This weekend sees the final race of the inaugural Australian MINI CHALLENGE series and, after a few bumpy moments during the year, the organisers must be rapt the title will be decided at the last round. Neil McFadyen, winner of the first Australian MINI CHALLENGE race, leads the series with a 45 point lead over racing stalwart Paul Stokell. There are 60 points up for grabs for a race win, and with three races to be held at Sydney’s Oran Park Raceway over the weekend there is plenty of motivation on offer for McFadyen and Stokell.
Stokell comes off a flawless performance at Symmons Plains where he won all three races, putting him right up in the title race. He has also got form on the board in stealing Series victories in the last race at Oran Park. In 1994 he defeated Greg Murphy in the final race of the Formula Holden Championship to be awarded the CAMS Gold Star.
Home track advantage, though, is in McFadyenâ€™s favour this weekend. The M3 Motorsport team is vastly experienced at the South-Western Sydney venue, having tuned a wide variety of racecars to get around the technical circuit in the fastest way possibleâ€”plus McFadyen lives not far from the venue.
The teams will contest CarShowroom.com.au qualifying at 11:20 this morning (check for results on the NatSoft Race Results website), before the first two races on Saturdayâ€”the second of which will be featured as part of the Seven Networkâ€™s V8 Supercars coverage. The round will be complete on Sunday with race three, when the inaugural MINI CHALLENGE Champion will be crowned.
Taking up the seat of the UBER-STAR CAR for the Oran Park round will be well-known Sydney socialite, Justin Hemmes. The 35-year-old Hotel heir â€“ whose family company has hip Sydney venues Establishment and The Ivy, among others in its portfolio, will give the UBER-STAR machine its final outing for 2008.
When it comes to motor racingâ€”Hemmes is as fleet footed on the pedals as he is on the red carpet. He took out the 2004 Australian GT Performance Cars Championship against a stellar fieldâ€”ironically riding out a spectacular roll at Oran Park in the process.
It is fitting that MINI Challenge rounds out the 2008 season at Oran Park. It is the final race meeting held on the much-loved Sydney track that played host to many of the David versus Goliath battles which brought MINI a huge following among Australian motorsport fans.
“Oran Park has been an integral part of Australian motor racing over the last four decadesâ€”much like MINI,” National Manager, MINIâ€”Justin Hocevar said. “We’re excited that MINI Challenge will be a part of this historic, yet sad occasion which will mark the last major race meeting at Oran Park.
“From a Series perspective, we couldn’t ask for anything better heading into the final roundâ€”four drivers in with a shot of winning the first ever Series and just 45 points separating our top two drivers.
â€œMINI Challenge has put a stamp on Australian motorsport since its introduction at the beginning of the year. The tension among the teams at Oran Parkâ€”with so much at stake and so little separating the top driversâ€”will be palpable.
“We are also happy to confirm that we will be part of the V8 Supercar Championship Series yet again in 2009 and will release our calendar very soon,” Justin concluded.
MINI CHALLENGE (Australia) SERIES Top 10
- Neil McFadyen – 813 points
- Paul Stokell – 768
- Paul Fiore – 702
- Nathan Geier – 690
- Grant Denyer – 648
- Jason Bargwanna – 630
- Gary Young – 543
- Todd Fiore – 471
- Scott Bargwanna – 321
- David Turner – 309