MINI Challenge

BMW Australia withdraws support for MINI Challenge

MINI Challenge, Townsville

In disappointing, but perhaps unsurprising news, BMW Australia today announced the MINI Challenge series would not continue beyond the current season. Originally set up in 2008 with a five-year commitment commercial realities have influenced BMW Australia’s position.

MINI national manager, David Woollcott, explains, “Motorsport is becoming increasingly expensive and, together with a contraction in the television exposure, this has meant the race series has become financially unviable.

“MINI would also like to recognize the contribution of all those who participated in MINI Challenge including V8 Supercars, CAMS, our series sponsors Hertz and Pizza Capers and most of all, the teams and drivers who made MINI Challenge such a thrilling spectacle.”

This means the upcoming round on Sydney’s streets at Homebush (3–5 December) will be the last round for the series.

AUSmotive passes on its best wishes to the organisers (Toleman Motorsport), the team owners and all the drivers. Here’s hoping Homebush is a great celebration of a category that has provided some thrilling entertainment over the last three years.

MINI Challenge

2010 MINI Challenge – Round 5, Phillip Island

2010 MINI Challenge, Round 5, Phillip Island

Apologies for the lateness of this update. In short, Chris Alajajian didn’t manage a race win, but he still pocketed enough points to take the Round win at Phillip Island and maintained his MINI Challenge series lead.

Defending champion Paul Stokell had his share of dramas and followed victory in Race 1 by missing all but one corner of Race 2 due to an accident on lap 1. A massive shout out to his Deco Rug team for getting him back on track for Race 3. He didn’t let them down, either, putting in a stirring drive from the back of the grid to cross the line in first place. It was that sort of weekend, really.

Highlights can be see after the jump, as well as the series leaderboard. Also included is a onboard footage from Sean Carter’s car. It shows all of Race 1 and is added with thanks to the MINI Challenge YouTube channel.

The MINI Challenge returns this weekend at the Gold Coast 600.

MINI Challenge

2010 MINI Challenge – Round 4, Townsville

MINI Challenge, Townsville

Chris Alajajian extended his lead in the 2010 MINI Challenge by claiming the round in Townsville earlier this month. Reigning title holder Paul Stokell finshed Round 4 in second place and Beric Lynton, making his first appearance of the year, claimed the final podium spot in the three race program.

Speaking after the final race Alajajian said, “My team continue to do a fantastic job with the R56 Challenge car and it makes it so much more comfortable for me to drive because I have full trust in my car and team. We now have a big gap until the next round at Phillip Island which is a really fast event where anything can happen so expect some exciting racing down there MINI Challenge fans!”

There’s a selection of images on show after the break, as well as the full press release from MINI Challenge. Round 5 action takes place on Phillip Island in mid-September at the L&H 500.

[Pics: Spherix]

UPDATE: TV highlights have been added below.

MINI Challenge

MINI Challenge locks in Gold Coast 600

MINI Challenge, Melbourne

Last month confirmation came through that the MINI Challenge has been locked in as a support category for the Armor All Gold Coast 600 to be held in October.

With no open wheelers from Indy Car or the scuppered A1GP categories the Gold Coast event offers an all Australian cast. Organisers have modified the well known street circuit reducing it from 4.7km in length down to 2.96km.

Ted Toleman, MINI Challenge Category Manager, says, “The new circuit and great entertainment planned by V8 Supercars is going to make for a fantastic show in October and the category is pleased to be able to support one of the country’s most iconic races.

“We have seen some thrilling MINI Challenge action this year as the category continues to grow and I’m sure the same exciting racing will be on offer when we head to the streets of Surfers Paradise.”

Full press release after the break. The MINI Challenge returns to on track action next weekend for the Dunlop Townsville 400.

MINI Challenge

Mixed bag for Team Australia in Spain

MINI Challenge Team Australia

Earlier in the month Chris Alajajian and Paul Stokell jetted over to Madrid to represent Australia in the Spanish MINI Challenge. The racing took place at the Jarama circuit and there was a three race format; two sprint races on the Saturday and a 50 minute race on Sunday. The results were encouraging, but ultimately disappointing.

Current Australian MINI Challenge series leader Chris Alajajian managed an impressive fourth place in the first race. In the second race Stokell qualified sixth and despite a good start his car suffered minor damage, including a punctured tyre, after being hit from behind. Time in the pits replacing the tyre was costly and he lost a lap on the leaders and finished in 19th place.

The guys had shown they had the pace to mix it with the front runners, so maybe the Sunday race, which included a compulsory driver change, would bring better luck. Sadly this wasn’t the case.

Stokell started the race from 11th on the grid and was making good progress until he was t-boned by a “kamikaze” move from one of the younger competitors in the field. Worse was to come when Stokell received a black flag costing Team Australia valuable time. Things didn’t improve when the team’s scheduled driver change had to be delayed due a Safety Car period. This left Alajajian with just a few laps of racing and in the end Team Australia came home in 11th place.

Regardless of the misfortune during the racing Ted Toleman, MINI Challenge Australia Category Manager, felt the experience was a positive one and hopes there is more overseas action to come, “Despite mixed results both Paul and Chris did a fantastic job representing Australia in the Spanish version of MINI Challenge racing.

“The assistance and help given to our drivers by MINI Challenge Spain personnel was superb and we thank them for supporting the guys on this great opportunity. The experience gained by both drivers in the left-hand-drive R56 and on a world renowned racetrack is truly invaluable and I look forward to further events overseas.”

MINI Challenge Australia action returns at the Townsville 400 on 9–11 July.

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 Challenge

Another MINI Challenge crash at Ipswich 300

Sarah Harley's MINI Challenge racecar crashes into the tyre barrier

The MINI Challenge series has seen another spectacular crash at the Ipswich 300 event held at Queensland Raceway today. Sarah Harley’s car reportedly had a sticking throttle, forcing her car to understeer off the track and into the tyre wall. The impact happened at high speed and she was lucky to walk away with no serious injury.

After the incident Harley was taken to hospital for observation but was soon released. On her return to the track she said, “That was a really big hit this morning and it is a testament to the MINI and its strength that I walked away with just a bit of whiplash. It was scary heading into the tyre wall so fast I kind of tensed up and braced myself. It was a hard impact but all the safety features on the car did their job and officials worked really quickly to help me out of the car and secure the situation.”

News footage of today’s incident from Channel Seven can be seen after the break. The clip also includes a brief interview with Kain Magro, the driver involved in yesterday’s dramatic incident.

In on-track news the round was won by Warren Luff, who was making his MINI Challenge debut. Defending champion Paul Stokell ended the round in second place, while current series leader Chris Alajajian came home in third. A highlights package of this round will air nationally next weekend on the Seven Network (check you local guides for details).

Photos of the two crashes can be seen at the Catch Fence Photos forum.

MINI Challenge

Two spectators injured after MINI Challenge crash

MINI Challenge crash @ Ipswich 300

An incident in the first race of this weekend’s MINI Challenge round at Queensland Raceway has resulted in injury for two race goers.

A statement from MINI Challenge organisers reads, “Two spectators were injured and transported to Ipswich Base Hospital. The extent of their injuries appears to be relatively minor, pending full medical evaluation. Both were conscious whilst being treated at the scene. There were no other reported injuries.”

The accident happened after a car was involved in an accident and flipped into the air, cartwheeling over a safety barrier. According to the official statement the driver was taken to Ipswich Base Hospital by ambulance for precautionary tests and is believed to be uninjured. FoxSports have reported the driver involved was Kain Magro.

More details as they come to hand. The full statement from MINI Challenge is available below.

[Pics: 7 News]

UPDATE #1: A Channel Ten news segment reporting on this incident can now be seen below. It is worth noting that the Channel Ten report stating the driver was injured is incorrect. Thanks to smarm providing a separate link to crash footage.

UPDATE #2: News footage from host broadcaster Channel Seven is also available below.

MINI Challenge

2010 MINI Challenge – Round 3 Preview

Chris Alajajian, current series leader, 2010 MINI Challenge

This weekend’s MINI Challenge round at Queensland Raceway includes a few firsts for the series. The most obvious is the debut of the John Cooper Works MINI Challenge racecars on the Ipswich circuit. In addition the usual three race program will be replaced with a four race card, including two races on Saturday and two races on Sunday.

MINI Challenge Category Manager Ted Toleman is looking forward to the weekend, “It is great to see a four-race format for the first time in our series. We have seen some incredibly close racing over the last two events and now the fans in Queensland will be treated to even more of this exciting racing. We have competitors as young as 16-years-old in the series and for the young guys there is nothing better than experience and track-time to help them progress positively through their careers.”

Another first this weekend will be the appearance of Sarah Harley, who will be the first female to race in the MINI Challenge for 2010. She will be joined by a number of V8 Supercar drivers, including Warren Luff, Luke Youlden and Dean Canto.

Steven Bradbury returns to the MINI Challenge grid at the wheel of the Pizza Capers Ãœber-star car and he hopes this experience will allow him to further his motorsport ambitions, “I love driving race cars and I’m counting down the days until I hit the track at QR. The experience I gained last year in the MINI, and having driven at QR before, will hopefully enable me to be quite competitive. I have longer term aspirations in motorsport and driving the UberStar Car is an opportunity that might help me realise those aspirations.”

With 16 cars to line up this weekend the action is sure to be fast paced and full of thrills. Can Chris Alajajian continue his early season speed, or will defending champion Paul Stokell start a charge up the points table?

A few press releases from MINI can be found after the jump and if you can’t get to Queensland Raceway this weekend make sure you book some time on the couch the following weekend for the Channel 7 highlights package scheduled for 8 May.

MINI Challenge

2010 MINI Challenge – Round 2, Melbourne

MINI Challenge, Melbourne

This MINI Challenge wrap of Round 2, held during the Australian Grand Prix weekend at Albert Park, has been a little delayed because I was waiting for the television highlights. However, due to a few reasons it looks like the highlights package won’t be going to air, which is a great shame for the series.

On to the racing, then, and Chris Alajajian was able to build on his Round 1 success by placing on the podium in all three races. He has now established a 46 point lead over Sean Carter and Peter McNiven, both on 218 points.

Alajajian was happy to claim a win in the final race and is enjoying the racing so far in 2010, “We finished all three races on the podium this weekend and it was great to be able to end the weekend with a race and round win.

“Two round wins in a row is really making things look good for my championship hopes, he said. “There was some really close racing once again and I can’t wait to see what round three will bring.”

Round 3 of the Australian MINI Challenge takes place this coming weekend at Queensland Raceway (television highlights are scheduled for broadcast on 8 May).

More images from Melbourne and the series table can be see after the jump.

[Pics: Spherix]


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]