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AUTOSPORT Awards Rally Car of the Year: Mini WRC

The Mini WRC has been named Rally Car of the Year at the AUTOSPORT Awards in London

AUTOSPORT Awards Rally Car of the Year: Mini WRC

The car, which made its World Rally Championship debut this year, beat off competition from the Citroen DS3 WRC, Ford Fiesta WRC, Skoda Fabia S2000, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X and Subaru Impreza WRX to win the award.

It is the first time since 2007 that a manufacturer other than Citroen has won the prize.

David Richards, whose Prodrive concern runs the Mini operation, accepted the award from two-time World Rally champion Carlos Sainz, along with head of Mini, Dr Kay Segler.

"It's been a great start, seeing the Mini name up at the front again after almost 50 years," he said. "It's something very special. It's Monte Carlo in only seven weeks' time though, so we're hard at work getting preparations underway for that."

The Mini name had been an irrelevance at world level since the mid 1960s, a golden period for the original version of the car that included a European Rally Championship for Rauno Aaltonen in 1965 and various Monte Carlo, Acropolis and 1000 Lakes successes.

That changed in 2010 when Prodrive, the organisation that took Subaru to three drivers' and three manufacturers' world titles, announced that it would run a pair of cars in the WRC on a full-time basis from 2012, and in a partial campaign this year.

The John Cooper Works WRC, to give the car its full name, is based on the Mini Countryman road car and powered by a BMW 1.6-litre turbocharged engine.

It made its WRC debut in Italy this year with Dani Sordo and Kris Meeke behind the wheel. Sordo surprised many by finishing sixth on that event, and then impressively put the car on the podium in third place in Germany on what was only the car's third appearance.

Even better was to come, with Sordo leading for large chunks of the following event in France, and only missing out on victory to Sebastien Ogier's Citroen by 6.3 seconds.

Despite its status as a development entry in 2011, which left it ineligible to score points in the manufacturers' championship, Sordo and Meeke made it to eighth and 11th in the drivers' points. This was despite the team taking part in less than half the season.

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