Mini pulls financial support on Atkinson’s WRC team
Australia’s Chris Atkinson will be looking for another team if he’s to continue in the World Rally Championship in 2013.
The BMW Group has confirmed that it will not financially support the works WRC Team Mini Portugal which Atkinson drives for after the end of this season.
The John Cooper Works Mini was designed and developed by Prodrive, but it was decided that the WRC Team Mini Portugal, through the Motorsport Italia organisation, would undertake a full season in 2012 as the FIA World Rally Championship regulations stated that Mini had to contest every round to fulfil its homologation obligations.
The announcement to withdraw the support was made by Dr Key Segler, senior vice-president of Mini business coordination and brand management.
“Mini will abandon its works involvement in the WRC at the end of the 2012 season,” said Segler
“By the end of the season WRC Team Mini Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012. As such, in accordance with FIA regulations, we will have achieved the WRC homologation for the Mini John Cooper Works. In doing so, we would have achieved the prerequisites to allow those interested to continue to run the car in the WRC on a customer rallying basis.
“In a very difficult commercial environment, Mini has played an active role in ensuring that friends of the Mini brand can continue to participate in motorsport. As such, the Mini family is retaining its presence on various international platforms and getting even closer to its customers.
“We would like to see the Mini John Cooper Works WRC continue to run competitively in WRC and other championships. We would like to thank Prodrive, WRC Team Mini Portugal and our partners for the good cooperation, and wish all drivers, teams and customers a successful future in rallying.
“BMW Motorsport will continue to further develop the 1.6-litre turbo engine in conjunction with Prodrive.”
Motorsport Italia Team Manager Bruno de Piant said that after a challenging start to 2012, performance had improved with the addition of Atkinson over the final period of the season.
“This decision is disappointing, but none of us should forget that MINI has achieved some great things since its comeback,” said de Piant.
“Of course a highlight for us was Chris Atkinson finishing fifth in Germany on his first ever WRC event with WRC Team MINI Portugal. One thing I can assure you is that it would be a pleasure to work with Atko again on any motorsport project.”
Prodrive has run a limited programme with Dani Sordo, says it remains optimistic of fielding Mini entries in the 2013 WRC.
“We understand Mini’s decision and in the current challenging economic climate it was not unexpected,” said Prodrive Business development director Richard Taylor.
“It is however good news that Mini remains enthusiastic about the WRC and wishes to see Mini rally cars continuing to run competitively in the WRC and other championships.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Mini and BMW Motorsport to maximise the performance of both WRC and S2000 Minis on behalf of our mutual customers and our own WRC team.”