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There was a fair bit of hullabaloo two years ago when Mini announced a return to the World Rally Championship for this season, but the road to making that happen has been as rocky as a gravel stage. It spent 2011 developing its JCW Countryman WRC challenger, changing its mind about how it wanted to work with Prodrive, dumped a driver due to budget issues, then registering its entry after the deadline had passed in a ploy that might or might not have been a protest aimed at the WRC promoter.

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The road taken by Mini to the World Rally Championship has been anything but smooth. After contesting a handful of rallies last season, Mini and Prodrive (the outfit running the team on the manufacturer's behalf) was set to contest the full calendar this year. But then the team failed to register in time, and dumped the promising driver it had plucked from the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and things did not look good.

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It may not be a World Rally Championship event, but Mini is celebrating its first win at an international rally (at least its first such win of the modern era).

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We were pretty surprised to find out just a few days ago that Mini's new rally team had, for some reason, failed to sign up for next year's World Rally Championship. "Inexplicable" is what we called it at the time, but the latest reports coming out of the UK where the team is based could serve to cast some light on the situation.

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Mini – or Prodrive, the outfit that preps Mini's rally cars – has inexplicably failed to file for entry into the 2012 World Rally Championship before the series' December 20 deadline. Mini's first year back at the top level of rallying as a development team yielded two podiums, and the company hasn't stepped back from its stated desire to win the whole championship in 2013. Word is that parent BMW is gung-ho to continue but that there are "significant issues which need to be resolved

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Autocar reports that Mini may be working on a more sinister version of Countryman. The hotter crossover would receive the once-over by the rally kings at Prodrive using lessons learned from the Mini WRC effort. Dave Richards, the head honcho at Prodrive, has made it clear that road-going versions of the Countryman WRC are a possibility, and Autocar was able to snag a few photos an aggressive Countryman wearing a fixed carbon fiber wing and custom alloy wheels. The report dishes on further detail

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When Mini announced plans to bring the Countryman to its showrooms, the brand's acolytes recoiled in horror at the thought of a bloated all-wheel-drive model joining the range. To prove that the new micro-crossover has the chops to live up to Mini's race pedigree, Mini partnered with Prodrive to create the Countryman WRC. There was much rejoicing. Now EVO Magazine has put the little rally beast through its paces on a track.

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Prodrive turns the Falcon into a real Boss – Click above to view high-res image gallery

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2011 Mini Countryman WRC – Click above to enlarge

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Mini Countryman – Click above for high-res image gallery

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In any form of motorsport, manufacturers come and go, but the sport continues to be shaped by the teams and the major players that lead them. So when Subaru packed up and left the World Rally Championship, you knew it was only a matter of time before David Richards and his company Prodrive would be back on stage. Now it looks like that opportunity could come from Toyota.

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Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Subaru Impreza P1 10th Anniversary Gathering – Click above for high-res image gallery

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Renault looks set to be the next automaker to bail out of Formula 1, and it appears that there are two serious bidders in line to take over the operation. Renault will hold a special board meeting this week to decide on the racing team's fate, and it looks like it may go ahead and just line up a sale right away, instead of announcing a shutdown and then trying work out a sale as Honda and BMW did.

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Whatever the outcome of the standoff between the Formula One Teams Association and the FIA, it was clear from the get-go that F1 was to change dramatically. As it turned out, the two parties – the first representing the teams currently participating in the sport and the second its governing body – have apparently reconciled their differences.

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It looks like GT and Le Mans prototype racing may be just the beginning for Aston Martin. Following an agreement this week with F1 promotions boss, Bernie Ecclestone, Aston Martin could be jumping into the Formula One ranks in 2012. Like Aston's other race programs, it's F1 campaign will be operated by Prodrive, although the team will actually launch in 2010 as the Prodrive team then switch to the automaker's branding two years later.

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