race car vs John Cooper Works Edition
date : 14th May 2006
take a road-going Mini Cooper S and a racing version to the
track? What are you going to prove?
The answer to the first
question is: "Because we can". As to the second,
well, the aim was to see how different the production
version was to the racer.
But not fast enough to catch the Minis. As the Castrol Mini
number one driver for 2006 and the "winningest"
driver in Production Car racing this year, Clint Weston is
well qualified to talk on his carís performance and its
merits and demerits versus the opposition.
As for the road-going John Cooper Works edition Mini, he was
equally impressed with the road machine, siting its flat
cornering stance as one of its greatest assets.
The Cooper Works Mini costs R40 000 more than the standard
Mini Cooper S and utilises a larger intercooler, higher
boost from the supercharger and larger injectors to produce
This has enabled the Cooper Works Mini to compare favourably
on paper with the Golf GTi track challenge, which is still
taking shape, with no factory support for the Uitenhage cars
Our road-going test car was also fitted with various
extra-cost brake and suspension upgrades, and itís clear
by the carís flat stance just how much advantage it has in
As for the race car, the Castrol Mini is a long way from
The spot-welding of the body shell provides much
of the rigidity that the production racer needs. The rest of
the body rigidity is provided by the roll cage.
The track John Cooper Works Mini also uses special Cooper
brakes which helps stopping power, as well as 17-inch wheels
shod with Bridgestone semi-race rubber.
The rules for production car racing are tight, to prevent
wealthy teams turning their cars into pure race machines.
But itís in the detail work that the Van der Linde racing
team, with all its vast experience, can gain an edge.
Clint is obviously grand-standing with this power slide,
whooping it up for the cameras. But even a tail-happy slide
can be a useful tool in the heat of competition.
Knowing how the car will react in an extreme situation is
useful for Clint. Extra camber means more grip, but as the
tyres have less contact area on the straight, braking
suffers. Set-up is all a trade-off.
A key feature of Production Car racing is that the engines
essentially remain un-modified.
All that can be changed is the exhaust system, more for
spectator enjoyment to create a louder noise, and engine
computer management fine-tuning.
This has resulted in about a 10 kiloWatt increase over the
standard John Cooper Works Mini, which in turn produces some
29 kilowatts more than a standard Mini Cooper S motor.
The Cooper Works motor boosts more thanks to a smaller
supercharger pulley, and the bigger intercooler keeps charge
temperatures way down.
Under the bonnet of the racing car you will notice extra
catchment tanks for oil, and the biggest changes are to the
shock towers, which are reinforced to enable camber
After all the effort that went into the race car, Clint was
surprised at just how well the road car measured up against
his championship-leading Castrol machine.
The test car was fitted with upgraded springs and shock
combos as well, although this is not part of the standard
Cooper Works spec, but is offered as an extra cost option.
Being an understeering front-wheel-drive car, the Cooper
Works is an extremely well-mannered car on the track and it
has the interior packaging to suit.
Mini, built by BMW, has been an amazing success story in
terms of sales worldwide.
It has managed to transcend its retro roots and establish a
modern day cult amongst owners and wannabee owners,
something which, for instance, the New Beetle has not
managed outside of the United States.
This is due to superb handling and performance that offer
real sports-car like attributes, as well as an interior
package that appeals to the youth market.
Itís not subtle by any means but it combines retro and
modern themes in a way that makes modern Mini-malism an art
The fact that the race car is so successful adds to the
Van der Linde Racing is a semi-works operation contracted to
build the Minis for BMW. The Van der Linde name has been
synonymous with winning since Pa fell off the Datsun.
Actually that was patron Hennie van der Linde, who won
championships with a Datsun 1200 way back in 1975. Since
then sons Shaun and Etienne have been flying the flag.
The weight saved by removing all the standard panels is
added back by lead ballast, and each time Clint wins, more
weight is added to put him back on par with his competition.
Digital instrumentation keeps the crew in the pits informed
of the carís behaviour, and this is where a lot of the
teamís budget is spent. You are looking at a car worth
close to R1 million, taking into account the teamís
Testing is also a vital part of the teamís success, which
is why Clint relished the opportunity to spend time at
A drag race between the racer and the street car shows some
straight-line edge for the competition car.
But the biggest difference is the way that power is
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