Just back from a whirlwind MTTS trip that went above and beyond all my expectations. We got to St. Louis a little too late for the baseball game but just in time for a little after hours MTTS party. Early this morning Todd and I headed out to the Arch. At this point the GP was starting to sink in as a real live car and I must say that it was getting better looking the more I saw it.

After our Arch photo opp was over I was handed the keys to a GP courtesy of MINI USA. I might add that this particular car was broken in by none other than Fireball Tim and Hubie (the men responsible for the fastest MINI in the world). So I got some quality time to the tune of about four hours with the GP. First impressions: better than wow. This car is a complete package like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s not the fastest MINI out there, just the most complete MINI I’ve ever drive. MINI and BMW did a great job inside and out with the small details. The look of the car really makes sense in the real world as compared to the 2D world as seen on this site or countless magazines. In other words, don’t make your mind on this car’s looks until you’ve seen it in the flesh.

Driving The GP

I started out the drive telling Hubie that I’d probably still prefer a normal four seat ’06 over the GP if I were ordering today. By the middle I had realized that the GP would have to be given serious thought in the ordering process. At the end of the trip there was no doubt in my mind that I would have to order a GP if I were getting one of the last 2006 MINIs. It’s that good.

The power throughout the range was just phenomenal. It’s basically a JCW+. It just has a little bit more of everything. Power down low, up high and every conceivable flat spot has been eliminated in the middle. And the car just wants to rev and rev all the way to redline. This is just a different beast altogether as compared to my pullied stock MCS. And with the JCW suspension the car not only is better handling and more composed at the limit, it’s also surprisingly comfortable – noticeably more so than my stock MCS with non-runflats.

With the JCW GP, MINI has succeeded in creating the ultimate factory R53 in every way.

I was very fortunate to get to know the car through all sorts of weather conditions and over almost every kind of road imaginable. And for that I must give a huge thanks to MINI USA, Fireball Tim and Hubie for bending schedules and accommodating me so graciously. While I’m giving thanks I should also give a tip of the hat to both Taylor and Todd for everything they helped with.

The Brickyard

I didn’t actually drive the track today. I actually had the chance to do that a few years back for a F1 related event. But riding shotgun was almost as fun. Being on the front stretch of the track is a surreal experience that just can’t be entirely captured by camera. Suffice to say, the chance should not be passed up.

And it would seem quite a few owners would agree as the chance to drive the Brickyard drew the largest (so I’m told) number of MTTS attendees yet. There were no firm counts on cars by the time I left last night however.

After the time at the track we met some MINI owners and Traci and Sarah from BSSP (MINI’s ad agency) for chance to chat about all things MINI at St. Elmos in downtown Indy. Unfortunately it was shortly there after were we had to say good bye to the unstoppable train that is MTTS and head home.

I must say that I was completely impressed by the organization of the entire event. MINI USA and all the folks associated with MTTS have done an incredible job. To make something like this work across such a large geographic area is not a small feat and MINI and the company helping with logistics have done a steller job from what I can tell.

So that’s it: 24 hours in the life of MTTS. My advice to those on the fence about coming out for an MTTS event, don’t think – just go. Okay well make sure you are registered and then go!

[ Gabe’s MTTS Photos (St Louis to Indy) ] Flickr.com