MINI Crossover concept - Click above for hi-res image gallery

The original Mini Cooper earned its performance credentials back in the 1960s being flung about on the Monte Carlo rally. Paddy Hopkirk won the Monte in 1964 at the wheel of a Cooper S. While modern Minis are still considered fun to drive cars, they have never been used in a major factory-backed motorsports program. In a move that could rectify that shortcoming, AutoCar is reporting that the company's new crossover could form the basis of a World Rally Championship program in 2011. The all-wheel drive crossover first appeared as a concept vehicle last year in Paris and is expected to debut in production form next month in Frankfurt.

The new model possibly called "Countryman" is expected to get a high performance John Cooper Works edition sometime next year which could form the base of a rally car. The demise of parent BMW's Formula 1 program and the restructuring of Formula BMW could certainly make room in the budget for something with closer ties to a production program.

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