Views from the Grandstands
A Mini rally The awesome World Rally Championship Series is dominated by small cars such as the Ford Focus and Citroen C4, but they’ll be joined by an unlikely competitor next season when a Mini Cooper team joins the fray. The mere thought of racing Minis makes me laugh, but this is quite a serious endeavor. The cars will be high-performance versions of the Mini Countryman and will be fielded by ProDrive, which operated the Subaru WRC program from 1989 through 2008, when Subaru pulled out for economic reasons. ProDrive owns Aston Martin and runs a variety of teams in various series worldwide.
Mini Cooper is, of course, owned by BMW, and the racing Minis will feature 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder turbocharged BMW engines. This will be Mini Cooper’s second major adventure in racing. Mini actually dominated Ford and other prominent carmakers in the annual 2,500-mile Monte Carlo Rally for several years in the mid-1960s.
Ford Motors Lola did reasonably well in the American Le Mans Series this season, with privateer owners Dyson Racing and Drayson Racing both notching several class wins and a couple of overall race victories. The Dyson team uses Mazda engines while Drayson uses Judd engines, but a huge development for 2011 is that Lola is partnering with Roush Racing to bring Ford V-6 engines into the series. Roush Racing didn’t meet its always-lofty expectations in NASCAR in a 2010 season whose big news was that team owner Jack Roush survived yet another crash of a private plane he was piloting. But the Roush-Ford entry into ALMS is a very positive development for all parties involved.
IRL says bye-bye to ISC I was sorry to see Watkins Glen fall off the 2011 Indy Racing League schedule but am otherwise pretty pleased with the big changes the series announced. New IRL CEO Randy Bernard dropped several races that were staged on tracks owned by NASCAR’s International Speedway Corp. (ISC) in favor of different facilities not so devoted to NASCAR. The IRL took major positive steps this season, but if it’s going to make it all the way back it must spend more time at venues more eager and willing to go the extra mile to promote it. Besides, the ISC tracks already have NASCAR races, so inter-series politics aside, this move puts more live racing in more parts of the country. That’s definitely a good thing.