It is four decades since Andrew Cowan put the opposition to the sword in a Mini Clubman at the 1972 "Heatway International Motor Rally" – the predecessor to today’s Rally New Zealand. The sister car of the winning car from back then is currently on display in the MINI exhibition area in Auckland, where it is stirring up memories of the sensational success that followed on seamlessly from MINI’s victories at the Rally Monte Carlo in the 1960s. At the start of the rally week, over 150 MINI fans from all over the world gathered in their classic Minis and new MINIs for an “Italian Job” MINI parade through the streets of Auckland. The procession was another tribute to the huge success of the Mini Clubman 40 years ago, and was organised by MINI New Zealand and the "Mini Car Club of Auckland". Representatives of the current MINI WRC Team were joined on the 70-kilometre route by Jim Scott, Andrew Cowan’s co-driver in the victorious Mini back in 1972.
The representatives of the 2012 MINI at the Rally New Zealand will be following in historic footsteps when the seventh round of the World Rally Championship gets underway on Friday. Dani Sordo, Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre is the MINI line-up that will take on the 22 special stages, which feature almost 414 timed kilometres and take the teams over a total distance of more than 1600 kilometres. Unfortunately the MINI trio will have no time to take in the luscious greenery, sensational coastlines and idyllic villages that formed the backdrop to the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. The rally route, which features a mixture of gravel and asphalt sections, often takes its competitors on a rollercoaster ride and requires maximum attention.
MINI fans are already looking forward to the appearance of Dani Sordo, who last lined up in the MINI John Cooper Works WRC at the WRC event in Portugal and recently shone in Corsica, where he claimed overall victory in the MINI WRC in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). Rally fans are now hoping Dani can carry his success over to New Zealand. "The MINI had very good pace in Portugal and I got a really good feel for the new car," said Dani. "The MINI is particularly good in the flowing high speed sections and I think it will be very well suited to the stages in New Zealand."
However, the weather – it is currently winter in the southern hemisphere – and the starting position in the field of drivers will also play a role in determining who emerges successful in New Zealand. The starting order will be determined in the Qualifying Stage on Thursday. One thing is already certain: the first drivers out on the gravel roads will find it more difficult than the following teams. The early starters will have the unenviable task of removing the loose gravel from the route – something from which all the subsequent drivers usually benefit. Friday will be particularly challenging. With almost 210 timed kilometres, almost half of all the special stages will be completed on day one of the rally.
While Dani has already started four times in the WRC in New Zealand, Armindo Araujo has been in action there twice. His latest appearance “down under” came four years ago. "Back then I was in a different car, so this is my debut in a WRC car and in a MINI and I can't wait,” said Armindo. He agrees with Dani that the Rally New Zealand route ought to suit the MINI WRC. Armindo: "The roads in New Zealand are very nice, they are fast with a smooth surface, so very good for rallying and I think they will suit the MINI well and I'm feeling very optimistic about the event."
Come Friday morning at 08:22 local time (CEST +10) it will be ‘Go, Mini, go’, as the first special stage of the Rally New Zealand gets underway. The cars will warm up over 11.18 kilometres, before they take on a further seven special stages. As always, you can find all the latest information on the MINI teams at the Rally New Zealand at Twitter.com/MINImotorsport and Facebook.com/MINImotorsport.
After a difficult start to the second day of the Rally Spain, Dani Sordo delivers a spectacular show for his fans with the MINI WRC.
The MINI Motorsport family is large and embraces the whole world. Find out more about the MINI Stars worldwide.
On the first day in Spain all teams fought off difficult weather conditions and challenging stages. While virtually every stage was marked by retirements, one MINI WRC driver kept his nerve.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
Qualifying stage, autograph session, media conference, starting order draw and ceremonial start: The preliminaries for the Rallye Spain are over; all five MINI WRC Crews are raring to start the WRC finale.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.