The new Mini Challenge will hit Australian racetracks in style with a spectacular opening race next year, probably at the Australian Grand Prix.
Though Mini Australia spokesman Alexander Corne can't reveal details of the new series calendar, he says it will have a big beginning.
“I can't confirm anything specific but we want to start things off with a bang,” Corne says. “We want to put the Mini Challenge in front of the widest possible audience.”
Mini already has a history at the Australian Grand Prix, it provided the cars for the Celebrity Challenge in 2002.
Negotiations about next year's calendar are taking place with several key stakeholders. It is likely to support the V8 Supercar Championship and run alongside the Porsche Carrera Cup. According to Corne several parties have already shown interest in the category.
Mini will unveil the new-for-2008 Challenge racer at the Frankfurt Motor Show in October. The new cars will be built at the company's English factory and be race-prepared in Germany before coming here. The plan is to try to have a race car here later in the year to help promote the new series to competitors and fans.
Next year, cars will use a turbocharged version of the engine, replacing the previous supercharged model. They will produce the same amount of power, 154kW but the turbo engine delivers better torque and mid-range performance.
Another addition is a limited-slip differential to improve traction in tight corners.
The company has also improved the cars' aerodynamics to improve performance and keep the racing close.
The Challenge racers will do 0-100km/h in 6.1 seconds and have a top of 240km/h.