The MINI Challenge will join the British Touring Car Championship support package from the 2020 season onward, as the single-make series replaces the Renault UK Clio Cup after the 2019 season.
The series has agreed a multi-year deal to take over the slot vacated by the Renault UK Clio Cup next year.
Eight of the ten BTCC meetings will feature the top-class Challenge JCW Championship, in which the latest version of MINI’s 265 bhp hot hatch competes. The other two meetings will feature the Copper Challenge which is open to naturally aspirated 1.6-litre cars. The division of the dates has yet to be finalised.
The MINI Challenge JCW Championship thus splits from supporting the British GT Championship to move in line with the BTCC.
The Cooper Challenge series continues with its mix of close and affordable racing, which has been on offer since 2002 when the series was founded.
“The deal to join the TOCA package represents one of, if not the biggest moment in the history of the MINI Challenge,” said MINI Challenge Promoter Antony Williams. “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.
“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.
“The deal is also brilliant news for the Cooper Challenge. Electing to run the JCWs at eight of the ten 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.”
BTCC Series Director and Administrator Alan Gow said that he had been keeping an eye on the success of the MINI Challenge in recent years, believing that it represents an ideal step on the ladder to the BTCC.
“We’ve kept an eye on the development of the MINI Challenge over the last few years and it’s clear that it’s a very popular and competitive championship.
“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 and I’m sure the championship will be an excellent fit within our 2020 weekends and beyond.”