Citing financial concerns, BMW has shut down another one of its costly motorsport programs, this time taking its Mini brand out of the World Rally Championship.
In motor racing, automakers come and automakers go. But these days it seems like BMW has been going more than it has been coming. The German automaker withdrew from Formula One in 2009, shuttered its World Touring Car Championship program in 2010 and hasn't mounted a serious challenge at Le Mans since the 90s. The one glimmer of hope was the team it put together for its Mini brand in the World Rally Championship. But after a series of missteps and false starts, BMW has now pulled the plug on that, too.
After announcing its intent to compete in the WRC just a couple of years ago, Mini and BMW Motorsport teamed up with Prodrive, the same outfit that engineered Subaru's WRC dominance and Aston Martin's successful sportscar racing program. But that partnership fell apart quicker than the Countryman JCW WRC was able to traverse gravel, dirt and snow. The team then fired its star driver and failed to make any serious impact on the rally scene in the stages it entered. It came as little surprise, then, when BMW announced the program's cancelation, citing financial considerations in light of the current European financial crisis.
While Mini will not be officially participating any longer, however, Prodrive will reportedly continue to offer the Countryman-based rally car to privateer teams. At least BMW is still racing in the DTM series, which it joined earlier this year to challenge Audi and Mercedes-Benz for supremacy in Germany touring car racing. As for the World Rally Championship, there should still be plenty of action between returning challengers Ford and Citroen (which just secured another championship but will lose Sebastien Loeb next season) and newcomers Volkswagen and Hyundai.