Mini has confirmed its return to rally racing with the launch of its new challenger car for the 2011 World Rally Championship.
The countryman-based John Cooper Works rally car, built by motorsport group Prodrive, was unveiled at the Mini Plant in Oxford by drivers Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo.
The Mini WRC team will make its first appearance this year at next month's Rally D'Italia Sardinia after carrying out final tests of the new car in Spain and Britain.
It is set to compete in six rounds of this season's championship before taking on the full calendar in 2012.
Prodrive chief David Richards, a former team principal of the BAR and Benetton Formula One teams, said: "We have an experienced team, a talented driver pairing and most importantly of all a strong partnership with Mini.
"We have been working towards this moment for more than two years and it is truly exciting to be launching the Mini WRC Team in what I believe is the most stunning car in world rallying."
The recent launch event celebrated Mini's rich motorsport heritage, with attendees including Paddy Hopkirk, Timo Makinen and Rauno Aaltonen, who all won the Monte Carlo Rally in the classic Mini Cooper in the 1960s.
Copyright © Press Association 2011