MINI driver Dano Sordo in action on the Monte Carlo Rally (Photo Credit: BMW AG)

MINI driver Dano Sordo in action on the Monte Carlo Rally (Photo Credit: BMW AG)

The BMW Group today announced they would continue their partnership with Prodrive in the World Rally Championship, however there were a raft of changes as the Mini World Rally Team lost their manufacturer status.

With BMW unwilling to give the extra financial backing to run a second car without sponsorship, and manufacturers obliged to run two cars all season, manufacturer status has instead been transferred to Motorsport Italia run WRC Team Mini Portugal, who have two full time drivers in Armindo Araujo and Paulo Nobre.

Dani Sordo‘s former works car will still run as a semi-works backed effort, albeit without the burden of having to score manufacturers points.

After much uncertainty about Prodrive’s future involvement with the Mini programme, BMW have confirmed they will continue building and maintaining all customer Mini Countryman WRCs, but Motorsport Italia will run the official works cars for the rest of 2012.

The switch in teams for the manufacturers championship ensures that Mini will complete the homologation process for their new car, allowing the Countryman to race in the WRC and other FIA sanctioned championships until 2018.

However, this effectively puts to an end any hopes of Kris Meeke returning to the WRC with Mini, after being benched in favour of pay drivers Pierre Campana and Patrik Sandell so far this season.