The new JCW Sport car that will appear in the Vertu MINI CHALLENGE in 2024 has completed a successful first test following a trouble-free day of running at Snetterton.

Tom Ovenden and Nicky Taylor – the top two drivers from this Cooper class this season – were given the honour of sharing the car at the Norfolk circuit as the first JCW Sport machine underwent its initial shakedown session before focus turned towards ongoing development work to refine the package.

EXCELR8 took on responsibility for running the car on the day, with senior members from Graves Motorsport also in attendance to observe proceedings as the teams evaluate their options ahead of the 2024 campaign.

Taylor – who raced with Graves this season – would complete the first laps in the car in damp conditions, and early impressions from the youngster were positive as his running continued across the day.

“I have to say the car amazed me,” he admitted. “The power and acceleration were amazing and that was on the lowest power setting when we first went out. In my second session, we added more power and I started to feel comfortable with the car.

“In my last session we added a bit more and whilst we still weren’t at full power, the car just came alive. I was able to adjust the brakes to suit the corners and could feel the limit – going from the Cooper with ABS to a more powerful car with no ABS. I was braking where I would in the Cooper but was going 30mph quicker, which was just insane!

“Even on a slippery surface, I was able to gap a TCR machine that was behind me on track late in the day which shows the potential of the JCW Sport car, and I really hope I can get the partners together to race one with the Graves team in 2024. I’m confident I’d be right at the front.”

EXCELR8’s Cooper champion Ovenden was also enthusiastic about the car having also completed a number of successful runs over the course of the day.

“The JCW Sport car was very enjoyable to drive straightaway,” he said. “Obviously it has a bit more power than I’ve been used to with the Cooper which was a nice thing to have, and the handling was really good. It was the first experience I’ve had of a car with a proper diff and it made the handling so much better.

“Because of the H-pattern gearbox, I think that perfecting heel and toe is something that will be advantageous – particularly in wet or slippery conditions – but it was a really fun car to drive and is going to be a fantastic addition to the MINI CHALLENGE in 2024.”

The new JCW Sport class will run alongside the main JCW category at seven rounds of the British Touring Car Championship in 2024, and has been introduced to act as an extra step between the existing Cooper and JCW machines.

JCW Sport cars are based on the F56 variant of the MINI Hatch and although visually similar to JCW machines, feature several revisions under the skin designed to reduce costs.

JCW Sport cars run with slightly lower levels of power from a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, which is expected to deliver around 225bhp compared to a target of 255bhp for the JCW class, and feature OE H-pattern six-speed gearboxes as opposed to the bespoke sequential unit provided by Quaife in the JCW class.

“It was great to get the JCW Sport car out on track for the first time, and even more encouraging to complete a full day of running without experiencing any issues,” MINI CHALLENGE Parts & Operations manager James Gilbee said.

“The positive, and similarly consistent, feedback we received from both drivers throughout the day will be hugely valuable as we work towards determining the final configuration of the car ready for its introduction to the grid in 2024.”