Today's news that MINI will be returning to the FIA World Rally Championship from 2011 has been hailed by the championship promoter as evidence of the increasing appeal of the WRC to car manufacturers and teams.

Simon Long, CEO of North One Sport, said MINI's decision to make a WRC comeback was an endorsement of recent technical and sporting regulations designed to increase value to manufacturers and the relevance to their production cars.

"I'm delighted that a manufacturer of BMW's status has chosen the WRC for MINI's rallying programme," said Long. "Obviously it's great to see the return of the iconic MINI, a car with such a strong rallying pedigree, but it also means that with MINI, Ford and Citroen, the WRC is supported by three of the most exciting brands in the global car market.

"One of our priorities as WRC promoter has been to attract new manufacturers and teams, and we've worked hard to ensure the sport works for them in marketing terms. The new World Rally Car specification for 2011 has made cars cheaper to build and closer to the models in the showroom, while next year's calendar works not only in commercial terms but also delivers a diverse and competitive championship. MINI's decision is largely marketing driven and a major vote of confidence in the work done so far," added Long.

And with more changes in the pipeline, Long is confident other manufacturers and teams will confirm WRC programmes in the near future. "Right now we're working with the FIA and stakeholders on a variety of ways to further improve the WRC show - some elements of which could be introduced as early as 2011," explained Long.

"We have more than 30 years of heritage to draw upon, as well as plenty of more recent sporting innovations. The trick is to get the right balance between the old and the new. So it's rather appropriate that MINI - a brand which combines the best of the past and the present - is the first new name to sign up. We're confident more globally renowned automotive names will follow soon." 
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