TOCA and The MINI Challenge
Posted by BRADLEY GRAVETT
The MINI Challenge championship, as of 2020, sits under the prestigious umbrella of the Touring Car Association, or better known as TOCA.
Formed in 1990 by Alan Gow TOCA Limited in 1991 purchased the rights to the British Touring Car Championship. Between 1991 and 2000, Gow preceded to grow the BTCC to one of the largest motorsport championships of its kind globally, attracting significant automotive manufacture financial investment, vast audiences and some of the world's greatest drivers.
After the successes of the championship, it started to attract international attention; Gow, in 2000, sold TOCA to a NASDAQ listed American company, which ran the business for three years until, in 2003, relinquished its ownership of TOCA and the BTCC, due to a rapid decline in manufacture funding and support.
TOCA is now owned by the BARC (British Automobile Racing Club) and is now known as BARC (TOCA) Ltd. When the BARC acquired TOCA, they again appointed Gow as the organisation's managing director after a three-year sabbatical away from the company.
Since 2003 Gow has once again built TOCA, the BTCC and its support series, known as the TOCA Package, back to its former glory, with UK TV viewing figures in excess of 19 million and yearly trackside attendances at around 400,000 people.
The TOCA Package; is the formal name for all five support championships for the BTCC; these championships are (as of 2022); the MINI Challenge, the FIA British F4, the Porsche Carrera Cup GB, the Ginetta G56 GT Supercup and the Ginetta Junior Championship.
Each of these five series benefits from all the prestigious exposure the BTCC boasts with its substantial TV audiences and trackside attendances. This exposure opens a plethora of options for commercial partners and sponsors of all sizes to advertise and market across the entire TOCA package allowing a more comprehensive array of choices when investing in the sport from a commercial viewpoint.
So the MINI Challenge specifically; making the switch from the British GT support package to the premier league of British motorsport, the TOCA support package in 2020, the MINI Challenge now comprehensively benefits from the TOCA and BTCC association from a commercial perspective.
The MINI Challenge itself is split into two, one make championships, the MINI Challenge Cooper Trophy Championship and the MINI Challenge JCW Championship. Widely regarded as the 'same thing', both championships and their cars are, in fact, very different.
The MINI Challenge Cooper Trophy Championship uses a naturally aspirated 1.6-litre MINI Cooper race car with around 130bhp. With a seven race weekend season, the MINI Challenge Cooper Trophy races at 3 of the 10 BTCC race weekends, with their other four rounds being club racing events. The Cooper Trophy is a brilliant stepping stone into the quicker and more prestigious JCW Championship as it allows drivers to dip their toe into professional motorsport.
Bradley raced in the Cooper Trophy class back in 2020 with Graves Motorsport. This was Bradley's first full season of professional car racing, and he's consistently praised the Cooper Trophy as a brilliant stepping stone into professional motorsport and, of course, the JCW championship.
The second of the two MINI challenge championships is the JCW Class; The JCW is the premier, top class of the MINI Challenge and, similar to the Cooper class, is a one-make championship boasting large grids and very close racing. The MINI Challenge JCW race car has a 2-litre turbocharged engine that's just shy of 300bhp. Compared to the Cooper class car, the chassis ancillaries of the JCW are entirely different; therefore, compared to a Cooper race car, it is a very different animal to drive.
The JCW championship boasts a seven race weekend season, with all seven weekends on the TOCA package. So, to summarise, the JCW championship races at 7 of the 10 BTCC race weekends, and the Coopers do the remaining 3 BTCC race weekends.