MINI rally aces add motorsport flair to MINI United Festival

This weekend, fans from around the world are meeting for the fourth time to share their enthusiasm for the MINI brand and experience a unique festival together: MINI United. As well as well-known musical acts and a spectacular support programme, prominent members of the MINI Motorsport family are also present at the “Circuit Paul Ricard” near Le Castellet (FR).

Taking centre stage is WRC Team MINI Portugal run by Motorsport-Italia, which is competing in this year’s FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) as a works team with the MINI John Cooper Works WRC. Team Manager Bruno de Pianto (IT) is visiting MINI United, along with the team’s Portuguese driver Armindo Araújo (PT). The team is currently preparing for its next WRC outing at the Acropolis Rally from 20th to 23rd May.

De Pianto and Araújo have brought the number 12 and 14 MINI John Cooper Works WRC to France with them. But that is not all: the MINI team set up its complete array of equipment, as would only otherwise be seen at the Service Park on a WRC event. This offers fans a perfect opportunity to take a closer look at the work that goes on behind the scenes in rallying’s premier league.

Rally driver Patrik Sandell (SE) is also joining the party in Le Castellet. The Swede has already been in action this year for the works-assisted, privateer Prodrive WRC Team, and is a MINI fan both on the rally track and in normal life. Sandell is in good company on that front: ex rally champions Paddy Hopkirk (IR) and Rauno Aaltonen (FI), who helped create the legend of MINI in rallying with their victories at the Rally Monte Carlo in the 1960s, are also meeting the fans and taking to the festival stage to share stories of their successes and MINI's special place in the world of rallying.

The privately run X-raid team proved emphatically at this year’s Rally Dakar that MINI can also be successful off-road: privateer Stéphane Peterhansel (FR) claimed his tenth victory on probably the toughest rally in the world at the wheel of a MINI All4 Racing. The serial winner took to the festival stage alongside Dr. Kay Segler, Senior Vice President MINI Business Coordination and Brand Management, to announce the extension of his contract. Peterhansel will line up at the iconic Rally Dakar as a MINI privateer for the next two years.

Dr. Kay Segler, congratulated Peterhansel on his extended stay with the X-raid team, saying: “MINI United is the perfect place to reveal that Stéphane Peterhansel is sticking with us as a privateer MINI All4 Racing driver. The biggest MINI fans around are meeting here in Le Castellet – and they include Stéphane. I am confident he will challenge for the overall victory again next year. Like all MINI enthusiasts, I will be keeping my fingers crossed for him on his next outing at the Rally Dakar.”

The crowds at the “Circuit Paul Ricard” for MINI United are enjoying more than just MINI rallying, however. The brand is also putting on a superb show out on the racetrack. The Italian one-make cup, the MINI Rushour, is making its debut in Le Castellet. The field includes rally driver Kris Meeke (GB) at the wheel of a MINI Cooper S. The MINI Trophy will also take to the track at MINI United, with Cora Schumacher (DE) set to compete.

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