It’s out with Clios and in with Coopers as the MINI Challenge signs new TOCA deal for 2020
MINI Challenge hits the big time
The MINI Challenge series will support the British Touring Car Championship from 2020, following the announcement that the Renault UK Clio Cup will relinquish its spot at the end of 2019.
MINI Challenge Promoter Antony Williams said, “The deal to join the TOCA package represents one of, if not the biggest moment in the history of the MINI Challenge and it’s certainly something we’ve been working very hard towards over the last few seasons.
“The JCW is now a proven, purpose-built race car and driver feedback has suggested that it is the closest thing out there to the thrill of driving a full NGTC touring car, making the Challenge an ideal feeder category toward the BTCC.
“During recent seasons we’ve had many BTCC teams come to join us, and we’re proud to boast a string of alumni drivers who have gone on to race successfully in the BTCC,” Williams said.
A full house
“Running in support of the UK’s biggest circuit racing championship will only strengthen that link further and we have to also thank our superb tyre partner Dunlop for its support in working toward this deal. We’ve enjoyed very healthy grids in recent seasons, and we fully expect that to continue as part of the TOCA package,” he continued.
Williams also revealed that the Cooper Challenge (the entry point for the series) will benefit from the new deal. “Electing to run the JCWs at eight of the 10 rounds helps keep budgets under control, and also gives us the chance to elevate the Coopers onto the main stage and show the strength of the MINI Challenge at all its levels.”
Onwards and upwards
BTCC Series Director & Administrator, Alan Gow added, “At TOCA we are keen to showcase not just the British Touring Car Championship, but also the cream of national racing categories to our audiences both at the circuits and on TV.
“Recent years have certainly shown that the MINI Challenge is an ideal feeder category for drivers aspiring toward a career in the BTCC. I’m sure the championship will be an excellent fit within our 2020 weekends and beyond.”
Top JCW racers run a two-litre, 265bhp, four-cylinder turbocharged engine. They also boast a Quaife sequential gearbox, Tran X Plated limited-slip differential, Nitron shock absorbers and an SCS Delta Motorsport ECU. Meanwhile, Dunlop supplies the championship with slick and wet competition tyres (size 235/17).
Direnza has provided support for drivers in the JCW class for the last few years. One of those is Ryan Dignan, and as you’d expect he was excited for MINI Challenge’s future, describing the TOCA deal as “an unbelievable milestone for the championship.
“For the last two years I have been competing in the MINI Challenge JCW Class with the support of Direnza. I have witnessed first hand how the championship has grown,” he said.
Loved by top drivers
“In 2018, the championship was announced as the support series for British GT and this was a step in the direction of becoming the support series for BTCC. The quality of racing was already evident and very impressive.
“Throughout last season, we had a number of guest drivers with close links to the BTCC, including Rob Collard whose son Jordan competes in the MINI Challenge, as well as Matt Neal whose sons [Will and Henry] compete. Paul O’Neill – who commentates on the BTCC for ITV4 and is a previous BTCC race winner – took part, too.
“All of them said the MINI Challenge was the closest you could get to racing in a BTCC car,” Dignan continued. “It has become a great breeding ground for future BTCC drivers. They really are baby touring cars!
“Personally, I think it’s fantastic to see the MINI Challenge supporting the BTCC on the TOCA package. With ongoing support from my sponsors, I hope to be on the grid in 2020.”
JCW 2019 calendar
Round 1 (April 20-22): Oulton Park International
Round 2 (May 18-19): Snetterton 300
Round 3 (June 8-9): Silverstone GP
Round 4 (June 22-23): Donington Park
Round 5 (July 20-21): Brands Hatch
Round 6 (August 3-4): Brands Hatch GP
Round 7 (September 14-15): Donington Park
Round 8 (October 19-20): Snetterton 200
Images: MINI Challenge