The Mini John Cooper Works WRC was unveiled today at the official launch of the Mini WRC Team at the Mini plant in Oxford.

The team's first competitive outing will come on Rally d'Italia Sardegna on 5-8 May, where drivers Kris Meeke and Dani Sordo will drive the new Prodrive-developed car against its rivals for the first time.

Present at the launch were Paddy Hopkirk and Rauno Aaltonen, who contributed greatly to Mini's rallying heritage by winning the Rally Monte Carlo in the Mini Cooper S in 1964 and 1967 respectively. The pair drove onto the stage in one of the legendary cars, before the new John Cooper Works WRC was then revealed in its final trim for the first time. Meeke and Sordo later performed demonstration runs at the plant.

Also present at the event was Ian Robertson, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG responsible for Sales and Marketing. “On the one hand, Mini can look back on a unique success story,” said Robertson. “On the other hand, Mini is the epitome of excitement for millions of fans around the world and thrills them with its energy. This is precisely what we are able to authentically represent through our motorsport involvement in the World Rally Championship. Thrilling rally events, ultimate performances by man and machine, and as much success as possible, of course: motorsport is pure emotion – just as Mini is for its fans.”

Prodrive chairman David Richards is looking forward to getting underway. “We have been working towards this moment for more than two years,” he said, “and it is truly exciting to be launching the Mini WRC Team and what I believe is the most stunning car in world rallying, the Mini John Cooper Works WRC. We have an experienced team, a talented driver pairing and, most importantly of all, a strong partnership with Mini. We are now eagerly looking forward to demonstrating the performance of the car on its debut in Sardinia in just a few weeks.”

Dirk Hollweg, Head of Mini Motorsport, added: “The excitement of everyone involved in the comeback of Mini to the rally stage is building with every day we get closer to our maiden rally appearance. With the Mini WRC Team we not only want to please the loyal fans of the Mini brand, but also aim to address new motorsport enthusiasts. We want to thrill them with fascinating pictures, technical know-how and pure performance. In addition, the special Mini lifestyle is always part of the equation. For us, it's always about a bit more than just motorsport. I think the rally fans will love it.”

Mini WRC Team Technical Director David Wilcock said: This team launch is really perfectly timed for us. We look back at some extremely demanding and busy months. Now we are entering the crucial phase of our preparation programme for the first rally. We started the development of the Mini John Cooper Works WRC early. It was important to make sure the ratio between development and actual building of the car was right. Our goal was to maximise every area of performance we could get from the technical regulations. Our first rally appearances will show how well we achieved this. In any case I can say that the partnership between Mini, Prodrive and BMW Motorsport on the engine side is running exceptionally well, everyone is contributing to the project with a lot of enthusiasm.”

Having been involved in the project for some time, Meeke is excited ahead of Mini's return to world rallying. “This launch is the next milestone on the long way to our first rally,” said Meeke. “I cannot wait to get the season started. It's nice for everyone in the team to see the result of their work presented in such a spectacular way. The heritage of Mini in motorsport is fantastic. Now we want to make sure we play our part in adding some more chapters to the success story.”

Sordo has joined the team after competing in the top level of the sport with Citroen. “It's about time we get the ball rolling,” said the Spaniard. “The break since my last rally has been long enough, now we want to show how good we are. Everything is new for me this year. Bearing this in mind, the additional time to get accustomed to my new environment has definitely been helpful. Now I'm really looking forward to the new challenge and to fight for strong results with the Mini John Cooper Works WRC.”