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