As we reported last winter, MINI has decided to create two distinct JCW models for the R56. The first (which is being released later this month and is available at dealers) is down on power but way up on torque over the previous car. In fact it’s been called the fastest MINI ever by none other than Mike Cooper himself.

However it won’t be the fastest for long. Wedged in between the introduction of the R55 Clubman in the fall of 2007 and the R57 Convertible in the spring of 2009 will be the a new factory JCW MINI that will not only out pace the previous JCW kit and JCW GP but the new R56 dealer install kit as well.

We first reported on the “Stage II” kit (as we’re calling it) last winter with some sketchy details on general performance targets. At the time sources we’re telling us that the factory kit would not only be the fastest MINI ever but would also include some unique standard features; upgraded brakes and electronic LSD for a more well-rounded performance package than that of the previous factory JCW car.

However what we did not know was the time-frame for the car. Our sources are now telling us that the new car will be available from the factory for the start of the 2009 model year. That means production should start in the summer of 2008.

There is one specific way the R56 factory JCW car will differ from the dealer installed kit (other than power output). Because of the need for LSD, this version (like the previous R53 factory JCW car) will only be available with a manual transmission.

Prices are still a moving target at this point as there’s some internal debate as to the positioning of the car. However several sources having been telling us for quite some time that pricing should be at or below the previous factory R53 JCW car despite the addition of the body-kit and suspension upgrades.