Team MINI will field a full strength three-car assault on the 2006 Mount Buller Sprint in November, fresh from its anniversary storming of the iconic Bathurst road racing circuit, and its Team Australia Speed Comparison run at the Lexmark 300 Gold Coast Indy race on October 19-22.

Mount Panorama hosted the three 2006 racing MINIs as part of a weekend’s celebration marking the 40th anniversary of MINI Cooper S cars dominating the 1966 event. Led by Bob Holden and Rauno Aaltonen, MINI Cooper S cars filled the top nine places in the Gallagher 500.

On October 8, Bob Holden returned to the Mountain in a modern MINI Cooper S, this time a 154 kW John Cooper works Team MINI racer for a celebratory lap of honour.

Meanwhile just two weeks later, Paul Stokell was at the wheel of one of the racers at Indy showing just how feisty MINI Cooper S can be chasing down a Porsche Carerra Cup Car and a Champ Car.

Team MINI has enjoyed considerable success in its return to competition in Australia in 2006, most notably winning the Alphera Dutton Rally Victoria outright for drivers on handicap in early September.

Prior to that the Team was successful with a co-driver victory at the Alphera Dutton Rally Queensland, and several other class wins through iconic motorsport events this year.

Team MINI scored a notable Mountain sprinting debut earlier this year at the inaugural Lake Mountain Sprint in May, the second outing for the fledgling team which debuted with a Teams’ victory at Targa Tasmania.

The tear-away trio of MINI Cooper S cars equipped with John Cooper Works Tuning Kits are sure to be hot favourites for a rip-roaring result at Mount Buller, and event that has grown in stature with every passing year of its short history.

The Team MINI challengers will be led by the CarPoint backed entry piloted by editorial director Mike (Abom) Sinclair, partnered once again by NGK Rally of Melbourne organiser and ARC co-driver Justin (Bourke St) Hunt.

Keeping an eye on the mountain weather will be V8 Supercar driver Grant Denyer, with Australian National Rally Champion navigator Dale Moscatt at his side, while the third entry will be driven by rally specialists Spencer Lowndes and Chris Randell, who were last paired up in a MINI at Targa Tasmania earlier this year.

For the fourth running of the Mount Buller Sprint, the date has changed to 4-6 November from its traditional Australia Day weekend date. The event will see a capacity of exotic six-figure supercars take on the zesty supercharged MINI Cooper S cars over a closed road special stage.

The against-the-clock three-day event involves eight runs up the 16 km long winding Mount Buller Tourist Road. Seeding will take place over a truncated Super Special Prologue Stage finishing in the heart of the Mount Buller Alpine village.

The Mount Buller Sprint is a fully CAMS-sanctioned event for driver and co-driver (navigator). Competitors must have a high-level competition licence and wear fireproof race suits and helmets. Vehicles must meet stringent safety guidelines, including rollcage, fire extinguisher and safety harnesses.

“We are really looking forward to having a red hot go up the Mount Buller Tourist Road,” said Mike Sinclair.

“The MINI has been a success through the year in all the iconic events it has tackled, from Targa to Alphera Dutton rallies and at Lake Mountain. We’re going to continue the MINI reputation for humbling far more potent cars.

“The supercharged 1.6-litre engine has a fat and flat torque curve, ideal for blasting up the winding route,” he said.

Justin Hocevar, National Manager, MINI said: “The Mount Buller Sprint is the ideal place for the Team MINI cars to finish this inaugural season of motorsport. It’s a challenging and entertaining sprint up a fine road, and the MINIs will love it.

“Team MINI has proven that the out-of-the-box race car can be competitive at the very highest levels in Australia. The fact that every driver pairing this year has scored well and had an immense amount of fun competing is a double bonus for us.”

As for Team MINIs plans for 2007, Justin said: “We’re just finalising our plans now, but after such a successful year, we’re aiming to be back bigger and better in 2007.

Source: MINI Australia Press