Wednesday, 2 February 2011
When I first started spectating at motor races Mini's were a feature at many meetings including the very first meeting I went to where my Mum's boss George Barkhuizen won the days feature handicap race in a beige Mini with a white roof and a fuel barrel hanging out of the boot thanks to a recalcitrant boot lock out in Zambia. Mini's were also raced in Britain in spec championships including the 850's seen here at Silverstone usually producing tight racing and close finishes.
1977 World Grand Prix Drivers Champion James Hunt prepared and raced his own Mini when he first got the bug using extreme weight saving measures such as not fitting windscreen wipers. Today spec racing Mini's like David Kirkpatrick's seen at a track day here are very much alive and kicking despite having been out of production since 2000 as indeed are many non spec Mini's with all sort of non standard Mini power units.
On Sunday at the PistonHeads meeting in Cowley I had the opportunity to familiarise myself with the latest in retro MINI spec racing with this MINI Cooper S R56 prepared by OX4 Racing for Chris Oakham who races in the top tier JCW Class of the MINI Challenge.
This spec racer is of course light years ahead of an original spec racing Mini, the JCW division calls for turbocharged 215 hp motors up from the standard R56 192 hp thanks to upgraded induction, exhaust, Electronic Control Unit (ECU) and race spec intercooler.
To help keep the wheels on the road and all that power in check these vehicles are fitted with KW suspension, limited slip differential and 6 (six) piston front brake callipers.
17" control racing tyres, slicks or wets, are mounted on Dynamic rims.
Too make sure every one plays fair the Mini Challenge has dedicated championship scales, enforced 'parc ferme' rules control fuel, limits on the number of tyres used and to keep the driving standards up each vehicle has an on board camera allowing officials to a valuable source of evidence should things appear to get out of hand !
To complete the purpose bred racer look the JCW Class vehicles have an aero package to play around with too !
On the Lo 'E' Nuf Vee Dub Club site Chris Oakham the driver of the #51 Mini Cooper S R56 is known for lashing up Mini's and ripping up cats' eyes with his Passat in between his racing activities. Chris took the #51 to victory lane at Snetterton and finished 6th in the JCW Class rankings last year, it is still unclear what his plans are for this year but I'm sure you will all join me in wishing him every success.
Any one wishing to join in the fun here is a link to the Mini Challenge prospectus. There was a MINI Challenge try out day at Brands Hatch on Saturday 29th January which included trials for novices, those keen to continue could gain medical certification and attend Approved Racing Drivers School courses the same day in order to qualify for racing licences.
If you missed the boat and are interested in taking part you could try sending an e-mail to the address on the Mini Challenge home page, they seem particularly encouraging to fresh recruits. Wishing all competitors a fun and safe championship.
Hope you have enjoyed today's recruiting office edition of 'Gettin' a lil' psycho on tyres' and that you will all join me again tomorrow for a look at one of my favourite BMW's. Don't forget to come back now !