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Mini GP

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8/10

Overall
verdict

You’ve got to like Minis to want one of these, but if you do then it’s the most fun you can have.

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What is it?

A £28,790 Mini featuring some commensurately pricey special upgrades, mostly for track driving or punting down your favourite smooth and twisty road. You’ll have noticed the aerodynamics, which are close to what they use on the one-make Mini Challenge racers, so they’re proven to cut both drag and lift. The suspension features upside-down front dampers in racing practice, and camber, castor and toe-in are all adjusted for better confidence, agility and grip, and to make best use of the specially designed tyres, six-piston front brakes and ultra-light wheels. The DSC has a track mode too.

Inside, there’s lots of red-and-black trim. A strut brace replaces the rear seat, a move that adds lightness and stiffness, at the cost of leaving your kids behind. The engine is standard-issue Cooper S Works, slightly re-rated to 218bhp.

Driving

It’s fast, getting to 62mph in 6.3sec, and laps the Nurburgring in 8min 23sec. But it’s the feel that matters the most. The engine barps happily and revs more keenly to the redline than other turbo Minis, and at middle revs the torque really digs you out of a corner. Unlike most hot Minis there’s also strong traction in corners.

Once you’ve accelerated to the end of a straight, you can really lean on the brakes: they’re strong and direct and full of feel. In bends there’s bags of grip and amazingly little understeer, whether pulling out of a tight bend of piling into a fast one. Balance and feel are terrific, and you can play with slip angles at either end.

The driving position is excellent, as it is on all Minis, and the Recaros clamp you in. It all makes a difference. When you’re not honing your track lines, the ride’s stiff, but our impression over a (short) bumpy section is that it isn’t as brittle as a normal JCW, thanks to the more expensive hardware.

On the inside

Usual Mini template, but with more black leather and red stitching and seatbelts. And no back seat. The Mini’s sometimes imperfect switch positioning doesn’t matter because there are few switches, none on the steering wheel. that’s because there’s no nav or iDrive, just a simple stereo and basic Bluetooth. Absolutely no interior options, and on the outside the only choice is a less extreme all-weather tyre.

Owning

It’s a limited edition of 2000 example at a punishingly expensive price. But guess what, they all sold out before anyone outside BMW had driven the thing. The previous GP edition, made when the first-gen BMW Mini was saying goodbye, has remained a collector’s item. In general Minis depreciate slowly, though of course the more you pay the further they have to fall.

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Latest road tests

7/10 Mini GP driven
January 2013

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