Steane Klose | Feb 11, 2008

The all new MINI Cooper Works R56 CHALLENGE cars have taken to the sky on their way downunder from Germany. True to their “Flying Brick” moniker, the first 20 cars are currently being airlifted from Germany to Australia, in time to race in the inaugural Australian MINI CHALLENGE Series, due to get underway at Eastern Creek Raceway on the weekend of 7-9 March.

These are the very first of the new R56 generation MINI Hardtops in the world and Eastern Creek will be hosting the competition debut for the model, with the European CHALLENGE due to kick off later this year during the northern Spring.

The MINI Cooper Works CHALLENGE cars are built in Plant Oxford, in the UK, the home of all MINI production cars. They are then shipped to BMW Motorsport in Germany for final race fit out which sees the fitment of roll cages, fire extinguishers, six-point safety harnesses and HANS head and neck support compatible race seats as well as competition brakes, wheels and a distinctive aero body kit.

Under the bonnet of each MINI CHALLENGE car sits a MINI John Cooper Works Performance Engine - a 1.6-litre four-cylinder featuring a twin-scroll turbocharger and direct petrol injection complete with racing exhaust. Max power is a healthy 154kW, enough to see the little racers sprint from 0 to 100 km/h in 6.1 seconds and power on to a top speed of 240 km/h.

Hauling the racers down at the end of the straights are racing ABS-backed brakes which have no trouble dealing with the lightweight MINI (1,150 kg including driver) - 100 km/h to a dead stop takes just 3.1 seconds and 31 metres.

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The cars all feature independent suspension, with MacPherson spring struts at the front, and a central-arm rear axle, 17-inch aluminium rims in MINI CHALLENGE design, dampers that are adjustable for compression and rebound (made by KW Automotive), along with an adjustable spring strut support at the front. Race tyres and an improved limited-slip differential, round out the package and ensure that handling is ‘go-kart-like’.

The Australian MINI CHALLENGE series comprises eight rounds run in association with the V8 Supercars Australia calendar, and includes visits to such iconic locations as Bathurst, Sandown, Phillip Island and Barbagello in Perth.

The rights to televise the MINI CHALLENGE series have been confirmed with the Seven Network, which means (unlike the Bathurst production car enduro) you will be able to see the MINI’s in action from the comfort of your lounge. They should make for some close knit, hard-fought racing and are guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

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