EVO has a history of embracing back to basics track specials. And it’s history with the GP is no different. This week the UK publication took a look back at the original 2006 JCW GP and how it fares in 2020. All of you R53 fans will love it. Here’s a quick excerpt:
So far has the MINI brand strayed from the die cast during its initial relaunch that it seems hard to imagine the scene that the first Mini Works GP was launched into in 2006. The feisty, lightweight and super-agile R53 Mini had become the darling of the tuning scene and every day another remap, small supercharger pulley conversion and suspension kit was released. The Cooper S chassis could handle plenty of power and had all the ingredients to make an effective trackday car, and the aftermarket was making a fortune exploiting that potential. BMW wanted a slice of the pie.
This, the Works GP, was its solution, and in common with the R26.R and M3 GTS it didn’t concern itself too much with huge headline power figures. The 1.6-litre four-cylinder supercharged engine got a small boost over the John Cooper Works kit to 215bhp at 7100rpm and 184lb ft at 4600rpm, but the magic was in the lightweighting and the chassis. Andreas Decher, leader of the chassis validation team, wasn’t shy about their efforts. ‘Think of it as a baby M-car,’ he said. ‘Maybe even a CSL.’
Ok great but how does it drive?
While the chassis is alert but with an underlying calmness, the engine adds a welcome splash of manic character. It whines and thrashes and the supercharger noise takes on a properly feral scream as the revs rise, amplified by the cavernous hole where you’d expect to find seats and also by the removal of sound-deadening material. The supercharger solution makes a cool noise, then. But it also gives a strong, linear power delivery and is another tool in picking apart the road ahead. It never shocks the front wheels and gives the limited-slip differential a fair crack at deploying all the available torque.
This mirrors are recent revisiting of the 2006 GP as well. There’s something entirely vintage and (dare we say it) analogue about the R53 GP. Given the fact that it was a bit of a parts-bin special, the original GP feels like a revelation when driven hard.
Here’s more from EVO:
The GP really does duck and dive across the ground at a formidable pace and the front end feels really hooked into the surface. Traction is fantastic, there’s very little discernible torque-steer and mid-corner it hangs on for dear life. It’s particularly enjoyable through faster turns, where front and rear tyres seem to be working equally hard and generating a deliciously neutral stance.
…It’s fun but there’s just a slight layer of stodge that seems at odds with the tight damping, accurate front end and rabid little engine. The brakes could be stronger, too. Even so, the Works GP really is a little firecracker of a hot hatch.
Read the entire review at EVO.