MINI release details of latest model refresh

MINI Cooper S

MINI have just given their model range a bit of a spruce up. Part mid-cycle model refresh and part counter-attack to the Audi A1 and its ilk, the new MINIs probably don’t look terribly different to most punters. Lucky, then, that MINI gave us some really big pictures of the bits that have changed.

Notably the front and rear bumper assemblies have been tarted up. So too the lighting visuals, with de rigueur LED rear tail lights now available. Those chrome trimmed scoops on the lower front grille actually feed air to the brakes to aid cooling. That’s a nice touch.

For the more frugal minded folk out there in MINI land you’ll be pleased to know there’s some new diesel engines on the way too.

The market launch of the model updates is not scheduled until mid-September so we can deduce that a) this early release of information shows MINI is keen to remind buyers not to forget them while they’re busy checking our Audi, Alfa Romeo and Fiat dealerships and b) that we may not be seeing these changes in Australia until early 2011.

Full details in the form of MINI’s press release can be read after the jump. Also included is a brief video and a Cooper S image gallery.

MINI Challenge

Team Australia set sights on Spain’s MINI Challenge

MINI Challenge - Team Australia

The MINI Challenge has many great aspects about it. One is the fact you can buy a MINI John Cooper Works from your local MINI dealer that is pretty damn close in performance to the track-only racecars. Another is that the series is run in a number of countries. This aspect provides opportunities for cross pollination of competitors.

In addition to the Australian championship there are MINI Challenge competitions currently held in Germany, Spain, UK, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. And it is MINI Challenge Spain we focus on here. Next month at the Jarama circuit near Madrid Paul Stokell and Chris Alajajian will combine forces to form MINI Challenge Team Australia.

Paul and Chris, normally direct competitors, earned the right to represent Australia due to finishing first and second in the 2009 Australian MINI Challenge championship.

The guys leave for Spain at the end of this month and will prepare for a three race program starting on 5 June. At the wheel of their specially designed Team Australia MINI each driver will compete in a 20 lap sprint race on the first day of racing. On day two they will share duties in a 50 lap enduro.

Chris Brown, Marketing Manager MINI Australia says there is more to come as well, “These money-can’t-buy opportunities to race overseas are key benefits of being involved in an international category like MINI Challenge. This is only the beginning of a broader international outlook for MINI Challenge.”

Alajajian is excited to be working with Stokell, “Normally Paul and I are the greatest of rivals so it will be different working as a team but I think this will give us an opportunity to learn from each other, driving the same car for the same team.”

“The main objective is to be consistent and show pace and I think if we both have that same objective we can offer a great package for MINI Challenge Team Australia. I really like the style of this ‘teams’ racing format, it makes me even hungrier to get out there and post some top results,” Alajajian said.

Both Alajajian and Stokell are in good form leading the 2010 championship table and here’s hoping the lads can put in a good effort for Team Australia in Spain. In exchange it is hoped a Spanish team will take place in the final round of the Australian MINI Challenge at Homebush in December.

The full press release from MINI can be viewed after the break. Also available is a YouTube video of a 2009 MINI Challenge racecar competing in the recent CER Jarama event.

MINI Challenge

2010 MINI Challenge – Round 3, Queensland Raceway

2010 MINI Challenge - Australia

At the end of an action packed Round 3 Chris Alajajian still leads the 2010 Australian MINI Challenge. But he didn’t have it all his own way. A qualifying infringement cost Alajajian points and sent him to the back of the grid for Race 1.

Alajajian made good progress in the opening race to finish in sixth place. Defending MINI Challenge champion Paul Stokell crossed the line first, but it was that spectacular accident from Kain Magro that grabbed the headlines and made news clips around the world. Magro’s car rolled seven times, leaping into the crowd on its journey. Amazingly just two spectators suffered minor injuries. Magro also walked away from the crash unscathed.

The second race returned to normal on track action and was won by a fast charging Alajajian. Race 3 was red flagged following Sarah Harvey’s rollover. It happened on the same corner as Magro’s crash the previous day. Despite heavy contact with the tyre wall, Harvey suffered no serious injury. These MINI Challenge racecars are tough little buggers it would seem.

Races 3 and 4 were both won by Alajajian, with Warren Luff and Stokell sharing the podium. In fact, Luff and Stokell finished in the top three placings for all four races over the weekend. Even though Luff didn’t win a race, his consistency and Alajajian’s lost qualifying points ensured Luff claimed the round win. Stokell finished the round in second place and in the process moved up the points table from fifth to second, cutting Alajajian’s overall series lead by four points.

Television highlights, driver quotes and the current championship table can all be seen after the jump.


MINI plans updates for JCW

MINI JCW diffuser spy pic

US website Left Lane News has some great spy pics of a new MINI John Cooper Works prototype. It’s understood sales of the flagship JCW model have been below expectations and to help put things right MINI plans to make the model more attractive to buyers.

One angle MINI has chosen to tackle the issue is to give the bodywork a once over to make it more unique against the regular MINI range. You can see from the image above that there are plans for a rear diffuser which is heavily inspired by the MINI Challenge racecars. The camouflage also indicates changes to the side skirts and front end spoiler are also in the pipeline. It is expected this new aero-kit will be factory-fitted for MY11 JCW models.

MotoringFile expects power for the JCW to be up slightly to around 215bhp (160kW) with efficiency improvements of around 10%, as well. MF also tells us production is expected to start in September and the car will be on display at the Paris Motor Show in October.

There’s plenty of pics in the Left Lane News article, so make sure you check them out.

[Source: Left Lane News via MotoringFile]


MINI plans new GP and 50th anniversary models

MINI John Cooper Works GP

Leading MINI news website MotoringFile has revealed plans that MINI will be making two 50th anniversary models in 2010. Likely to be similar in specification to previous special editions, such as the Checkmate and Park Lane, the 50th anniversary MINIs will be available in unique, model specific colours.

However, in more exciting news to emerge from MotoringFile is their story that a new “GP” model is in the pipeline. The previous generation GP (pictured above) was limited to just 2000 models worldwide. It was the most powerful R53 MINI, with 216bhp, and went on a weight saving program on the way to producing the most hardcore model built on the R53 platform.

It is believed a new GP model “T-car” was spotted in the Plant Oxford assembly hall, with rear seats missing and stereo components removed. If the test car comes up trumps and MINI puts the car into full production expect it to be available at the end of the R56 model cycle, which is set to run until 2012.

Source: MotoringFile

Audi MINI Reviews

AUSmotive – Best Reviews 2008

From somewhat humble beginnings this blog started in March 2008. In that time I have enjoyed maintaining the site and keeping the information ticking over. Of course, the best parts to date have been the test drives. While I may not have been able to complete as many reviews as I would like, I have had a great time testing the cars I have been granted access to. Thanks to all who have assisted in this regard and special mentions must go to Jonathon from Audi Centre Canberra and Brad from Rolfe Classic MINI Garage for their generous cooperation and support.

So, with that preamble in mind, the three cars I have enjoyed testing most in 2008 are the Audi R8, the Audi RS6 Avant and the MINI John Cooper Works.

Audi R8 – “Mash your right foot to the floor and you’ll be creating smiles on a demographic far broader than Audi ever planned. While putting a grin on your face that has you giggling like a mischievous school boy.”

Audi RS6 Avant – “No car I have ever driven has given me the thrill the RS6 delivered. I’m loathe to make the cliched comparisons to sex, but, after handing back the keys yesterday afternoon, I had a smile on my face that lasted well into the night.”

MINI John Cooper Works – “The MINI John Cooper Works is a fantastic point to point weapon that keeps MINI at the forefront of the hot hatch category. There may be cheaper alternatives out there, but few can match the MINI’s cachet, and fewer still can match the John Cooper Works for driving thrills.”

MINI Challenge

2009 MINI CHALLENGE – Speculative calendar

2009 MINI CHALLENGE calender

I was just checking out the MINI CHALLENGE website and was interested to see this calendar listed on the site. To the best of my knowledge nothing official has been announced, but if these dates come to fruition then the second year of the Aussie MINI CHALLENGE is in for a very big year.

As you can see the first date pencilled in the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. A great way to kick off the year! The series will continue to support the V8 Supercars at most rounds, and while new events like Townsville and Homebush Bay have been added, it looks as though the iconic Bathurst round has been dropped. The MINI CHALLENGE also looks set to make a mark on the Gold Coast during the A1GP round. Wakefield Park in Goulburn also looks to have missed out on a repeat appearance for the single make series.

As with the 2008 season, expect some good television coverage courtesy of Channel 7.

AUSmotive expects changes to this calendar are likely and if you don’t see them here first, keep an eye on the official website.

MINI Challenge

2008 MINI CHALLENGE climbs the Mountain

A case of better late than never with these two clips of the Australian MINI CHALLENGE at Bathurst. Of course, Mount Panorama circuit is probbaly the best in the country, and rates pretty highly as one of the best circuits anywhere in the world. It was fitting then that the racing here was some of the best the we saw in the first year of the MINI CHALLENGE.

Held over the V8 Supercar weekend 10-12 October, these two clips contain a few highlights from the Round 6 action, including full coverage of Race 2. Just watch as Jason Bargwanna strikes to claim one of the most opportunistic wins you’re likely to see.

The second clip can be seen after the jump.

MINI MINI Challenge

Classic training debut for Trivett apprentices

MINI CHALLENGE - Bargwanna Motorsport

Motorsport categories are a great way to sharpen the skills of all who take part. Drivers, team management and mechanics are all put under the microscope during the intense competition of door-to-door racing. A relatively new racing category such as the MINI CHALLENGE is always going to provide new opportunities to those eager to learn. Two apprentices from Trivett Classic MINI Garage in Sydney were recently granted a chance to join the Bargwanna Motorsport pit for last weekend’s final round, held at Oran Park.

According to Jason Bargwanna his team’s two new charges Russell Hueffel and Anthony Wilcockson took to being a part of a professional race team like ducks to water, “We set them a few interesting tasks throughout the weekend and they handled them well,” he said.

“Nothing was too much trouble and they fitted in seamlessly with our team. It was a great weekend for them to experience motorsport for the first time. It’s not normal that someone is on a winning team in their first experience! This is something that we’re keen to continue next year with Trivett Classic MINI Garage and expand upon throughout the entire MINI Challenge season.”


2008 MINI CHALLENGE – Round 8 wrap up

Neil McFadyen - 2008 MINI CHALLENGE champion

As reported earlier this morning, Neil McFadyen has been crowned the first Australian MINI CHALLENGE winner, seeing off a late season charge from DecoRug racer Paul Stokell. The Round 8 winner, Jason Bargwanna, showed magnificent pace after joining the series mid-season claiming a series high ten race wins. Oran Park was no different for the former Bathurst champ as he strolled home in the last race this morning by a lazy 11 seconds.

McFadyen ended up winning the Series over Stokell by just 24 points after a tense final race. Although the Sydney-sider in the Industrie Clothing MINI was playing the conservation game, he survived a scare on the final lap when the close following Gary Young received contact from Barry Sternbeck—almost taking out McFadyen in the process. However, he completed his lap and took the series win.

On claiming his title McFadyen paid tribute to his team, “I really have to give this up to the M3 Motorsport team. They have lived and breathed MINI Challenge since the Series was first announced and for some of them even to the detriment of their own businesses. It’s been a tough year for us and I’m really happy to be crowned a national champion once again. MINI CHALLENGE has been a fantastic series to be a part of and I’m sure it will only grow from here.”

MINI Challenge

Neil McFadyen wins the 2008 MINI CHALLENGE

MINI CHALLENGE - Round 8, Oran Park

According to the race results as published on the NatSoft website, Neil McFadyen in his Industrie MINI is the inaugural Australian MINI CHALLENGE champion.

By finishing Race 3 in 9th place McFadyen has done enough in the final race of the season to hold off the late season challenge from DecoRug’s Paul Stokell. Just! Race 3 saw a one-two finish for Team Bargwanna, with Jason taking line honours ahead of his cousin Scott.

More details and final points tallies, as they come to hand, to be provided in a complete Round 8 wrap up.

MINI Challenge

2008 MINI CHALLENGE – Round 8, Race 2

After two races at this weekend’s meeting, the 2008 Australian MINI CHALLENGE is still alive and will be decided in tomorrow’s final race of the year. Will it be DecoRug’s Paul Stokell, or will Indutsrie Clothing’s Neil McFadyen hold on to his current 51 point series lead?

With 60 points up for grabs for the win in race 3 at 9am tomorrow, Stokell needs a minor miracle to win the crown. Only a top two finish, with a McFadyen DNF will see him win the championship.

Sadly, there will be no television coverage of tomorrow’s race but this afternoon Race 2 was broadcast live on Channel 7. The first half of the race can be seen above, with the second half after the jump. Make sure you watch the second clip to see Justin Hemmes rolling the UBER-STAR car (more on Justin can be read in the Round 8 preview). Luckily, he walked away with nothing more than injured pride.