The pocket rockets bringing low-cost stage rallying to the fore

Wednesday 04 May 2022

Grassroots stage rallying has enjoyed the emergence of a new phenomenon over the past twelve months, in the form of the MINI Rally Challenge.

The series, which is the brainchild of John Goff, a veteran of the rallying scene and a long-term champion of new talent into the sport through his former occupation as a rally school owner, utilises the 1.6-litre BMW MINI Cooper built between 2001 and ’04.

With the initial outlay of a road-faring model as cheap as £250, the modifications required to compete are minimal and largely focused on the suspension and differential, alongside the usual safety improvements to prepare the cars for competition. All in, a ‘rally-ready’ car generally totals around £7,000 and is fit for light gravel and tarmac events.

Goff’s ethos behind the category, founded on the eve of his planned re-location to Spain before the COVID-19 pandemic, is underpinned by his two passions: grassroots motorsport, and helping to widen participation.

To that end, the championship’s most recent event at Leconfield, Hull ticked all the boxes, with a 17-car entry that yielded competitors from postman to property developer, and in a superb step for diversity within the sport, also notably featured seven female competitors, including event winner Harriet Worth alongside Christian Brown.

One such competitor was 15-year-old Florence Butler, who has used the series for her first foray into rallying, and with ambitions to keep rising through the ranks in the years ahead.

“I got all my safety equipment at the Autosport Show in 2020, and then COVID delayed my entry to the sport,” recounts Butler.

“But I did my first rally at 14 in the Minis at a single-venue event in Wigan several months later, with the support of my local club, Whitchurch Motor Club, where I had done some scatter rallies, and from the event organisers, Warrington Motor Club.

“I’m still too young to compete in multi-venue events, but single-venue rallies are still a challenge, and we recently had the DST Leconfield Stages Rally where there were 17 Minis competing, and plenty of support from the other six women competing.

“I hope to get out in the Juniors as a driver at some point, and when I’m 17 my father has said we will have two Minis out – one driven by me, and the other by him. I’ll be faster!”

Those wishing to find out more about the championship can do so on the MINI Rally Challenge’s Facebook page, found here.