2012 Monte Carlo Rally - 80th Anniversary

Rally fans will be able to celebrate a double return next week when the first round of the 2012 FIA World Rally Championship is held; the eightieth Monte Carlo Rally and even though the MINI WRC Team will be taking part in this most charismatic of rallies for the first time, it's an event that the original Mini-Cooper S made its own with three victories in the sixties and in addition, the rally makes a welcome return to the WRC for the first time since 2008.

The team will be lead by Dani Sordo, co-driven by Carlos del Barrio in MINI John Cooper Works WRC number 37 and is joined by newcomers to the works team, Pierre Campana and Sabrina de Castelli in the number 52 sister car. Sordo, a veteran of 91 WRC starts, proved how quick he was last year by gaining two podiums for the team in Germany and France in its first testing year.

Campana made his WRC debut in 2011 with a customer MINI on Rally France and finishing ninth overall. He is no stranger to the Monte Carlo Rally where he won the IRC 2WD Cup last year, and even co-drove on it in 2008. Pierre's career has been supported by the French motorsport federation, the FFSA, who also provided backing to Sebastien Loeb in his early career.

For 2012, David Richards passes the role of team principal to the team's technical director, Dave Wilcock who will combine the two roles and will be supported by team manager, Campbell Roy. Richards will continue to oversee the MINI WRC Team and attend many of the events in 2012 in order to mentor Wilcock in his new role. "It was always my intention to take a step back in the team's second season and pass the responsibility over to Dave", said David Richards, chairman of Prodrive. "During the last year Dave has proved he has all the right skills to lead the team and I have no doubt the MINI WRC Team will continue to go from strength to strength under his leadership".

The team and both its drivers were in France last week testing ahead of the event. Campana was driving on Monday and Sordo on Tuesday. They then moved locations seeking snow and the drivers completed a further half a day each.

The rally commences with a ceremonial start in Valence at 18.00 on Tuesday, 17th January, but the first stages will not be until Wednesday 18th when the first car leaves Valence at 08.00 returning there for service and an overnight halt at 17.52. On the 19th January the first car leaves Parc Ferm at 07.55, returning for service back in Valence halfway through the day.

Day three starts in Valence with the first car out of Parc Ferme at 08.44 and the competitors return there for service at lunch time, but this is the last time that the rally goes back to Valence before it heads to Monaco, where the first car is due that evening at 19.59. The Monaco start on day four is late as the first car is not due out of Parc Ferme until 13.15. The cars return for service at 17.53 and then the end of the day's competition sees the first car into final service at 21.32.

The final and fifth leg is very short with just one Superstage over 5.16 kilometres, the first car leaving the Monaco Parc Ferme at 09.05 and due back at Quai Antoine for the finish at 11.17. There will be a Prize Giving at 15.00 at Place de Palais Princier and then, in true Monegasque style, there will be a Gala Dinner at the ACM Sporting Club at 20.30.

The IRDC extends its best wishes to competitors and the organising team for a successful rally.

16th January, 2012