One of the most successful and popular cars and teams to compete in Targa Newfoundland, from one of the event’s most dedicated supporters, will return for 2010 with some unfinished business at the top of the agenda.

The brilliant red MINI John Cooper Works Challenge car that debuted in the 2009 event, helmed by driver Jim Kenzie and co-driver Brian Bourbonniere, will return for Targa 2010, the team announced.

The MINI Challenge car is a purpose-built competition car, created by the company as the basis of a one-marque road race series in places like the U.K., Australia and continental Europe. Race suspension, improved brakes, an on-board air-jack system and dazzling aerodynamic kit including front splitter, rear diffuser, and high-downforce adjustable rear wing make the little red rocket a serious contender.

Kenzie, Bourbonniere and the MINI Challenge car nicknamed Frankly Scarlet spent much of the 2009 event coming to terms with adapting a car built for road racing to the rigors of rally competition, finally finishing second in the competitive Open Division. But with a year of experience with the new car, the team has recalibrated its expectations.

“The car looks fantastic and goes like stink,” said Kenzie. “Last year was the MINI Challenge’s first attempt anywhere at rallying, and we learned a few things about the car.”

Added Bourbonniere, “The suspension couldn’t have been stiffer if we’d given it a Viagra the size of a hockey puck. That’s great for road racing, but for rallying, especially in the wet that’s always a threat at Targa, you want a bit more compliance, and that’s what we’ve gone for.”

Like many competitors, Kenzie and Bourbonniere struggled in the heavy rain of the last day of the 2009 event. Planned revisions to the car’s suspension should help eliminate those concerns this year. Last year’s tires were also not ideally suited for the wetter-than-usual weather. The team has switched to Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 ultra high performance tires for 2010. Hugo Boss has also joined the team in a sponsorship role.

“MINI Canada has been at every Targa Newfoundland since 2003,” says Targa organizer Robert Giannou. “The MINI is a fan favourite, and has surprised a lot of competitors with some great results. Jim and Brian are terrific ambassadors for the car and for Targa. It’s like a family reunion whenever they come back.”

The team also has a pretty good track record at Targa, with two wins, a second and a third on their scorecard in the Open Division.

MINI Canada is the first manufacturer to announce an entry in 2010. More announcements are expected in the days leading up to the event.

Owned and operated by Newfoundland International Motorsports Limited, Targa Newfoundland is one of three internationally recognized Targa motorsports events in the world. The 9th annual Targa Newfoundland will start in St. John’s on Saturday, September 11, 2010, and end back in the capital Saturday, September 18. The competition will cover more than 2,000 kilometres of the challenging, twisty roads of the central and eastern portion of Newfoundland, including up to 450 kilometres of closed-road, flat-out Targa stages.

Competitors have come from the U.S., Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Holland, Germany, the Bahamas, Turks & Caicos and the U.K. for the first editions of Targa Newfoundland and international interest continues to build with competitors registering daily.

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