MF Exclusive: MotoringFile has learned that MINI plans to debut the 2008 MINI Challenge race car later this fall as a factory spec racer. That means the Challenge car won’t just be available to select racing teams as previously but sold to anyone with a thick checkbook in hand. This is great news to would-be MINI racers from around the world looking for the ultimate turn-key MINI. It’s also great news for those looking at hints for the next JCW MINI. But more on that later.

This news had been rumored since the fall of 2006 when none other than Phil Wicks dropped on the bomb on a Whiteroodradio episode. However before this past weekend there was no officially confirmation on the plan. And we still won’t have many details until the fall of this year. However the one thing we do know is that this new turn-key racer won’t be cheap. For instance, if the car is sold in the US we’d expect pricing in the ballpark of $45,000. And due to the nature of the car, it may be forced to compete against some pretty stiff competition in unlimited categories on many race tracks. Thus the idea of a MINI Challenge series in each country where the car is sold would seemingly be one of the keys to it’s success.

The new Challenge car will look the business too. Expect the car to feature a revised R56 JCW aero-kit (with working brake-ducts rather than foglights) and a GP-like rear wing. Inside the car will feature a full-rollcage and all the usual weight saving deletions found in the current MINI Challenge car.

But it gets better. MotoringFile has also learned that this new Challenge MINI race car will give a sneak peak at the upcoming JCW factory car due out most likely as a 2009 model. During our recent interview with Dr. Kay Segler, he dropped a sizable hint that the heart of the new racer car will also be the heart of a future JCW product. Specifically we can expect engine modifications to mirror what will be available from the factory JCW car aka the “Stage II” that has been rumored on MotoringFile since 2006.

Also in the interview Dr. Segler mentioned that the JCW GP will be the highest horsepower road legal MINI (not necessarily the fastest) for some time to come.

From these two statements we can infer a couple things. First off, yes MINI is indeed working on a “stage II” JCW vehicle for launch later in the R56 product cycle. Something faster than the current dealer installed kit and something with more power than the JCW GP. Secondly we can estimate that the car will feature a version of the same power-plant found in the new Challenge car.

Look for the MINI Challenge race car to debut this fall along with a host of technical details and hints as to what is to come for the road. And be sure to check out our this recent interview with Dr. Kay Segler to hear some of this news first hand.