In an epic run to the front, the Bulldog Racing Team’s JCW 1to6 finished 2nd in their class at the Nubrugring 24 Hours this weekend. The stock JCW 1to6 (complete with a 6-speed manual) came from eight places down in production VT2 class and made it through the infamous race mostly trouble free. The effort was made all the more sweet given that one of the team’s three drivers was Charlie Cooper, grandson of John Cooper the inventor of the MINI Cooper itself.
The qualifying sessions were tough for all teams due to tire problems, and even Bulldog Racing had to withdraw their GP base JCW in the SP3T race car class on short notice. However, their black #126 MINI John Cooper Works performed exceptionally well during the 24-hour race, making up eight places in class and an impressive 49 positions in the 131-car field. They completed 114 laps, which is equivalent to driving approximately 2,893 kilometers, and made 15 pit stops along the way.
“Even more than the podium finish, I am delighted that we have succeeded in making the new MINI John Cooper Works 1to6 Edition a crowd favorite,” said Alexander Schabbach, Managing Director of Bulldog Racing. “It’s impressive how positively people react to our MINI race cars and how quickly our “Made in Nürburg” racers have developed a fan base.”
“To start as an underdog and to be able to achieve such a great result right off the bat at the debut, that’s typical MINI, says Charlie Cooper. “It feels like history repeating itself back in the spirit of the early 1960s when my grandfather John Cooper was underestimated against a perceived superiority of much more powerful competitors, only to win the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964, 1965 and 1967. I’m delighted that together with MINI and Bulldog Racing, we’ve opened the next chapter in our brand’s motorsport activities and given MINI its first podium finish in a 24-hour race.”
The Race – 24 Hours in the Green Hell
In the first stint, Sebastian Sauerbrei in the black MINI John Cooper Works 1to6 Edition already made up numerous places and was significantly faster than in qualifying in his fastest lap with 10:16.362 min. After the first driver change it was Michael Mönch’s turn, Charlie Cooper took over the wheel for the first time after the second pit stop. In the evening hours Christoph Kragenings got behind the wheel and then Sebastian Sauerbrei drove a double stint into the darkness. In the meantime, the team had made up 25 places in the overall standings of the 131 starters. In its class of production vehicles with up to 2.0 liters of displacement and turbochargers the MINI climbed to 5th place, competing with a lot of cars with significantly more power.
As is usual, no team is spared setbacks at the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Shortly after midnight the MINI ran into a problem with a fuel line in the auxiliary tank and had to be towed back into the paddock. After a painful one-hour repair, the JCW 1to6 went back out on track and the chase to catch up began. Shortly after sunrise, Christoph Kragenings drove a new fastest time with 10:15.551 minutes. This charge up the field was made all the more sweet as the black JCW had by now become a crowd favorite. You could hear the cheer “MINI!” every time it went by crowds.
The black MINI John Cooper Works 1to6 Edition seemed to feel more and more comfortable as the race went on – reliably and consistently it completed lap after lap and moved up to 3rd place in his class. In the final hours of the race a lot of competitors were not able to hold their pace or had to give up. Not the MINI, which had meanwhile been taken to the heart by the audience and was cheered for every time it passed by. In the last hour Bulldog Racing moved up to second place in class. Shortly before the race it even looked like a class win might be in the books, but the class leader crossed the finish line first with a clever strategy.
Considering that the black MINI John Cooper Works 1to6 Edition was finalized only one day before the first qualifying sessions, the result is a huge success for everyone in the team. The JCW 1to6 #126 has the same output as the stock JCW at 231 hp and is equipped with a 6-speed manual gearbox. The car, which was used on the approximately 25-kilometer racetrack, is based on a standard MINI John Cooper Works that has only been adapted to comply with safety features and standards for competition in the VT2 production car class.
Taking turns at the wheel of the MINI John Cooper Works with start number #126 were Charlie Cooper (GB), Christoph Kragenings (GER), Sebastian Sauerbrei (GER) and Michael Mönch (GER).