Gimme the works

This full-on Mini is a track-day play­mate that’s noth­ing but fun

Herald Sun - Motoring - - First Drive - craig.duff@cars­guide.com.au

THE fastest Mini al­lowed on the road is all about cor­ners rather than flat-out speed.

The Mini John Cooper Works GP Edi­tion ham­mers to 100km/h in 6.3 sec­onds, which is im­pres­sive but not nearly as ap­petis­ing as this car’s ca­pac­ity on the twisty stuff.

A re­in­forced chas­sis, race­spec sus­pen­sion, mas­sive brakes and close-ra­tio sixspeed gear­box help­ing to keep the engine on boost make this a back-roads or track-day weapon. BMWhas se­cured 55 of the 2000-ve­hi­cle global pro­duc­tion run and there are still a hand­ful in deal­ers.

VALUE

The price is $56,900 with no op­tions boxes to tick. That buys a track-day car fit­ted with xenon head­lamps, fog lamps, air­con­di­tion­ing, sta­bil­ity con­trol and a Sport but­ton to sharpen the al­ready acute re­sponse. Com­pe­ti­tion comes from the Re­nault Megane RS265 Tro­phy Plus at $51,640, the $56,990 Mit­subishi Evo­lu­tion and Subaru’s $59,990 WRX, though they all at least pre­tend to take pas­sen­gers in the back. A mas­sive strut brace just in front of the rear wheel arches re­stricts the Mini to two-seater du­ties only.

TECH­NOL­OGY

This hatch is track ready, with ad­justable coil-over sus­pen­sion to vary the ride height by 20mm and a set of six-pot vented front brakes with more bite than a cor­nered snake.

The sta­bil­ity con­trol has a ‘‘ GP mode’’ to take ad­van­tage of the up­graded hard­ware by only brak­ing the in­side wheel in­stead of also cut­ting engine power. The 1.6-litre turbo engine is com­mon to the JCW fam­ily and uses an al­loy cylin­der block and bear­ing mounts, stronger cylin­der head, re­in­forced pis­tons, low-weight crankshafts and sodium-filled ex­haust valves.

Torque is rated at 260Nm with a 20Nm over­boost fea­ture. That’s enough to pro­pel the light­weight Mini around the Nur­bur­gring in eight min­utes and 23 sec­onds.

DE­SIGN

The be­winged Mini JCW GP edi­tion started life as a reg­u­lar hatch so there’s noth­ing wrong with its ba­sic pro­por­tions.

The de­sign­ers didn’t have much say on the in­side, with the rear seat ditched to make way for the brace. The chunky steer­ing well fits well with the ‘‘ go-kart with a roof’’ ethos, though.

The ex­te­rior en­hance­ments are all in the name of aero­dy­nam­ics (red high­lights ex­cepted). An apron spoiler and engine un­der­tray shield cut front axle lift and con­trib­ute to a 6 per cent drop in drag.

SAFETY

The rar­ity of the GP Edi­tion means it is un­likely to be of­fi­cially crash tested but the Mini Cooper base car is a fives­tar ve­hi­cle.There are head, side and cur­tain airbags along with anti-lock brakes linked to trac­tion and sta­bil­ity con­trol. An elec­tronic front diff lock is also part of the safety ar­moury.

DRIV­ING

This is the purist’s Mini, in the sense it tracks and han­dles with more au­thor­ity than any Mini be­fore it and is a point-and-go rocket with­out be­ing a hand­ful.

The big­gest gripe with the GP Edi­tion is the way it copes with back-road bumps, when the com­bi­na­tion of rut­ted bi­tu­men, taut sus­pen­sion and rapid ac­cel­er­a­tion can briefly leave it with­out pur­chase on the road. Even then it’s pre­dictable: the sus­pen­sion re­fuses to squirm to the point of un­set­tling the car on land­ing and the steer­ing re­sumes track­ing to match the de­gree of steer­ing lock.

Set­tle the nose down into the cor­ner and the GP Edi­tion fol­lows the white line like Road Run­ner. The more wind­ing the route, the bet­ter the GP does. Pas­sen­gers tend to hang on and loose items need to be se­cured. At least the Mini gives a mo­ment’s warn­ing as the turbo

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