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Prodrive to mentor through Mini plan

David RichardsProdrive chairman David Richards says the firm's Mini World Rally Car project will be used to develop the next generation of staff at the Banbury factory.

While many members of the team which established Prodrive and Subaru in the World Rally Championship 21 years ago remains, Richards says they will only oversee the development and implementation of the first World Rally Car to come out of Prodrive since 2008.

Richards said: "I've set a very new ambition for this [Mini project]. People like myself and [technical director] David Lapworth have set a challenge: we will be mentors for the project. We're not hands-on on a day-to-day basis. We are going to recruit young people to run it.

"The whole idea and the whole concept is to recreate what we did in the Subaru days with young people and our job is to give them all the resources they need to do the job properly and to stand back and let them get on with it."

Richards said he would be extending the same policy to drivers as he searches for the next Colin McRae or Richard Burns.

"In the same vein we took on Colin McRae and Richard Burns, we want to do that again," he said. "We want to create a team that everybody feels part of and feels passionate about. I remember the days when we were running Colin and the following which we created. It was about finding an enthusiastic group of people and creating a dream. We started with a car which farmers drove to market and ended with an iconic brand which is seen as a sportscar."

The Mini Countryman WRC project was finally announced earlier this month after weeks of anticipation. Richards admitted he wasn't surprised it took so long for the deal to be concluded with Mini's parent company, BMW in Munich.

"These things are very hard fought for," said Richards. "Clearly when BMW pulled out of Formula 1, it wasn't an easy decision to come back in to a major motorsport programme at world championship level so quickly. It was quite challenging to persuade everybody at director level that this was the right thing to do. It was no surprise that it took so long."

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