Road racing has always taken a backseat to other forms of motorsports here in the states. The exact reason for that has always eluded me, but part of it is probably the appeal of big horsepower over finely tuned chassis. Either way, if you want to do spec racing here in the US of A, you will likely end up in a Miata. While that’s fun in its own right, what we really need is a US version of the ‘Mini Challenge.’
The Mini Challenge is a spec racing series that runs through the UK with one goal, provide affordable fun racing. This isn’t a beer league mind you, instead it’s just a scaled down version of the real thing. With the cost of racing at an all time high, it’s time we start exploring cost effective alternatives to get our petrol powered thrills. After all, I’m sure you have heard the saying, ‘How do you make a million dollars in racing? Start with two million…’ That couldn’t ring truer today.
The Mini Challenge has been running consistently since 2002, making it a staple of the UK racing scene. With four different classes to choose from the series fits almost any racing budget. Your options are, Cooper AM, Cooper Pro, Open, and of course Mini JCW. Both of the Cooper classes are targeted at your entry level racer, featuring the bare bones MINI with an emphasis on drivers skill, not the cars outright speed.
Then you have yourself the open class. This allows any force induction MINI(R53 & R56) to run together, raising the speed and the stakes all at the same time. Because they class is regulated by the power to weight instead of your traditional spec requirements, it gives the drivers a lot of variability with their setup. Basically, you don’t have to run X, Y, and Z parts to make it into this class, you can run what you have brung as long as it meets the required weight and power outputs. Good luck finding that in any other spec class.
And lastly, we have the MINI JCW class. JCW stands for John Cooper Works and is a leading tuner for these fire-breathing econocars. Going back to a true spec class, this is by far the most competitive of the 4 different classes. It will also be the most expensive, and of course the fastest. Raising the stakes across the board, running in the JCW class is a phenomenal stepping stone for any racing career. Or maybe you just fancy good racing at a reasonable price, once again the JCW class is more than fitting. It also happens to be the most popular class by far, featuring over 30 cars in the series this year alone. A grid of 30 cars that are identical should make for some seriously spectacular racing.
The Mini Challenge website advertises getting started in Cooper AM for as little as £4500 including the donor car. That’s just shy of $6,000 USD, which would barely buy your way into kart racing here in the US. With that being the bottom of the barrel you can easily spend £41,950 and get yourself into a brand new JCW, which if you ask me is an absolute steal. But don’t just take my word for it, check out this review of the new JCW.