Driv­ing Quest

Australian Muscle Car - - Driving Quest -

Ev­ery time I make a pil­grim­age to Mount Panorama for a ma­jor race I get into the spirit of the oc­ca­sion by driv­ing from Syd­ney to Bathurst and home again in some­thing rel­e­vant to the big race. With this year’s 50th an­niver­sary of the Cooper S’s vic­tory, there was re­ally only one choice: a mod­ern ver­sion of the mighty Mini. A fast one!

MINI Aus­tralia put me in the newly launched Con­vert­ible John Cooper Works model for a week of, quite lit­er­ally, fly­ing the flag – at least while I had the roof up. The sil­ver and black JCW cer­tainly turned heads with its taste­ful Union Jack-pat­terned top.

The JCW drop-top sits above the Cooper and Cooper S Con­vert­ibles in the range and MINI Aus­tralia hope it en­joys the same suc­cess as the hatch model, with al­most a quar­ter of all three­doors sold be­ing JCW vari­ants.

The new hot-rod Con­vert­ible is pow­ered by a 2.0-litre four-cylin­der tur­bocharged en­gine good for 170kW of power and 320Nm of torque. It’s paired to a six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion that drives the front wheels. The ask­ing price is $54,900 (plus on-road costs) and a six-speed man­ual is avail­able. The new JCW Con­vert­ible has an up­graded chas­sis with two-mode ad­justable dampers and larger Brembo brakes.

In short, it’s a pocket rocket with plenty of per­for­mance and sharp han­dling that’s not ob­vi­ously com­pro­mised by be­ing a cabrio. There’s great pulling power from down low in the rev range and plenty of punch be­yond. The sports ex­hausts bark un­der ac­cel­er­a­tion and crackle and pop off the throt­tle.

There are faster cars in its mar­ket seg­ment, but none more fun, which is what a week­end at Bathurst is all about. I proudly showed off the JCW to mem­bers of the big Mini con­tin­gent on hand for the golden an­niver­sary and, not sur­pris­ingly, the Union Jack was in­vari­ably the first talk­ing point.

A run in the Mini pa­rade on Satur­day would have been a buzz, but for three rea­sons. Firstly, I would have de­prived a more wor­thy soul of tak­ing their pride and joy around the fa­mous track. Se­condly, had I ven­tured on track top-down I hate to think what might have lobbed on my lap thanks to the blokes on the hill. Fi­nally, this un­de­serv­ing soul wasn’t in­vited!

In any case, I had the unique plea­sure of ac­com­pa­ny­ing AMC helper Ja­son Chap­lin for a lap of the track in his red rocket. Yes, I’m the geek in the pas­sen­ger seat tak­ing pho­tos. Ja­son had made the trek from Al­bury with his car and were chuffed to tick it off their bucket list.

The pas­sion for the Mini mar­que all these years on re­mains as strong as ever. Like­wise, the im­por­tance of Bob Holden and Rauno Aal­to­nen’s feat on Oc­to­ber 2, 1966 to trag­ics like Ja­son and Fred Bur­ley (owner of our fea­ture Cooper S) can’t be un­der­stated. What’s more, the Cooper S’s pres­ence at Bathurst this year is a re­minder that the Great Race wasn’t al­ways about Holden and Ford V8s. And nei­ther will it be in the fu­ture.

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