Though rallying may have captured the UK's attention in the 1980s and 1990s, the sport goes back much further and few manufacturers have a history with it like MINI's.
The first MINI rally car was indeed the very first Mini! The initial brief for the Mini was not for a competition specification car, but for a simple, small car, fitting into a specific footprint but capable of carrying four adults and their luggage more efficiently than the cars of the day. Racers will, of course, race anything and John Cooper's insistence that the Mini had track potential lead to some success in circuit racing.
It was the famous Monte Carlo Rally that saw the first action for a rally Mini in 1961 and though the car didn't finish, it was leading its class and running second overall when it suffered its race-ending accident. It wasn't long until the Mini took its first rally victory, with Pat Moss - sister of Sir Stirling Moss - and Ann Wisdom won the 1962 Tulip Rally against much bigger-engined machinery.
This opening the floodgates for Mini victories, while the car itself was further developed to meet the upper limits of its class regulations. This culminated in Paddy Hopkirk's famous win in the Monte Carlo rally in 1964 - an event the Mini would dominate for the next 4 years. However there was controversy in 1966 when the three Minis that finished 1-2-3 were disqualified for a technical infringement centred on non-standard headlights.
With 31 international rally victories and 4 championships, the original Mini was an excellent rally car - and it should come as little surprise that the modern MINI is too. Like the original, the new generation MINI WRC achieved a second place in the Monte Carlo Rally in its first season - fifty years down the line - though unlike the original it finished the rally! Its first victory was in the 2012 Tour de Corse at the hands of Dani Sordo.
The rally car, now based on the Countryman, can also be seen participating in 'extreme sports' extravaganzas of Global Rallycross and the X-Games - bringing MINI's rallying capabilities to an audience of hundreds of millions.
It's not just traditional rallying where MINI sees success. A MINI Countryman won the Andros Trophy for ice racing in 2013 and 2014, while MINI has been one of the most successful manufacturers in the history of the world's toughest race - the Dakar Rally. With four successive victories in the 6,000 mile rally endurance race, MINI can again lay claim to being amongst the best rally cars in the world.