Driven - September 2017

We Drive the hot R56 MINI JCW GP

My afternoon with the R56 MINI JCW GP

The Police officer asked, “Sir, Do you know how fast you were going?” to which I stupidly replied “I don’t know, but a lot faster than you” – Interesting story that, but first; the R56 MINI JCW.

This was the stiletto sized hot hatch boxer with the charisma and heart of a size 12 Timberland boot. It punched so far above its weight it was silly and, well, I loved the thing. I drove it like a wasp in the summer, ready to sting far bigger and far more “manly” hatches. I also loved the silly little 1.6-litre engine and all its 155 kW and 260 N.m, the with additional 20 N.m on over-boost. It was incredibly good fun and the most fun was the warm fuzzy feeling you get after toughly annoying GTI’s and their everyman point and go DSG gearboxes. It’s a car I loved so much that I tried to buy one myself, until I found out how much they cost then I didn’t like it at all, in fact, I quite hated it – because I couldn’t have one nothing else. In my, mind MINI exists only to make me angry and as they were doing a good job of this, the only way they could improve on my frustration was to make an even more hardcore Jean Claude van Damme version, dubbed the GP2.

The GP was the JCW on anabolic steroids, an extra 5kws pushing power to 160 kW from the same 1.6 PSA motor, as well as fully adjustable coilover suspension, a rear chassis strengthening bar where the rear seats were and extra sticky slivers of rubber on a set of 17-inch light-weight bespoke wheels. All this and a set of plush yet supportive Recaros and fat brakes. This was the ultimate and the hottest version of the car I properly love for all its mannerisms and now it was even better because all of the rubbish that got in the way of the pure unadulterated driving experience was left on a shelf at MINI. I wanted one, hell I wanted simply to drive one but with only 2000 built and the hand full brought to our shores, it meant this was only a dream, until now!

Driving Impressions

Picking up the MINI from the dealer, I knew the only thing I wanted to do was spend the day beating it up and hopefully under the conditions of the exchange of my first born child, they would let me take it home forever.  Much elation came over me as I was handed the keys and eager to get going  I pushed the Stop/Start button and the GP unassumingly came life. This was an impeccable example having covered just 28 000 km’s since it left the showroom in 2013. Leaving to the car to warm up I mulled the numbers in my head, 0-100 in 6.3 seconds and a top speed of 242km/h, this was no baby hatch and the pursuit for suitable robot jousting candidates and winding roads began.

 

Initially, the picking were sparse, nobody wanted to play and although splashing Ubers in their Corollas was fun it was a waste of time. Having given up the search for a play mate I approached the three robots leaving the busy parts of town and heading towards the twisties. A quick look at the temperature gauge that read 31 scorching degrees I began to think about what I fancied for lunch, this was until a white facelift focus ST lined up to my left and the thought of food disappeared instantly – does he want some I thought? And the aggressive rev he let of said he indeed did.  Before I knew it the light went green and we both launched the cars hard, scrabbling for grip the revs climbed as I grabbed second, he edged ahead but not by much, a bumper at most, and all I could think was “Mooooonica” as the ST’s lead stayed constant until the next light. Again we lined up, this time I was far more determined and serious his 184kw was a big mountain to climb but I was keen and stupid enough to try. I turned the aircon and the radio off, held the ASC button down for the least electronic interference possible and held the rev’s at 2 and a half grand, ready. The light again went green and this time I got the perfect launch, and as he grabbed second I got my nose ahead and after a full attack of second and third we both slammed on the breaks with the ABS fighting and tugging away at the wheel violently but we got the cars to stop and lined up the third and final time.  This time no eye contact was made, it was just all seriousness and all go, Green and again a fantastic launch but sadly as I went for second all I got was rev’s and no go – Mishift! Damn. Indicating away to my winding road a friendly ‘tot’ helped me express my gratitude and away I went.  The smile was back, I knew the corners would be a great way to finish off my fun with the ST. a quick pit stop allowed me to ready myself and the car. Maximum attack mode was on again, I hit the road hard and approached each corner so quickly, I shrill would shot up my neck but each time it carried me through, perfect grip, perfect steering weight and perfect amount of brakes, it was amazing so amazing that a sweat began to break and all that could be heard in the cabin was my deep, focused breathing and the burbles and pops from the hot exhaust chasing the 6500Rpm redline on the over run.

My run was incredible and at the end of the road, I stopped for a coffee to ponder my thoughts. My initial review was as follows “ It’s amazing if you don’t have a wife or kids buy one now” the end, not all too impressive but I didn’t really wanna spend my time with the GP drinking coffee, I wanted to drive so a last stab at the road was in order.

R56 MINI JCW GP

Again I took on the twisties and again I loved every aspect of the car, quickly I got in the zone and was moving now, only slowing down to overtake rows traffic. One of these overtakes was again a white facelift ST, who I guess this time thought this was the tie-breaker and wanted his revenge. I knew this is where I would destroy him. Having driven the ST I knew I had more grip and could get onto the power far earlier.  He tried his best to stick with me but the clear white car in the reflection quickly became a blur and eventually a spec. Traffic building and the end of the run looming I slowed to a crawl to let him catch up – only to gloat and let him know he had been chopped, but like any sore loser he could only offend to get back at me, which he did, very well.

As the ST approached I notice a blue flashing coming from the dashboard, “well this is bad”, I thought, and I pulled over to the side awaiting my impending doom, The same ST that I had jousted with and later chopped was an undercover Flying Squad Police unit. The burly man approaching my window, my leg began to shake on the clutch and as I buzzed down the window a deep voice asked “Sir, Do you know how fast you were going?” to which I stupidly responded, “ I don’t know, but a lot faster than you”. Not my brightest moment but then again I’m not a bright man, now noticing all the police antenna and the lights behind the grill and windscreen.  The officer laughed and “don’t worry if I had one of these I’d drive like that too, enjoy your day” as he returned to his ST and I drove off.

R56 MINI JCW GP

MINI John cooper Works GP Pricing in South Africa

The limited numbers have meant the GP has kept its value rather well, which the few examples on the market now being very low mileage and super clean. Prices start in the Late R300 000’s and climb to the early R400’s. Honestly if I could I would buy one now, as these are hidden gems are will very likely become rather expensive as collectors given to snap them up and hide them away. I can’t yet so I hate it the GP most – Absolute legend of a car this!