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In just the last week we’ve had the shock surprise that Nathan Quinn would be steering a MINI World Rally Car at Rally Australia, and now comes news of a second MINI, albeit of a slightly different variety for New South Wales stalwart Ric Cary.
Cary, a regular name around the NSW State Rally Championship, said he was looking for something ‘a bit different’ when he elected to take a former circuit racing MINI Challenge car and convert it for gravel rallying.
“Maybe we’d had a few too many drinks one night, in fact I thought I’d officially retired!” laughed Cary on the decision to acquire and convert the MINI.
“To be honest I blame Murray Coote, he’d been over in New Zealand helping set-up the suspension on one of these former MINI Challenge cars and was telling me how great they were. So within the space of a week I’d found one, driven up to Tweed Heads to collect it and had it back in the shed.”
“It was probably at that point I stopped, scratched my head for a minute and wondered what on earth I’d just embarked upon!” he joked.
The MINI’s proved highly competitive in circuit racing trim, but as Cary explains converting it for the rigors of gravel rallying proved to be a massive step into the unknown.
“I like to think we’re kind of pioneers. Other than the engine and the caged shell we literally pulled everything out and started again. We’ve had to beef everything up, fabricate parts that didn’t exist before and try to work out how to make it fast and strong all at the same time,” he said.
“Over the year I’ve probably had five Mitsubishi Lancer’s, and it got to the point where you pulled them apart and just knew how to put them back together. With the MINI we’ve had to learn everything from scratch, it’s been quite an adventure.”
The turbo-charged MINI engine, which reportedly is near identical to that found in the Citroen DS3, will remain virtually standard, Cary confident it will prove a competitive package. But from there the team has installed a Sadev six-speed sequential gearbox, uprated the suspension, beefed up the brakes and altered the ECU.
Cary reports that the MINI, now sitting more prominently off the ground ready to take the bumps and bashes of gravel rallying, is a sight to behold. “Everyone that has seen it thinks it’s the best looking G2 rally car they’ve seen. It’s a MINI Challenge car on steroids!”
Despite Cary’s background in four-wheel drive rally cars he’s confident the MINI package will prove competitive, although he’s focusing on the debut event at Rally Australia and the season ending Rally Victoria as extended test sessions ahead of 2014.
“I haven’t driven a front-wheel drive rally car for years, but I’m not going out to just make up the numbers,” he stated. “It’ll be a big learning curve for all of us, for me, for the team and for the car.”
“We’re treating the rest of the year as a warm up for next season. We’ll see where the car stands against the other boys and see what works and what doesn’t work.”
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