Like the last generation the MINI GP marked the ultimate iteration of what a MINI could be with an track focused model with exclusive run of 2,000 examples. Following that tradition MINI officially unveiled the MINI GP2 at MINI UNITED 2012 in France so I got to see it first hand on the day the covers came off.
If I am truly honest I wasn’t impressed by the GP2 as it just looked my JCW and with a few extra pieces stuck on yet it lapped the nurburgring at 8 minutes 23 seconds which is a blistering time for front wheel drive car.
The more I learned about the GP2 the more and more sense it made as MINI had been honing it for two years before signing it off for production.
Yes the R53 MINI GP was more of bespoke model with it being hand finished by Bertone in Italy which justifiable makes it more of a limited edition model wordy of the GP moniker but the GP2 is no half baked limited either.
While the original GP was a looker and stripped whining remote-controlled car while on the other hand the GP2 is the fully fledged go-kart waiting to tear up the track.
As I read through the brochure I learned what was different from a normal JCW with entailed an aluminium cylinder block and bearing mounts, reinforced pistons, sturdier cylinder head, low-weight crankshafts and sodium-filled exhaust valves, Bilstein coilovers, semi slick kumho tyres, six pot brembos, stripped out interior, revised electronic driving and traction systems. All these little changes and tweaks add up to something special…
This review was meant be a track battle and owners review with yours truly and GP Garry. Me & Garry were going to square off on the Goodwood Circuit with Go Pros attached as we would take battle one another in touge style race. A touge race is where you have to keep up the car in front and the winner would be one who set the fastest lap and biggest gap. Once this was dispatched with we would swap cars and drive one another’s to give a better perspective on the JCW and GP on track and road basis however forces above and beyond our control we couldn’t meet on the track for the surrey new mini Goodwood track day.
Do not worry this battle will still take place at some point plus I will have some cheeky mods on my JCW by then ; )
This left a huge plot hole in my review! Who would entrust me with GP2 for a few days???
A quick call to MINI Shrewsbury I was offered GP2 for a review with the whole JCW fleet awaiting my arrival which included the Dealer Principles our JCW Paceman all for review.
Having been a passenger in MINI GP2 on track I had been itching to drive one since MINI UK invited me to track event called MINI to the Max where we were given hot laps rides in the GP2 ahead of its release.
I arrived with a huge grin as all the JCW model range was lined up for my driving pleasure : D
I was welcomed into the dealership an signed away all the boring paper work in a flash
I was then handed the keys to MINI GP2 awaiting at the start line just outside the dealership doors
It was a moment of silence marked with a smerk as walked around the exterior looking at finer details and appreciation as not many people will own or drive this car in their life.
I unlocked the door and tucked into the GP Recaros seats with sexy red seatbelts and gripped the thicker leather bonded steering wheel which is instantly better to the touch. I basked in the moment as I touched the leather dash and looked around cabin and saw rear seat delete with the red strut brace in the rear view.
Now that we had been acquitted and fired her up and dropped the windows to hear the exhaust burble on start up and waited a few seconds before slotting into first to roll out of the forecourt. Strangely the clutch felt lighter than JCW which was a little puzzling as from what I read the clutch hadnt been changed from the JCW/Cooper S fitment.
I braked at the give way marker on the main road just before peeling out of the dealership only to find out that me and windscreen would be having our first kiss as lurged forward under the six pot calipers stopping me more than I thought they would.
After I recomposed myself with my dignity intact I peeled to find out that the GP2 was like a normal JCW hmmmm
With the directions stuck in my head for the test route and map in passenger seat just incase I got lost. I felt straight away the Bilstein coilovers working their magic by the smoothing out all the imperfections on the road as I quickly dispatched two roundabouts before heading on to dual carriageways for some fun. One thing that I noticed was the slight increase in road noise because rear delete but it’s nothing unliveable or off-putting about it as you can hear more exhaust noise.
As I cruised along in the GP2 a part of me was hoping it was more special inside with some carbon fibre goodness here and there. For the love of god why didn’t they get rid of the standard gearknob instead of making it red but in defence the leather dash is a thing of beauty to the eye and touch. The biggest thing you notice is not the car itself but the looks you get when you drive it as normal people looking at it thinking – what MINI is this? U can see it on their face! It’s priceless while car people are either stopped in their tracks as you zoom past or drive by with their jaw to the fall as they drive off the road into a hedge which nearly happened to a guy in his MG ZF.
I stopped at lights on the ring road to what felt like a million people staring at me as I waited for the lights to go green. In the corner of my eye I saw some rep in Audi eyeing up the GP2 wheels and brakes while a kid in the back of Honda CRV was looking at the carbon fibre rear wing and decals. The Lights turned green and roared off the line leaving everyone at the lights still pondering on what on earth was that MINI?
As I cruised on the dual carriage way the grip levels were great even though the GP2 wheel were wrapped in the Kumhos tyres but Bridgestone Potenzas because of the winter temps. Yet chamber and damping of the coilovers was on point as overtaking slow-moving traffic was a doodle on the dual carriage while roundabouts were a whole lot of fun because of the laughable entry speeds which you could carry. Braking performance was mind-blowing from 60 mph to any number with minimal braking whilst be reassuring if you over cooked it the six pots were on hand to save your ass.
I arrived at the test route and double clutching down to 2nd as soon as I saw the national speed limit sign, the GP2 roared ahead and clampered down under hard acceleration as I quick shifted into 3rd for before the long corner which I misjudged as I applied the brakes when I shouldn’t have. The GP squatted down and I lost too much speed as I turned in and got back on the throttle as I was left feeling a track instructor in my head saying Why did you slow down? You should have eyed the corner far ahead and carried more speed.
I saw the 2 year development cycle in a fraction of a seconds which was a rushing blow to me as I am limiting factor in making the GP perform. There is no body roll instead its just raw grip which I can only describe as the feeling I had in the MINI challenge race car.
I pushed hard on into the next corner determined to keep my foot down as I turned in sharply to a blind corner and the GP just gripped as I glance down at the speed and thought if I was in my JCW I would have braked here, waited to apply throttle when the corner straightened out. The GP is easily taking corners 10 to 15mph quicker than a standard JCW, what is even worse is lack of a need to brake as front end just grips thanks to the dialed in negative front chamber.
I was beginning to try my luck with the GP as I began playing chicken with the road and speed limit on the corners seeing if could take the next corner quicker without braking which was testing my driver skill and how big I wanted the repair bill to be if I decided to go offroad.
It was still me backing off in amazement in the level of grip on damp B roads in cold British winter with a cloud of doubt in my mind! Am I am good driver? I think I need to more track time? I should take a advance driving course? It was me for once!! I am being out gunned by the MINI which was nowhere near its limit where I was doubting my limits.
It’s just that good at the corners!!! I finally realised what the stance nation and wheel gap haters I have said to me – Coilovers make everything better from driving and looks point of view.
Over the course of the drive I developed a technique of brake dabbing before corners as the GP is like a frantic wasp with high G directional changes all done in quick flick of the wheel. The directional changes it makes are fantastic for high-speed manoeuvres or nipping moves around town so its still got that MINI feeling whatever speed your doing. While the internal upgrades and removal of the noise maker on the N14 engine have allowed the GP2 to boost and rev smoother slight lower down in the rev range which is ever so slightly noticeable but not by much.
Sadly I cant tell if it really makes any more down force but all that aero tweaks do work as I have fitted the GP front and rear under trays on my JCW and I can happily confirm it does make a difference at high speeds whilst reducing temperatures.
A minor grip as I drove in the GP2 were the seats as the side bolstering is not as good as I would have envisioned compared to the JCW bucket Recaros which hold you firmly in place but you can’t really complain as the seats come as standard with alcantara and leather.
I could easily see myself using the GP2 as a daily driver as everything is still practical but the standard stereo system would drive me mad due to the lack of volume and bass. Another thing that puzzles me is why didn’t the GP2 come with the DRLs are standard instead of a retrofit, surely as a halo model for the brand it should have come with them out of the box.
From the beginning of the review I knew I shouldn’t have sat in this car as the modding bug would return after I promised myself I wouldn’t go down this route plus my bank balance wouldn’t kindly agree to another car sitting on my driveway. I left wanting one and even contemplated trading in the JCW for it but decided against it because I made a huge personal mistake by selling my first car and MINI.
But its not all sad news as I have ordered the GP2 suspension…
Honestly you shouldn’t be reading this review as I am little late to the game of reviewing it, so if you are debating buying a used model or just want a track toy there is no better play to start a MINI adventure. The MINI GP2 is everything it sent out to be and set in stone for years to come as a classic giant slaying hot hatch.
Review score: 5/5
The pinnacle of handling and fun by MINI, this limited edition MINI is truly a MINI Challenge race car with number plates. You have always been told never to meet your heroes as they will only disappoint, however the MINI GP2 is one hero you want to meet and own
Huge Thank You to MINI Shrewsbury for their support and allowing me to review the MINI GP2
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