Did Mini miss the Day 1 of Rally Sweden?
It would be great if we could just cheer for our favourite team and/or driver or even cheer for them all (because this is rally and we’re like one huge family), but as of late we need to be careful about the influences of so called “high politics” as it’s making its way into World Rally Championship. Perhaps we should be happy about that politics stuff because it means WRC is finally attracting some big manufacturer names and their money as well as major sponsors and backers. After all, we know how things operate in “real world” – big money attracts interests of all kinds and usually brings out the worst in people. Can rally survive without political games or should we settle with it and be happy we have three manufacturers in WRC. Well, two and a half actually.
BMW and it’s legendary brand Mini were tipped to be next big thing to hit WRC. Unlike some halfbaked attempts by other manufacturers, BMW looked very determined and serious with their programme. They signed one of the best motorsport companies out there – Prodrive – and for a wee while things looked just great. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine a brand which would be more suited for WRC return than Mini. Well, except maybe Lancia or Toyota, but Mini was the star of the golden years of rally revival during 60s and to have it return to modern day World Rally Championship just sounded too good to be true.
And it was. BMW hired Dani Sordo, experienced Spaniard who was expected to compete alongside former IRC champion Kris Meeke. Car went through extensive testing and Prodrive did exceptional job in preparing Countryman based Mini John Cooper Works WRC. First rallies last year showed Mini as a very serious competitor and raised many eyebrows with it’s performance. Fans were overjoyed – we were finally heading into a full season of three manufacturers!
Then came drama, one we shall not discuss further here, but the one that is still far from over. Although on the outside it seems Mini saga is now over and BMW opted for solution they deemed best, we cannot help but feel there is still much going on behind the curtains. In fact, there are obvious signs of things not being as smooth as expected. One such example is lack of press releases reviewing each day of the competition.
While Prodrive-run team was still regarded as manufacturer one, releases followed each day of the rally, coupled with high-res photos and commentaries from drivers and team officials. Same thing worked for Monte Carlo as well, but then came the BMW’s switch of teams and press section got neglected or deliberately ignored. Because with new BMW and Mini have, in all honesty and respect, close to zero chance of ever scoring a podium finish. So in Sweden the first day all we got was Day 1 preview from newly appointed manufacturer team of Motorsport Italia. First proper day (Friday) did not even happen according to Motorsport Italia as no press release was, well, released.
To some degree that was what we expected would happen. After all, what is there to write? Indeed Dani Sordo had a very good day before his retirement and Patrik Sandell provided solid performance, but alas that duo is not Mini – they’re Prodrive! So Mini ignored Day 1, only declaring Paulo Nobre’s retirement in short tweet in the evening.
At the time of this writing we’re getting close to the finish of the second day of rallying in Sweden and we are very curious if Mini Motorsport, Motorsport Italia or whoever is now responsible for distribution of information from “A team” will do their job. Meanwhile, we can be sure Prodrive will again provide info, statements and photos about their programme.
It’s really hard to understand BMW, and keep in mind this is coming from someone not involved nor particularly interested in dubious political games. They had top drivers, top tech team and top car… was it really just about pushing in a bit more money so the results can bring sponsors or there’s more going on? If you picked your flavour and you’re happy about it, then eat it, as sour as it may be!