Auckland's Milan Klinac claimed a race win on debut of his John Cooper Works MINI at the Castrol BMW Race Driver Series title deciding round held at Hampton Downs in the weekend.
The sixth round for the three-category series was a focus on title placings for most when Klinac arrived with the MINI. Purchased three weeks prior it was part of the national touring series of cars - formerly campaigned by Auckland's Courtney Letica.
"I sold my BMW E46 and purchased the MINI a week later," explained Klinac. "It hadn't done much since Courtney last raced it - although that was a surprise I didn't find out about until I went through its paperwork.
"What appealed to me was that it was one of the factory built cars - rather than something whipped up down the road in someone's garage - it's a more genuine package."
With three races across the daylight saving change-over weekend, it was the Sunday morning reverse grid handicap race that Klinac found the true value of the car.
"I started 30 seconds behind the first car, starting alongside Nigel Patterson - a guy I'd raced with since the beginning of the series. I expected him to get away from me easily especially after making a bad start that including missing a gear. Then by turn four I got to grips with the car in the wet, and racing on wet tyres. From there on in the car just gripped and didn't let go. Every lap I was looking in the mirror for high-beam headlights of the faster cars that started further behind. Then I caught up to three faster cars that I thought had spun and were getting back on track to continue racing - because I wasn't expecting to see them. It turned out I'd lapped them - and then it was the chequered flag.
"The car that finished second was a further 18 seconds behind me.
"This car in the rain was just exceptional - plus I've always preferred the rain - I just seem to do well."
Transitioning from a rear-wheel-drive six cylinder BMW to the front-wheel-drive supercharged MINI Klinac says his focus is now contesting the one-hour race in early May.
"Then next season, pending sponsorship, I'll get some slick racing tyres.
"Perhaps by then others will join in with other garaged MINI race cars and join the series - particularly if they win races!" Klinac quipped.
Introduced to New Zealand in 2006 the late-model variant of the popular car has been integrated in to the series BMW Open A (modified) category.
The previously raced cars are powered by a John Cooper Works tuned supercharged 1600cc engine, producing 210bhp.
"BMW Group New Zealand is hugely excited at having the modern MINI re-enter competitive racing inside the Castrol backed race series," said BMW Group Corporate Communications Manager Ed Finn.
"They are a very popular car and strengthen brand value through the spirit of competition.
There is no better home for a race car than among its parent brand cousins. The Castrol BMW Race Driver Series is exactly that, its competition will suit MINI owners - encouraging further participation.
"We are thrilled to see an idea that was mooted be embraced by the series organisers and given an opportunity to become reality."
With title competition across the three Open, 2L and E30 categories wrapping up at the Hampton Downs weekend, winners will be confirmed following technical scrutiny.
The Open category has a non-championship race mid-April at Pukekohe with the one-hour endurance race being held at Hampton Downs 8 May 2016.