MINI is moving forward with plans to join the growing list of manufacturers building cars for TCR competition, partnering with IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge entrant LAP Motorsports to develop the car ahead of a planned 2018 debut.
LAP has a strong history of success with MINI in the Continental Tire Challenge under the MINI JCW Team moniker since entering the series in 2014.
With the support of MINI USA, the Brownsburg, Ind.-based team began the process of designing a TCR car in January and has already developed the brake system and gearbox, the latter of which will be provided by Xtrac.
According to team principal Luis Perocarpi, the lingering question that needs answering before the project can move to the next step is deciding which model MINI would like to see representing its brand on track.
“We obviously had an interest in TCR because we were looking at the future for MINI and us,” Perocarpi told Sportscar365. “We literally started the TCR project in January of this year.
“We didn’t know much at the time because there wasn’t a partnership between IMSA and TCR until the last couple of months, so we weren’t getting a lot of answers, but we started the project anyway.
“We’ve submitted all of our paperwork to TCR, we have all of the approvals from MINI USA.”
Perocarpi said they’ve yet to finalize whether the car will be based on MINI’s Hardtop 4-Door or the Clubman.
“We started the project thinking we’d run the hard-top four-door, but that’s a bit of a challenge because the car is shorter than what the regs require, although we do understand that there are several cars in TCR that haven’t met that requirement.
“MINI still has other cars like the Clubman that fits right into the regs… At the end of the day, what does MINI want to do?
“[TCR cars] are built to regs so every car will be competitive so we’re not worried about which car we build.”
The arrangement figures to be a boon for the LAP outfit, which would find itself slotted in as the exclusive constructor of all MINI TCR race cars internationally.
“The way TCR regs work, there’s one car builder per brand,” Perocarpi said. “That car builder has to have manufacturer support. Anyone who wants to buy a MINI, they would end up having to buy it from us.
“If you want to buy a Honda, you have to buy it from JAS in Europe. Even HPD has to do that. If you want an Audi, you have to go to Audi Sport. That’s how it goes.”
Perocarpi said that while the project is backed by MINI USA, he expects international teams to take interest in the platform given the success of manufacturers like Audi and Honda have had finding customers for their TCR offerings.
He added that the TCR program would not affect the team’s continued involvement in the ST class, noting continued demand from drivers and other team partners.
Given his deep personal roots with the brand, Perocarpi said pursuing the TCR project is a gratifying, sensible next step for his team.
“I’m a MINI owner from before the race team,” he said. “The first car I remember seeing was my dad’s classic MINI. I’m a car guy, but I’ve always had a little bit of an attraction to the MINIs in my normal life.
“When I started my team, it worked out that a brand that I liked wanted to go racing. We’ve done quite good things in ST, and it’s been a great relationship right now.
“We’ve been running really strong and we’ve been selling a lot of cars lately. We’re a racing group of guys and we have a great relationship with MINI.
“We’ll race whatever we can with MINI, whatever class is available. TCR has always been an interesting project. MINI USA is interested, so here we are potentially having a MINI in TCR.”