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Behind the Curtain: Exclusive Details on the New GP

The debut of the MINI GP at MINI United 2012 was what one would call a “soft-launch”. There were no details (other than that 8:23 ‘Ring time) and no peak inside. Likewise there was no mention of the engine or details on the suspension, braking or those new tires. And while some of those secrets will be saved for the Paris launch, we managed to unearth a bit more about the car than the press release gave us via sources familiar with the development of the new GP. These exclusive details give us a better look at the car and technology behind it. However please keep in mind that some of what you read below isn’t completely confirmed and/or minor changes for production may happen.

The Engine (Power)

Rumors of the GP having over 225 will not be true this time around. When you look at the ‘Ring time of 8:23 and then factor in the addition of the uprated tires, suspension and brakes (all things that would have helped dramatically lower the previous GP’s time) we believe that the final output should be around 220 bhp or 218 hp. We hope we’re wrong but given what we’ve heard, the story of this GP is more about the chassis and aero rather than the engine. That means the suspension, brakes, tires and aero tweaks will likely be the key factors in making this GP special.

Brakes

When the sheet came off the GP at Paul Recard one of the first things we noticed about the car were the six-pot shiny red calipers and how familiar they looked. It took a few minutes but then it hit us. Something else small in the BMW world had six-pot brakes; the BMW 135i. A quick comparison of the two and we had our answer. The GP’s brakes are indeed almost identical (if not the same) as the 135i’s brembo set-up.

Tires

Like the brakes on the GP, the tires were a bit of a surprise as well. Forget the fact that they’re 17 inches (we’ll get to that in a second). What really interested us was what we saw printed on the sidewall. Or perhaps more tellingly, what was not printed. Since the early 2000s almost all BMWs and MINI’s have come shod with run flat tires as mandated by the BMW Group. The thinking was that run flats provide the security that spare tire would give. However there was always one exception. BMW M from day one refused to use run flats claiming that they ruined the ride and made for less than ideal handling dynamics.

Now it would seem that the JCW GP is following along that same path. The first give-way were the fact that they were Kumhos – a company that has yet to produce tires with run flat technology. The second is that all run flats are mandated to have the RFT logo on the side of the tire to alert repair shops of special tools required to replace them. Finally there was an obvious non-denial when we put the question to someone from MINI.

There’s still a chance that MINI may have not had the final tires on the car. But given what we saw and heard from MINI, this GP signals a change in tire strategy at the top of the MINI performance ladder.

Another note of interest is the width. Since 2001 MINI’s 17″ and 18″ tires have been 205mm in width. 215s have always fit but MINI was more concerned with slightly more drag and potentially decreased efficiency. Clearly with the new GP they were not because it comes with 215/17/40 Kumhos from the factory.

Finally why 17s rather 18s? According to MINI, the revised and adjustable JCW suspension is so aggressive that the 18s were deemed too rough.

Aero

You don’t typically see wings or spoilers get smaller on new cars. But the new GP’s spoiler is noticeably lower than the previous cars when seen side by side. As much as some might applaud the change in the name of subtly, it was purely a functional change according to MINI. Unlike the first GP, MINI now has access to BMW’s new industry leading wind-tunnel at its Environmental Testing Center in Munich. That gave the team developing the GP more opportunity to carefully hone the aero both on the bottom and the top of the car.

For the wing that meant something closer to the body to better reduce lift and create stability. Below the car that meant a myriad of small change under the front of the car (with a couple of modified components coming via the Cooper SD) and a full underside tray leading to the dramatic diffuser.

A Different GP

Even though the styling of the new GP is very reminiscent of the old, MINI’s making a clear change in direction with this GP. This is a car that was engineered from the ground-up to be exceptional on the track as well as the street. The first GP was created quickly with a number of accessory parts. The new GP seems as it’s cut from a noticeably different cloth. Designed, engineered and then tested over two years, the new JCW GP is a car much closer to an M product than any MINI before it.

In talking with the GP’s head of development, Jorg Weidinger, it became clear that he wasn’t just a product manager for MINI but a racer with more than 15 years experience at the professional level. A quick online search and you’ll find Mr. Weidinger’s personal racing site with his full history dating back to 1994.

Why is this a big deal? The GP’s development wasn’t led by a marketer, but by a racer with years of experience at the ‘Ring and throughout Europe’s best tracks. This is why the GP has 17″ wheels, non-runflat tires. Likewise, it’s why the standard JCW suspension was deemed unworthy for the GP.

Even if final power figures disappoint some, we expect this GP to easily be the fastest and more track focused MINI to date. And we can thank Mr. Weidinger and his team for bringing new thinking reminiscent of BMW M to the JCW GP brand.

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Written By: Gabe

  • David

    Good article, the rear underside aero device is a diffuser.

  • JonPD

    Lots to be excited about with the car. To me the current JCW is about 30% ///M, the R53 GP about 50%. Think this falls closer to about 75% of being ///M in a traditional sense, maybe 85% compared to the 1M. I love seeing MINI take the performance seriously again. I think the motor still needs some serious help to cleanly separate itself from JCW, I don’t think a couple extra hp will do much to create this separation, I believe the biggest reason BMW/MINI is so cautious here is to not produce something that is quicker than their portly and much more expensive cousins.

    Still would like to find who at MINI determines that stickers are performance items. To me its fine if you want to put on side stripes and roof strips (though I am not a fan of either of these on this car) but if so have the courage to paint it. Who honestly expects in 20 years the various bits of graphics on this car or the R53 to be still attached to the car? To me this is seriously cheap feeling, stripes and graphics are fine on the standard cars being handled like this but even ask Todd how he expects the GP roof numbers to look in 10-15 years.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=523665212 Todd Pearson

    A lot has been said, mostly critical, of the graphics on the new GP. It’s pretty clear what the designers’ intent is in regards to the graphics. The GP needs to “look” different and, in this case, with the special color, wheels and wing (the aero kit is basically the same JCW aero kit currently available with an additional rear diffuser), the only thing left to do is to add some sort of signifying graphics. Like them or not, they visually differentiate the car as a GP. Granted, there are other “visual” differences like the enormous brakes and semi-slick tires, but no one will mistake a GP, either generation, as anything other than special. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/gbmini Ian Cull

      My concern would be the longevity of the graphics, especially on the sides, where stone chips etc might be an issue

      • JonPD

         Exactly my point, not bashing graphics but just have to say that vinyl is a temporary product only. While its great that it can be pulled and replaced the idea of having to source proper replacements in 10 years will be fun. I know most decent quality sign shops can reproduce a very similar product the fact to me is that once the origonal graphics are dead unless they are replaced with factory graphics the car is no longer 100 original. Having said this want to make sure to say I know I can get much better vinyl aftermarket than what MINI uses. The MINI stickers just feel like a very temp item on what is likely to become a classic car. I feel that the side and roof graphics are wholesomely over wrought, and visually cheapens what they have actually done for the car.

        • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

          I tend to agree with you – especially on the roof graphics. That said I’d have a hard time pulling them off the car because of its “special-ness”. I wouldn’t have the same hard time pulling the wheels off though. Despite the fact that the 17s are the better choice I’d throw the new JCW R133 18″ wheels on in a heart beat.

        • JonPD

           Agreed on all points Gabe.

  • Hoq1

    I was actually (plesantly) surprised they used 17’s on their halo car… Potentially ditching the run flats is another sign of ‘form-follows-function’ philosophy. Kudos MINI!… Now I’m curious to see what is actually lurking under the hood and the actual suspension itself..

  • Bahawton

    I guess they’re not setting the bar as high as I had hoped…

    Still quite a bit slower than Renault’s new Megane RS Trophy:

    http://jalopnik.com/5813304/ride-along-on-the-fastest-fwd-lap-the-nurburgring-has-ever-seen

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      We talked a lot about that car off the record this past weekend. It’s a very different animal with a highly turbo-charged version of the same 1.6L engine in a longer and wider chassis. I wouldn’t be jealous of the time though. I’d be jealous of the engine.

      • R Burns

        it is a 2.0L engine

    • JonPD

       Renault has produced a great car that I would pick up in a instant if it were offered here.

  • Dr Obnxs

    Maybe all those who put really large wheels (18″+) and wide, low profile tires and then lower the car for the proper “gap” look, who then complain that the car handles like crap and skips in turns will acutally learn something from this!

    No, it’s not the fastest at the Ring, nor is it the fastest FWD car, but it’s quite an improvement over what came before. And that’s a good thing….

    As far as graphics, I understand the need to make the car look special, and I’ll just leave it at that… As far as getting replacements in the future, if there is a need, they will be there. You can get the “sticker sets” for some really old cars that you can’t tell from factory. All it takes is demand and money!

  • MINIAC

    Re: “Kumho – a company that has yet to produce tires with run flat technology.”

    Actually they do … the Kumho Ecsta SPT XRP available in 195/55-16 and 205/45-17.

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      I stand corrected. 

      • Brian

        Looks like MINI has changed the size of the 17 in. rim – tire combo. Stock used to be 205 / 45/ 17  now its 215/ 40 /17. Ever since I dumped my runflats I’ve always used 215 / 45 /17. They’re a little taller on the sidewall but man what a difference in bump absorption.

  • Eddie

    Just chiming in – the side stripes and the entire look is great. Come on guys, this is a MINI. Stick-on! The side stripes are very unique, love it. I think it is a bit of a loss not having the numbers…

  • PD

    From my visit i was dissapointed with the overall looks, might as well just give us a challenge car to buy. Aero underside look good under the engine, rear diffusers look too soft though personally, had a look and took photos of the suspension and from what i could see they may be adjustable ? How much better this will be over a modified MCS or FJCW onlt time will tell but like most limited edition these will sell and hold there value for a lttle longer than the FJCW.

  • JonPD

    R53 GP very good, R56 GP better (minus the stickers), have huge hope that MINI will let the R58 GP become a true monster in the brand the same way that ///M is in BMW. Still guessing we will never see a very powerful GP though as I can say with confidence that a R53 GP has been known to spank more than a few ///M products around a track :)

    • ulrichd

      Unless they add AWD I am not sure how much of a monster they could build and still have it be driveable. Once you get past a certain price point I think FWD should be off the spec sheet.

      • JonPD

        Think Ford has eloquently shown with the Focus 500 that a 250hp MINI would be a completely viable car. Add to this a large number of cars that have been taken there aftermarket. I just don’t think 4-6 hp gain really does little to separate the car though I know this is only part of the total package, leaving it out still is not a great thing. Will wait to see what the final numbers are though.

  • Brian

    does anyone know what colour that GP is? 

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      Thunder Grey.

      • walk0080

        Cool colour. Reminds me of military planes. Especially since the MINIs have the black roof pillars… and with a black roof you really get that ‘cockpit’ kind of look of a fighter jet.

      • Brian

        Thanks!

  • Mike74jcw

    Will the new GP have the individual car number on the roof like GP1 or no?

    • http://BimmerFile.com Gabriel Bridger

      I’ve heard a firm no and a “we’ll see”. Reportedly the no is because that there are key markets that believe certain numbers are bad luck. So making those numbers quite obvious could be particularly bad for sales of certain cars.

      All that said MINI did promise us that there would be a individual number somewhere on the new GP.

    • MINIBro07

      I can answer that one for you. The answer is no. I had asked the MINI USA Product Specialist how we would know what # our Goodwood is and he said MINI no longer individually numbers cars any longer due to issues that happened when they decided to build more WC50’s. Every Goodwood has a placard in the storage area underneath the window controls in the center stack that says “1 of 1000.” I think that is a real bummer.

  • goat

    I didn’t think I would like the second GP more than the first but I have to say there is a lot to drink in with this car. The aero work under the car based on a proper working diffuser as seen in the photos is very exciting. The news of ditching the horrid RF tires and not succumbing to market fashion of cramming the largest wheel size possible on the car is also more proof of how much more performance-oriented JCW is becoming as a brand. Maybe not quite the MINI analog to “M” yet, but getting closer. Very nice.

  • Lemelou

    Make one with back seats and take my money dammit!

    Cant do without them…. I mean they HAVE to come up with a fix like that if they’re to take GP mainstream. Even the sportier ///M have them!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

      The BMW M Coupe didn’t have a backseat and it is one of the more fun M products BMW has produced. It just has the “bonus” of extra storage space.  Think of it as practical…

  • chad

    Paris launch. I take that to mean Paris Auto Show in late September.

    No other information for more than 4 monhts? Is that right?

  • http://twitter.com/Purie Purie

    Good point on the quicker lap time because of the tires and suspension and not from a 225hp+ increase in power.  This should also help keep that price from getting to close to the $40k mark, since a completely different engine would cost much more then the others.  I would bet that those tires alone account for a lot of the quicker lap time.  Also the 17″ wheels would help some since they would be lighter then 18″ and that would help with stopping and acceleration.  

    I can’t wait to see some of the numbers from the aero treatment.  I’ll jump all over it if I can retro fit it.My biggest concern (if I’d even call it a concern at all :P)  is why the 6 pot brakes.  That is a lot of unsprung weight.  I know they’ll dissipate heat better but on the street that really doesn’t matter and on the track you could just run better rotors, fluid, and pads.  But I guess if you have the BMW parts bin at your disposal then grab them, but why not grab the M cars brakes (if they’d fit in a 17″ wheel)?

    That being said, I’d jump all over this thing if it were in my budget.  I did trade a ’10 Evo X for a R56 S and couldn’t of been happier.

    Cheers

    • walk0080

       I also wonder why they went with different brakes over the JCW Brembos other than “just because”. This car doesn’t weigh much and like you say, different pads/fluids/etc. are all you really need.

    • chad

      yeah, when you can grab the 6 pot brakes that already have the R&D recouped on another car, why not grab them. same goes for some of the other parts, particularly the wing, diffuser and aero work- R&D had already been paid by the challenge car. 

      i think this is a big point, that future owners are getting a lot for the money. the pricing on this car does not have the bear the burden of much of the R&D and engineering costs for several of the uprated parts. of course, there is tuning to make it work on the GP, but the huge costs to develop the parts were recouped on other projects. 

  • Kurtster

    I thought the “special” parts of the R53 version were too understated so I’m digging the new look. I think in person it will look much better than it does online. I’ve never been happier to be first in line for something than I am now. For 8 years I wished I’d purchased a JCW instead of an S. Now my wish will be fulfilled and then some.

  • Karl

    Any chance that they’ll sell the rear diffuser and wing separately so us JCW drivers can add a little zing to our cars?

    • b-

      No.  Sure, you COULD get them by using another car’s VIN and have a parts person on the inside but they won’t just sell it to anybody off the street.  People ended up with rear interior sections on regular R53 cars a few years after the R53 GP came out.  Also keep in mind that these parts will be $$$.

      • Dr Obnxs

        Same thing with the GP IC. I have one, there have been people who sourced them in volume and resold them. (That’s how I got mine.) And then there is getting a VIN off eBay and just ordering with that. If there is a will, there will be a way….

  • Stew

    Does the engine still coke up on this MINI????????

  • http://www.facebook.com/jasonrwilliams Jason Williams

    I think just about all of the MotoringFile team hates the new GP wheels.  I personally don’t mind them but I wonder if they have anything to do with issues of clearance with the new six-pot from-a-135 front calipers.  If the spokes had to be made thinner to accommodate the larger brakes, perhaps the center section of the spokes needs to be solid for rigidity.  It would be interesting to see what offset wheels are required with those calipers.

    • http://www.nathanielsalzman.com/ Nathaniel Salzman

      I like them, but apparently I’m the only one between MF and WRR who does. I’m fine with that. There’s no pleasing everybody ;-)

  • Ike

    I really liked the matte black engine scoop color… The shiny one isn’t bad, but not nearly as cool


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