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Mini to resume adventure in world rally championship

After months of speculation the iconic Mini name will return to the world rally championship next year. BMW confirmed a multi-year comeback for the brand, while David Richards of Prodrive has set a target of three years to challenge for the world championship title. He expects to do half the championship next year with a full-blown assault on the series in 2012.

The car will be based on the Mini Countryman and will be fitted with a 1.6-litre turbo engine from BMW Motorsport and will comply fully with S2000 rules. Prodrive will develop and run the car, with testing planned to get under way in the autumn.

No drivers have been revealed yet but Kris Meeke is believed to be in the frame after Richards admitted he would be keen to have a British driver in the team. The new car will be available to customer teams and Mini reports having received a significant number of confirmed customer orders, with deliveries scheduled for the start of the 2011 season.

p When Motorsport Ireland announced its cancellation, the Phoenix Park Races became the latest motorsport casualty of the economic downturn. The organisers had to cover the cost of building the track (as it was a one-off road circuit meeting) on top of the usual costs associated with running a race meeting, making it hugely expensive to run.

Funding to build the track and run the meeting was to come from sponsorship and entry fees, but both elements failed to generate adequate funding, which forced the organisers to reluctantly cancel the meeting. The cancellation raises the question as to whether the Phoenix Park races will ever be viable.

p Chris Patterson will be hoping for a repeat of his Bulgarian podium finish when he and Petter Solberg line up for Rally Finland this weekend. Other Irish interest centres on Craig Breen -- who won the Fiesta Challenge round here last year -- but faces a plethora of Fiesta S2000 Scandanavian drivers and Killian Duffy, who'll be co-driving with the Abu Dhabi Junior team.

p Eoin Murray faces a hectic weekend as he heads to Brno for another Seat Leon Eurocup double-header this weekend. His travels to the Czech Republic will first take in Sicily, where his sister is getting married this weekend, before he flies to Vienna via Rome and finishes his journey to the circuit by road. He expects local ace Gabor Weber to feature highly in both races on his home track but will be challenging to grab more points than Rossi and Weber.

p Kenny McKinstry will be hard pressed to claim his 12th victory at Lurgan Park on Saturday. The Orchard Motorsport-supported event has attracted the best entry -- in terms of quality and competitiveness -- this year with eight world rally cars and two Metro 6R4 machines filling the top 10 slots.

p One week after organising a championship forestry rally, Donegal MC will host the inaugural kart meeting at White River Park, Collon, Co Louth, on Sunday. The recently opened facility is Ireland's first European standard track and is situated near Exit 12 on the M1 motorway

p Pat O'Connell suffered his first defeat of the season when he finished third behind Donagh Kelly (Evo9) and Mark Donnelly (Impreza) on the Donegal forest rally last Saturday. The Cashel motor driver retains his lead in the Petro Systems forestry championship from Dubliner John Reid.


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