BRANDS HATCH COOPER PREVIEW - MINI CHALLENGE

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Racing rookie Michael Bamber is hoping to continue his charge towards the top three in the Cooper Class with a strong showing at Brands Hatch this weekend.

Bamber, 27, is currently fifth in the Cooper Class points ahead of his first experience of the MINI Festival at the iconic Kent venue.

Bamber is just a handful of races into his competition career, having only raced in club-level karting previously. However, having already been a podium visitor at Silverstone in what was just his fifth car race, Bamber is eyeing a climb up the points table as his experience grows.

“I’ve only driven at Brands Hatch once, and that was a half frozen test day two years ago, so I’ve got some learning to do,” he says. “But that’s how it’s been all season anyway.

“We don’t have the budget for loads of testing so I’ve been learning the tracks on my XBox One with a steering wheel. It’s very useful for learning where the circuits go and possible overtaking spots, but it can’t replicate that feeling of being in a car at speed or even the fear factor of doing it in real life.

“I’m aiming for the top three in the championship this year, and I believe I can fight for it. I’ve got a good car under me. We got it from [now JCW racer and multiple Cooper Class race winner] Mark Wakefield for this year, so it’s a proven piece of kit and I’m getting more confident with it every session we do.

“Brands will be tough as it’s a tight little track and with three classes all sharing a grid it will be three very busy races. Mistakes can cost you a lot, so it will be full concentration and a lot of checking the mirrors I think.

“So far Max Bladon [runaway points leader] has had everything his own way and surely that has to stop soon. I’ll be pushing my hardest to try and get that win this season, but if not some ore trips to the podium would be very welcome.”

Sharing the grid with the Cooper Class will be the faster Cooper S division. Scott Jeffs leads the points ahead of Steve Cocker and Tim Porter.

The grid will also feature the new Open 180 class, which allows racing BMW MINIs of almost any age to take part in the Challenge with limited modification.