany
could highlight problems with the John
Cooper Works WRC. The BMW motor is
said to be down on torque and horses and
no car, however well it does everything
else, can succeed without a strong engine.
Much of the above will be forgiven for
the balance of this season. As FIA
president Jean Todt put it: “The legend is
back…” and the honeymoon period has a
way to run yet.
Inevitably, Prodrive chairman David
Richards isn’t exactly bashful in his
predictions. “When I look at this car, I’ve
never been more confident of success,”
he says. Given that the Countryman isn’t
known as a thing of beauty, Richards
must have a lot of faith in the bits
beneath the skin.
But, beauty or beast, Mini is back in
rallying. And, for now, it’s more Here
Comes the Sun than Yesterday.
THAT’S NOT ALL, VOLKS!
Polo will launch VW’s WRC bid in 2013
Coincidence or not,
VW is committed to the
decision to launch
its World Rally Championship
program in Sardinia on the
eve of Mini’s debut ensured
it was Hannover rather than
Munich which centered
attention on the Italian island.
WRC until the end of 2015,
with the Polo R WRC
(BELOW) due to debut in
2013’s first round. Having
dominated the South
American-based Dakar Rally
for the last three years, VW
was looking for a more
year-’round program and
WRC fit that bill.
Formula 1 will likely be left
to the VW Group’s premium
brand Audi, making the WRC
a sensible fit for VW. The
recent change in technical
regulations made the decision
easier economically, but the
FIA’s shift from compact to
subcompact cars made it
VW was never keen to base
its WRC on the Golf – with
28 million sold worldwide,
So, if you’re hoping to see
shifting this model has never
really been a problem – but
the Polo ticks the boxes,
turning a city car into the
pin-up dream machine of a
The shift from 2- to 1.6-
liter engines has also made
a big difference, with the
WRC tracking the road car
market’s desire for smaller,
more efficient engines.
Beyond the technological
reasons, the up-scaling of
WRC, with a much-talked-
about shift to the collected
promised lands of the BRICK
economies (Brazil, India and
China) brought smiles to
those at the top in VW.
Brazil is probably the most
interesting potential WRC
round for VW, given the
firm’s huge market share
VW and the WRC in America
any time soon, it seems you
may be out of luck.