Over the past few years we’ve driven a vast array of Mini’s including, the Hatch, Coupé, Roadster, Countryman and more recently the Paceman. There’s one key ingredient ingrained into all Minis, they are all fun and engaging to drive, although we found the Paceman not to offer quite the thrills we expected. Now, we’ve just just tested the fastest, most hardcore Mini ever produced, the Mini John Cooper Works GP.
The Mini John Cooper Works (JCW for short) GP is a track-focused Mini capable of embarrassing several sports cars. It’s a Mini Hatch that’s been sent on a strict diet, shedding some weight in the quest for speed, it weighs just 1,160 kilograms. The Mini JCW GP is instantly recognisable with its muscular body kit, finished in exclusive Thunder Grey metallic with adornments of red to highlight the door mirrors and bonnet air intake. It boasts a large front bumper with air intakes and a rear diffuser complete with twin centre-exit exhausts, to complete the racy look from the rear, there’s also a carbon rear roof spoiler. The Mini GP looks fast even sitting still. All this additional bodywork isn’t just for show, it’s functional too, the combination of the rear diffuser, underside flat panelling and roof spoiler reduces lift at the rear axle by 90 per cent, this improves the handling of the car for high speed cornering.
Powering this mighty Mini is a 1.6-litre petrol engine, complete with twin-scroll turbo charging producing 218hp and 260Nm of torque. This is sufficient to enable the GP to accelerate from a standstill to 100km/h in 6.3 seconds and go on to a top speed of 242km/h (150mph). The GP’s power is fed to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission. The gear changes are short and fluid, with the manual gearbox offering a more driver-involved experience then some of the automatic variants, which are fitted to some of its competitors.
Although on paper its power figures are nothing astonishing for a modern hot hatch, the way the Mini GP can utilise all of its power all of the time is what makes it a very special car indeed. The GP comes equipped with adjustable coilover suspension as standard. The chassis has been stiffened with the aid of front and rear strut braces, the removal of the rear seats allows the insertion of a hefty rear strut brace. These modifications in addition to the sticky Kumho tyres enable the Mini GP to corner at tear-jerking speed, the grip produced is phenomenal. We drove the car on track where it proved its incredible pace, setting the fastest laptime around the Mondello Park National Circuit for a hot hatch, with a time of 1:05.83. The turn-in speed in the Mini GP is impressive, as is the grip and stability through the corners, where sometimes the firm ride can be somewhat uncomfortable on country roads, it proved its worth on track. Once Sport mode is selected the steering weighs up giving you a real feel of what’s happening at the road wheels and the throttle response is increased. Notably there’s a pleasant ‘popping’ sound from the twin exhausts on lift-off, it almost sounds like the car is back firing, it’s an addictive sound that gives the car a character all of its own.
The Mini John Cooper Works GP may be a little hardcore for some, with just 2,000 examples being produced worldwide, sadly we’re not going to see many take to Irish roads. For everyday use a Mini John Cooper Works Hatch is the more sensible and practical machine, benefiting from a slightly softer chassis setup and the addition of rear seats. That said, if like me you prefer a more focused track-orientated car, the GP ticks all the boxes. Yes it’s not exactly economical to purchase, but if you can afford to have one within your stable of cars, get to your local Mini dealer fast with a deposit, you won’t be disappointed.[table “107” not found /]