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A U.S. MINI Challenge Gets Closer


 Is a Turn-Key MINI Racer Coming to America?

In our November-December (#11) issue we wrote just about all that we knew about the John Cooper Works Challenge MINI possibility for the US market. At the Frankfurt auto show we spoke with various people and learned that MINI Europe personnel were very interested in bringing the MINI Challenge series to the US but MINI USA wasn’t exactly in the position both financially and in desire to make it happen.


Well, the situation has changed to our advantage, as the story we printed had some effect on the New Jersey HQs, sufficient enough to get them talking with both SCCA and NASA staff to have JCW Challenge MINIs on the track.

 It’s been said by unofficial sources that about two-dozen people are seriously wanting to put down deposits on their own MINI Challenge car. With the current ratio of Euro and Pound to Dollar this could well mean spending $60,000-$65,000 for a race-ready MINI. But for that money, you do get a choice of color, as long as it is red! 

Scheduled to debut at the New York International Auto Show this March 22nd, the U.S. MINI Challenge car on display may well be a 2008 model year. However, all cars supplied from the September build and October delivery dates will be 2009 models. And unlike the recent MINI GP cars that were assembled in Italy, the Challenge cars will be built on the Oxford assembly line in a one-day build process.


The question for MINI USA to ponder is how do they sell them? Present franchise agreements state that all dealers are allowed to sell them. However, MINI wants technical and parts support available, as well as technicians for all races and dealers that are truly into the spirit, not the profit, of this model. Given the money invested in training, parts inventory and other details, the list of dealers will be very short say our sources. Most dealers will probably pass on this opportunity, as there are likely to be only 40-50 imported.


At present  only six-to-eight dealers are expected to spend the cash for what the industry calls a “halo product.” These few dealers will also have to agree not to mark up the factory invoice on the racer. Our short list of dealers includes Charleston, Prestige, Scottsdale and Peabody, as they all have racing interest.


The power is a few more ponies and lb-ft torque, due to the exhaust system, as the engine is the 2008 turbo with twin scroll used in the S at this time. Overall power is close to the GP model at 210hp and 206 lb-ft of torque. Acceleration is 6.1 seconds to 60 mph, with deceleration of 3.1 seconds from 60 mph to zero.


We expect them to be equipped just as they were on the floor at Frankfurt with Schroth harness, Recaro seat, alloy  rear wing, Dunlop racing tyres, KW suspension, limited-slip differential, AP racing brakes and ABS, Borbet alloy wheels and the John Cooper Works suspension. However, if marketing is considered, then some aftermarket names will be changed to fit the US-specific sponsors- such as possibly KONI shocks and BBS wheels?


Now the questions is, will MINI USA be able to get a stand-alone series for these cars into the 2009 schedule so that it creates greater buzz for the MINI’s 50th Anniversary?


With three weeks till we go to press, we hope to have more info available for our issue #13 that hits the bookstores early March. Thanks for reading… MC2 staff