It is ten months since the MINI John Cooper Works WRC made its successful debut in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the 2011 Rally Italy on Sardinia. The new version of the MINI WRC, the "01B", is now set to get its first outing at the Rally Portugal (29th March to 1st April). MINI has worked together with Prodrive to modify well over 100 technical details, in order to be able to follow on from past success and provide the drivers with an even more powerful car.
Dirk Hollweg, Head of MINI Motorsport, says: "We are already looking forward to seeing the results of the long, hard work put in by Prodrive out on the special stages. We will start the roll-out in Portugal. Previous results have shown us that the new car has great potential. However, we also know that the competition is tough and that this kind of further development programme is important. Prodrive recently spent four days testing the new car in Spain, and the findings of this test are very promising."
MINI has been working on the first stage of the car's development since October 2011. New engine parts – such as the exhaust manifold and electrical water pump – have been homologated in order to further improve the car's top performance. Not only is a smaller fan belt used, which can be replaced faster if necessary, but the engine management system has also been revised.
The cooling system, dampers, suspension and aerodynamics of the MINI WRC have been optimised. The weight and centre of gravity have also been worked on. To be more precise, MINI has worked together with chassis partner Öhlins to improve the dampers, which should guarantee better stability and traction, particularly on gravel.
A significant reduction in weight was, for example, achieved by using a lithium-ion battery for the first time, which saved seven kilograms. Further modifications and a new production process for manufacturing the carbon-fibre-reinforced rear spoiler have saved a further three kilograms. These ten kilograms are now located at positions where they can increase the balance of the car.
While most of the changes will not be visible to vans, as they have been made within the MINI John Cooper Works WRC, observant fans will at notice the new air duct on the front of the MINI WRC. A new bumper attests to the advanced aerodynamics and improved engine cooling system. The MINI WRC will have a squatter stance on gravel in the future: Prodrive has achieved a lower clearance for this surface, in order to improve the routeing of air under the car and generate greater downforce on the front axle.
Prodrive has driven the new car at test sessions in southern Spain and the unanimous verdict is extremely positive. "Both drivers immediately noticed the improvement in the engine performance and the better handling," says Prodrive Team Principal Dave Wilcock. "That is a significant step forward for the MINI WRC, but our development work does not stop here, and the engineers are already looking for the next improvements, which will come later in the year."
Next up, however, is the outing under competitive conditions at the Rally Portugal, when MINI fans can be there in person to experience the world premiere of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC "01B".
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.
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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.
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