Not your average Mini.
There isn’t a relationship quite like the one enjoyed by Mini and John Cooper Works (JCW). Over five decades of fettling have resulted in an illustrious motorsports history, reaching its peak exactly 50-years ago, nabbing 3 titles at the Monte Carlo Rally. While nascent then, it is impossible to disassociate the Mini and JCW brands, and today continues to symbolise what happens when you cross motorsports know-how with great British engineering.
And while we’d love to wax lyrical about days of yore for another hour or so, we really have to get to the matter of this no-frills no-compromise high-performance hatchback concept, the Mini John Cooper Works GP Concept. Inspired by the triumphs Mini & JCW enjoyed at the 1967 Monte Carlo Rally, the JCW GP Concept picks up the baton and turns up the wick on previous GP-branded models.
“The Mini John Cooper Works GP Concept is all about the unfettered feeling of driving, and level of performance found in motorsport competition. This is driving in its purest form.” — Peter Schwarzenbauer, Member of the Board, BMW AG
The 1967 Monte Carlo win, delivered by ‘Flying Finn’ Rauno Aaltonen and British co-driver Henry Liddon, remains one of the greatest stories in motorsports, where the team in their Mini JCW managed to fend off larger, higher-powered competitors by some 5-seconds thanks to a mix of skill and luck. Due to ice formed beneath the snow, Aaltonen made a judgement call and was planning to crash into some concrete barriers (as opposed to flying off the cliffs along the Col de Turini special stage) when he and Liddon accidentally ‘flew’ across a divide and landed back on the rally route. Neither Aaltonen nor Liddon spoke to rally officials about their ‘shortcut,’ and the two remained silent on the matter for some two decades before finally revealing the story to the media.
Maybe this is where the nickname ‘Flying Finn’ was born (for obvious reasons), and this is probably why there’s a strong emphasis on aerodynamics, weight reduction, and an unencumbered driving experience. The aesthetic revisions begin at the front, where large air deflectors take proud placement, also serving to make the GP Concept appear more hunkered-down. While still very much a Mini, the GP Concept’s various aerodynamic add-ons do little to dilute the essential Mini design language, with its elliptical headlights and hexagonal grille. A power-dome features on the bonnet, along with highlights in Highspeed Orange and Curbside Red that contrast strikingly with the Black Jack Anthracite main colour, serving to mark this out as no ordinary Mini.
Moving round to the side, it’s impossible to mistake the narrow windowline and prominent shoulder as anything other than a Mini, maintaining the ‘power-forward’ stance that we’ve come to associate with modern Minis. Carbon-fibre skirts and 19-inch ‘Racetrack’ alloys, highlighted by more use of orange and red, continue to further the Concept’s promise as an out-and-out performance monster.
The rear is, to this writer at least, the most striking part of the concept car, with little compromise made in the way of aerodynamic excellence. It appears almost as if the entire car is bordered with aero-elements, with the enormity of it all broken up only by the cutesy Union Jack headlights. It is neat though, how the roof spoiler is visually-connected to the flying buttresses that rise from the flanks of the car. Getting over those, the rest of the rear enjoys a design that is dynamic and precise, with carbon-fibre air vents and air deflectors in “optimum positions,” flanking centrally-mounted twin tailpipes in typical JCW fashion.
The cabin of the JCW GP Concept screams of its racing pedigree, with the space dominated by the sculpted racing seats and the the full-on roll-cage (we’re going to gloss over the fact that these are basically the only things left in here at this point). The rest of the cabin appears to have been jettisoned in a bid to save weight, with all but the dash, a basic digital instrument cluster, and a touchscreen interface in the middle (solely to adjust suspension settings) getting binned.
The bucket seats are trimmed in a smooth black leather, along with a 3D-knit fabric, topped off with red contrast stitching. The usual dooryards have been replaced with 3D-printed panels with a neat hexagonal pattern, with recessed grips and fabric straps taking the place of the usual armrest and door release lever. Further emphasising the GP Concept’s racing aspirations are the fitment of a cut-off switch and a fire extinguisher.
The JCW GP Concept might only be a concept at this stage, but there’s strong reason to believe that it will lead to a production model in the future. Should that happen, it’s expected to pack the standard JCW-tuned 2.0-litre turbo-four, with a power figure likely around the 225kW mark. Drive will be sent to the front wheels of course, hopefully through a six-speed manual transmission, giving it the ingredients it needs to be the hottest hot hatch out there.