MINI Challenge

James Tomkins takes on MINI Challenge

James Tomkins (pictured left)

Australian Olympic legend and all round nice guy James Tomkins (pictured left) is taking a seat in the MINI Challenge Uber Star Car this weekend at Sandown International Raceway.

Tomkins is a self confessed motorsport tragic and he couldn’t wait to get out there, “I’m pretty excited,” he admitted, “Motor Racing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I have memories of getting up early Sunday mornings to watch the black and white TV coverage of Bathurst. All those awesome HO Falcons, those were the days!”

There is no live television coverage of the MINI Challenge round this weekend, but stay tuned for a highlights package on your TV screens soon.

James Tomkins to Swap Oars Power for Horsepower in Sandown MINI Challenge

22 July 2009 – Multiple Australian Olympic Gold Medallist James Tomkins will trade in “oars power” for “horsepower” in two weeks time when he makes his serious motor racing circuit debut in the 2009 MINI Challenge at Sandown Raceway, Melbourne.

43 year old Tomkins will drive the “UBER” Star car as a guest of MINI Australia and lock horns with celebrated MINI star drivers like Paul Stokell, Chris Alajajian, Grant Denyer, Scott Bargwanna and many others in the fourth round of the 2009 Series.

“I’m pretty excited,” he admitted today, “Motor Racing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I have memories of getting up early Sunday mornings to watch the black and white TV coverage of Bathurst. All those awesome HO Falcons, those were the days!”

James Tomkins, Olympian, is an inspiring story of courage, ambition and determination – a man who at the age of 43 is seriously contemplating yet another Olympics appearance in 2012 (he’ll be 46 at the time!).

“I won’t say yes and I won’t say no,” he says when quizzed on whether he’ll suit up for 2012, “but I will say maybe. Who knows? Anything can happen. Right now my goal is Sandown in two weeks, not London in three years.”

Tomkins, like fellow Olympian Steve Bradbury (who drove the UBER Star MINI in Tasmania recently) has some celebrity race experience up his sleeve driving BMW’s at the Melbourne Formula 1 GP.

“I won both years I entered,” he smiles, “but I doubt that will matter much when I take on Sandown. Of course there is one connection there, they (F1 organisers) trained us up to race at the GP around the Sandown track, so at least I know the place pretty well.”

Tomkins knows MINI Challenge pretty well too, having followed it on the SEVEN Network.

“I happened to tune in just as Aker (Jason Akermanis) rolled at Symmons Plains last year, and I know Sam Newman pretty well so there’s been a bit of light hearted challenge action going on between us. I’d like to line up against him in a MINI race one day given that we’d be in identical equipment.”

Tomkins also tuned in at a critical moment last weekend as Scott Bargwanna and John Modystach had their monumental crashes into the Townsville concrete walls.

“I said to my wife Bridget, look honey that’s what I’ll be driving in a few weeks and she looked a little hesitant,” he laughs.

James will saddle up in the Stillwell MINI Garage prepped JCW R56 MINI on the weekend of July 29-August 1 in his first serious tilt (non-celebrity that is) at Motorsport since he competed in a Targa Tasmania event in the 1990’s.

Tomkins says that whilst he lacks significant seat time in a Racecar, the principals of elite rowing and elite Motorsport do have parallels.

“If you just put your oars in the water and thrash, all you’re going to do is make a lot of noise and splash around. Successful rowing requires rhythm, precision and timing. Motorsport is very similar. If you’re all over the show with your foot to the floor you’re going to attract attention but not necessarily be fast.”

James Tomkins is the greatest sweep rower ever produced by Australia and his career record matches up well with almost any rower ever. Between 1986 and 2003, Tomkins won seven gold medals at the World Championships, and he is, through 2008, the only rower to have ever been world champion in all five sweep events.

In 1990, Tomkins joined Nick Green, Sam Patten, and Mike McKayin a coxless four. They were World Champions in 1990-91 and with Andrew Cooper replacing Patten’s seat, they won the gold medal in 1992 at Barcelona. Their success earned the team the nickname “The Oarsome Foursome,” and they repeated their Olympic gold medal performance at the 1996 Olympics, with Drew Ginn replacing Cooper.

Selected for the 2008 Olympics for Australia, and his sixth Olympics, Tomkins through 2004 had won three Olympic golds, and one bronze, in addition to his seven World Championships. At the 1986 Commonwealth Games, he helped the Australian eight to a gold medal, and also won a bronze in the coxed four. Tomkins has been a winner at prestigious The Kings Cup 15 times.

He’s a major star in Australian sporting history but will find it far less than a minor MINI Challenge when he take the wheel at Sandown!