When we got an email from Jerry Bradbury, the team manager for the TWINI racing effort, we couldn’t quite believe what he was telling us. He and his team have put together an R53 race car to compete in the 25 hours of Thunderhill this coming December. While every MINI race car is something great, Team TWINI gets special credit for building a twin engine MINI. Not one, but two supercharged 1.6L JCW engines power this unique racing machine. For all of you who’ve always wanted an AWD, 400 hp MINI, this is one way to do it! Most entertaining of all, they got the idea from a twin engine Mini built back in the day by John Cooper himself.
Official Release from the TWINI Race Team: Bay Bridge Bimmers and Minis of Oakland, CA has developed and built a car specifically for the 11th running of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill endurance race hosted by the National Auto Sport Association in December of 2013 at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, CA. Drivers Jacques Andres and Steve Romack will be sharing the car for the race. The car’s first track test was today at Sonoma Raceway.
“It runs!” he said jubilantly and his grin was ear to ear. He is Jacques Andres, race car builder and driver, veteran of the 25 Hours of Thunderhill and owner of Bay Bridge Bimmers and Minis. This project car is the latest in a series of race cars he has developed under the aegis of Andres Motorsports, a professional formula car team born in the 90’s. It is his number 31 orange and blue MINI Cooper race car, also a veteran of the 25. The MINI has proven to be durable and dependable but previous outings at the 25 revealed that it was down on horsepower. During the last off season Andres set about doubling the MINI’s output by dropping another supercharged John Cooper Works R53 MINI engine into the rear of the car. The transverse mounted front engine and transmission transfer power to the front wheels as Sir Alec Issigonis designed the original Mini to do. The Andres addition, the engine and transmission in the rear, powers the rear wheels resulting in an all wheel drive car with twice the horsepower of the original. An elegant dual linkage unites the two transmissions at the shifter in a solid chunky gearbox. No longer steering like a wheelbarrow, the addition of power to the rear wheels alters the balance of the car. Andres reports that at speed it feels like a regular race car which makes it much more nimble in the corners and that the twin engines deliver the grunt needed at the corner exits and on the straightaway.
Andres calls his twin engine MINI Cooper the TWINI. This first test day was to determine whether all the parts worked together and delivered the expected bump in horsepower. After the initial three lap outing Andres returned to the pits aglow with excitement. The car had exceeded his expectations in handling and performance. Now, as with any race car, tweaking is what remains. The suspension requires further tuning. Tires need to be selected and tested. More downforce is needed so a new wing has to be built and tested. The car itself will need more running in to be certain it is ready for the grueling 25 hour race in December. Andres is confident that it will be ready and able to take the checkered flag in December. He hopes that this car will carry on the giant killer tradition that the tiny Mini Coopers established in the Monte Carlo Rally in the mid sixties, leading the pack to the finish line three times in four years to the amazement and chagrin of the racing powers of the day.
Body, paint and engine build by Bay Bridge Bimmers and Minis. Electrical wiring by Eric Roche. Overall design and execution by Jacques Andres. Photos by Jerry Bradbury and Norm Nelson.
Keep up with Team TWINI over on their Facebook page.