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.
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.
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.
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.