Munich – For those who aren't familiar with it, the MINI Cooper seems an unlikely contender on a Formula One race track or the posh international rally circuit. But as the British automaker prepares to launch the MINI John Cooper Works GP in 2020, with a four-cylinder turbo engine, more than 220 kW/300 hp and motor racing technology, it is important to remember that when the company calls it the fastest MINI in its 60-year history, they are not using the word 'fast' lightly.
In January 1964, six years after its first Formula One triumph, a Mini* Cooper S won the Monte Carlo Rally. Mini would go on to do this again in 1965 and 1967, too. In 1965, drivers Timo Mäkinen and Paul Easter crossed the finish line without a single penalty point in spite of severe weather. That year, only 35 out of 237 cars finished the race. Three of them were Mini Cooper S models. By then, Mini Coopers were winning, or coming close to winning, not just rallies, but autocross and club and circuit races, as well.
Although the Mini, now part of the BMW Group, was only a compact family saloon in those days, it had some unassailable virtues: a front-mounted transverse engine, front-wheel drive, extremely short body overhangs, a wide track, low center of gravity and comparatively long wheelbase. Its narrow body could navigate snowy roads that had been poorly ploughed, as well as rural roads, precipitous climbs and tight turns.
So, yeah: fast. One might even say agile.
Next year, the automaker plans to introduce the MINI JCW GP in a limited edition of 3,000 and it's going to be the most agile model yet. Visitors got a peek at the concept in the autumn of 2017 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, where the brand showcased its 'powerfully emotional' look for the first time: large front and rear aprons, a dramatic roof spoiler and lightweight materials that made it look downright athletic.