Team MINI fielded two of its three MINI Cooper S John Cooper Works Motorsport cars at the Dutton Rally Queensland last weekend, and recorded a brilliant class win and second place on handicap for co-drivers.
Team MINI also secured a super third overall on handicap for drivers*.
The hard-charging Team MINI racers were able to humble far more powerful competitors across all classes.
The successful pairing of circuit expert Paul Stokell (multi Australian Driver’s Champion) and Spencer Lowndes (Australian Rally Championship factory driver) allowed the team to build on each other’s strengths on the varied challenges set by the Dutton rally organisers.
“This was my first ever experience of one of these rallies,” said Spencer.
“I’ve been rallying for 12 years but never done a gymkhana and never done any circuit racing.”
“Lapping the circuits is my forte,” said Paul, who enjoyed Queensland International raceway and was sad to miss out on the Morgan Park stage, cancelled due to bad weather.
Both agreed the Team MINI cars provided something of a surprise package for spectators and rivals alike.
“The MINI was fantastic on the tighter events. The crowd really cheered us on. We weren’t seen as the car to beat to start with, but we showed them,” Paul said.
“The MINI Cooper S was excellent fun,” said Spencer. “We gave a Skyline a big surprise going around the outside on the last corner at Queensland Raceway and gaining so much ground out of the corner he couldn’t catch us down the length of the straight.
“We had two motorkhana events to do after coming off three laps of Queensland raceway and the rear tyres were really up to temperature and very grippy. In fact we had too much grip for sliding the car through the motorkhana stages, but with only front-wheel drive we probably had an advantage over the all-wheel drive cars as a result.
“The car ran faultlessly through the entire event,” Spencer said.
In the CarPoint-sponsored car, Publishing Director Mike Sinclair teamed up with motoring scribe and TV host David Morley, the latter having his debut MINI drive. Morley finished second on handicap for co-drivers behind Spencer Lowndes.
More used to man-handling V8s than front-drive four-cylinder cars, Morley was delighted to finish so strongly, having had a whale of a time behind the wheel.
“I had a blast. The car was great and I'm amazed at the hammering it soaked up all weekend.”
Morley described his technique for success behind the wheel thus: “A dab of left-foot brake and then hold it flat in fourth through turns 1 and 2 at Queensland International Raceway.
“Talk about giant killers. It’s right in the spirit of Bathurst 1966."
CarPoint’s regular driver Mike Sinclair was pleased with his efforts, but admitted his approach to the motorkhana test will need to be finessed in time for the Dutton Rally Victoria in September.
“We finished very well, and the car was sensational the whole weekend. We didn’t stop smiling once, which is the whole point. We had a ball.”
Team MINI will next appear at Targa West in Perth on 7-10 September, before heading for Dutton Rally Victoria the next weekend. Then the team heads to Bathurst to celebrate the 40th anniversary of MINI finishing in the top nine places in 1966.
Legendary MINI racer Bob Holden will drive a Team MINI racer around Bathurst to commemorate the success, a feat unmatched in 40 years of motorsport at the mountain.
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