A LONG-AWAITED return to full competitive rally racing for the Oxford-built Mini brand will not happen this year, because of a funding shortfall.

The Mini WRC team has been unable to raise enough sponsorship to compete in all 13 rounds of the World Rally Championship, as originally planned.

It would have marked the first time a Mini team had taken part in a full season’s rallying since 1968.

But the cars will definitely be in action later this month at the Monte Carlo Rally, which was famously won by first-generation Mini Coopers in 1964, 1965 and 1967.

Ben Sayer, a spokesman for Banbury motorsport firm Prodrive, which is managing the Mini team, said its drivers would compete in most rounds but they did not yet know how many.

He said: “We are going to do as many events as we can, given the resources and funding we have.”

Jobs will not be lost at the Acorn Way firm, he added. The formation of the Mini team created about 50 posts at the firm.

Mr Sayer said: “The way we have to fund the team comes from various sources, whether it is from BMW and sponsorship.

“We haven’t managed to get the level of sponsorship we needed. The current economic climate has made it very difficult.”

This had not been helped by uncertainty over the organisation of the world championship, Mr Sayer said.

Convers Sports Initiatives, the parent company of promoter North One, went into receivership, leaving a question mark over TV deals, vital to securing sponsors.

Mr Sayer said: “Until they have sorted out the details of the promoter then there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

The team missed the December 19 deadline to enter the championship, but its application has since been accepted.

The sport’s governing body. the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA), was not available for comment.

BMW also declined to comment.

The firm announced last July that the team would return to the full WRC championship in 2012.

Last year Mini cars competed in six of the championship’s 13 rounds, scoring a second place in France and a third-place finish in Germany.