Mini John Cooper Works WRC - a project that revived a legend


February 23, 2017
Featured, Spotlight
Ian McLeigh


  • MINI WRC Team Launch, Oxford, 11 April 2011. Presentation of the MINI John Cooper Works WRC (04/11).
  • The number 52 reminds on Mini's 1965 Monte Carlo victory
  • Mini John Cooper Works WRC

The Mini John Cooper Works WRC is a race car made to meet the World Rally Car specification and used by Mini WRC Team in the 2011 World Rally Championship. In the 2012 WRC season, the car was run by Prodrive and after that, it was used by many other private teams until today.

The Mini JCW WRC car scored no WRC wins, recording three podiums in WRC events, at 2011 Rallye Deutschland, 2011 Rallye de France and 2012 Rallye Monte Carlo, every time driven by Dani Sordo.

Rallye Monte Carlo winners with old Mini at the launch of new Mini WRC car

Rallye Monte Carlo winners with old Mini at the launch of new Mini WRC car

Mini was a famous rallying name in the 1960s

Mini was one of the most popular rally cars during the 1960s, also very successful, with three wins at famous Rallye Monte Carlo between 1964 and 1967. More than forty years after Mini disappeared from the world rally scene, the British brand, owned by BMW, prepared a new car for the return to the World Rally Championship in 2011. The British company Prodrive was the official partner of German/British manufacturer and operating company for the Mini WRC Team.

Mini WRC Team returned to World Rally Championship in 2011

Mini WRC Team returned to World Rally Championship in 2011

Two versions: JCW WRC and Cooper S2000

According to new rules, which became effective in 2011, the 1.6-litre 4-cylinder turbo engine has been mandated for use. The 411-cm long rally car was developed from the Mini Countryman road-legal model. The car was slightly bigger than two other cars which also debuted in 2011, the Citroen DS3 WRC and Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

The 1.6T engine, developed by BMW Motorsport, produced about 315 horse powers. All the power and torque were transferred to all four wheels through the Xtrac 6-speed sequential gearbox and front/rear mechanical auto-locking differentials. Parallel to WRC version, there was also S2000 version of Mini Cooper, using the same 1.6-litre engine but with less power. That car is still in use all over the world, same as its more powerful brother.

The number 52 reminds on Mini's 1965 Monte Carlo victory

The number 52 reminds on Mini’s 1965 Monte Carlo victory

Numbers 37 and 52 remind to legendary wins

The Mini John Cooper Works WRC had its competitive debut in May 2011 at Rally d’Italia Sardegna, the fifth round of the 2011 WRC season, with Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio in the #37 car and Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle in the #52 car.

The numbers referred to legendary Mini cars which Paddy Hopkirk and Timo Makinen drove to the victories at Monte Carlo in 1964 (#37) and 1965 (#52).

Dani Sordo at 2011 ADAC Rallye Deutschland

Dani Sordo at 2011 ADAC Rallye Deutschland

Maiden WRC podium at 2011 ADAC Rallye Deutschland

Dani Sordo finished in the sixth place at Sardinia, earning plenty of points in debut event for a new car. After skipping Argentina and Greece, the team returned to Rally Finland, where both crews retired. The sensational result followed at 2011 ADAC Rallye Deutschland, where Sordo finished in the third place, taking the first podium for Mini since its return to WRC.

One more podium at Rallye de France

Mini WRC Team skipped Australia and returned to Rallye de France Alsace, where Sordo gained an even better result, finishing in the second place, six seconds behind Citroen’s Sebastien Ogier. After four consecutive retirements, Kris Meeke finally reaches the finish line at Rally Catalunya, earning points in the 5th place, one spot behind Sordo.

Armindo Araujo's Mini JCW WRC

Armindo Araujo’s Mini JCW WRC

Two more teams were using Mini JCW WRC

Not only Sordo and Meeke were using Mini JCW WRC in its first season. Two more cars debuted at Rally d’Italia Sardegna, driven by Armindo Araujo and Daniel Oliveira. Their teams (Motorsport Italia/BAMP and Brazil WRT) were using Minis until the end of the season, with some other teams and drivers having sporadical appearances with Mini.

Six wins in national events

One of them, Pierre Campana, scored the first ever win for Mini JCW WRC, at Richard Burns Memorial Rally in August 2011. Later in the season, Campana added two more wins in some French national events. Other drivers who scored wins, also in national events, were Piero Longhi, Patrick Snijers and Vaclav Pech Jun.

Dani Sordo at 2012 Rally Sweden

Dani Sordo at 2012 Rally Sweden

BMW and Prodrive parted ways in 2012

BMW and Prodrive entered the 2012 WRC season together, watching Dani Sordo to take second place at Rallye Monte Carlo with #37 Mini. Pierre Campana finished in the seventh place with the #52 car.

Almost since the team launch in 2011, BMW and Prodrive always had financial problems and disagreements. That culminated after the Monte Carlo event and two sides parted their ways. Prodrive WRC Team became the independent entry while BMW formed a new works-team named WRC Team Mini Portugal, merging the #12 car of Armindo Araujo World Rally Team and #14 car of Palmeirinha Rally Team.

Many customer teams were using Mini JCW WRC

Many customer teams were using Mini JCW WRC

Thirteen drivers were driving Minis in the 2012 WRC season

Until the end of the season, thirteen drivers were using six different  Mini JCW WRC cars in World Rally Championship events but nobody managed to gain some notable result. Dani Sordo remained Prodrive’s entry for the full season, with 6th place at Rally New Zealand as his best result. His teammate Jarkko Nikara finished 5th at Rally Catalunya while Patrik Sandell‘s best result was 8th place in Sweden.

Other Mini WRC drivers in 2012 were Pierre Campana, Armindo Araujo, Paulo Nobre, Chris Atkinson, Yvan Muller, Richard Goransson, Eliseo Salazar, Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, Riku Tahko and Romain Dumas. Outside WRC, Mini JCW WRC was a victorious car eight times in different national events in France, Italy or UK. One of the winners was Kris Meeke at Lurgan Park Rally.

Valery Gorban at 2016 Rally Finland, Mini JCW WRC

Valery Gorban at 2016 Rally Finland

Only private entries from 2013 onwards

From 2013 onwards, there were no more factory-supported Mini entries in the World Rally Championship but many private customer teams were using the car, both the WRC and S2000 versions. In 2013, the only Mini entry was the Italian/Polish Lotos Team, fielding the #12 car for Michal Kosciuszko in five WRC events.

In 2014, Valeriy Gorban and his Eurolamp World Rally Team started to use Mini Cooper S2000, switching to Mini John Cooper Works WRC in 2016. Gorban managed to score one championship point at 2016 Rally Mexico. The Ukrainian driver re-entered the World Rally Championship in 2017 with Mini JCW WRC.

Mini John Cooper Works WRC specifications

ChassisMINI Countryman bodyshell with Prodrive roll cage
Length4110 mm
Width1820 mm
Wheelbase2,480 mm
Weight1,200 kg
Engine1600cc 4-cylinder with Garrett turbocharger
Power/torque315 hp/425 Nm
Transmission4-wheel-drive, front and rear mechanical auto-locking differentials
GearboxXtrac 6-speed sequential manual
SuspensionProdrive Ohlins Macpherson struts, 3-way adjustable dampers
Braking systemVentilated disc brakes (front diameter 355mm on tarmac)
Wheels/tires8 x 18 inch for tarmac, 7 x 15 inch for gravel

Photos: ewrc-results.com, bmwblog.com,

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