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MINI reveals its fastest ever: the JCW GP. Image by MINI.

MINI reveals its fastest ever: the JCW GP
Third take on the MINI John Cooper Works GP arrives in LA, just 3,000 will be built and it has 306hp.
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What's all this about?

Only the fastest road-going MINI yet produced. It's the John Cooper Works GP and it has a 306hp engine, can do 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds, will go on to 165mph (where legal) and just 3,000 will be built. It made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show and the first lucky customers will take delivery of their prized possessions in March 2020.

OK, can I deal with a few things? Surely there's already been a 306hp MINI?

There has, as the Clubman and Countryman JCW models have recently taken to housing the 306hp/450Nm 2.0-litre TwinPower Turbo petrol engine from the BMW X2 M35i in their conks. But they're a lot heavier and a lot less focused than the JCW GP, and they're four-wheel drive as well, rather than front-wheel drive.

Crikey, FWD?! We'll come back to that, no doubt. My second query was: haven't there been MINI GPs before?

Well remembered. Yes, there have, and fanboy retconning means that what were once known as the 2006 MINI Cooper S with John Cooper Works GP Kit and 2013 MINI John Cooper Works GP have become, informally, the GP1 and GP2 MINIs. Hence, this 2020 example is going to be the GP3. With 3,000 examples to be made, the GP3 is going to be slightly more numerous than its illustrious predecessors, as only 2,000 of each of those were bolted together. They're now much-sought-after collectors' items, not just to MINI enthusiasts but in the wider automotive community, so it's reasonable to assume the GP3 will achieve the same covetousness one day in the not-too-distant.

OK then, talk me through the latest MINI GP. Or GP3, if you will?

Fair enough. Aside from that monster engine, the GP3 is a strict two-seater (like its forebears), the back bench within junked in the name of weight-saving, and replaced with a colossal, bright-red strut brace to keep the structure's torsional rigidity as high as possible. More kilos are stripped by the reduction in sound-deadening fitted to the MINI, while the stiffened and thoroughly overhauled suspension sits it 10mm closer to the deck than a comparable 231hp JCW three-door. The engine's cooling and oil supply have both been uprated, to ensure the motor doesn't get hot during maximum acceleration or starved of vital fluids as the car pounds round a track, while the exhaust connected to it is a bespoke sports example with twin 90mm centre-exits clustered at the back of the MINI. Power from the mill flows to the front wheels via an eight-speed Steptronic Sport transmission (with paddle shifts) and a mechanical limited-slip diff with a 31 per cent lock-up effect. The brakes are big discs up front (360x30mm), gripped by Chili Red-painted callipers which are four-piston fixed items at the front and single-piston floating affairs at the back, and the 18-inch alloy wheels are forged items which weigh less than 9kg apiece.

Phew! And what about that wild body?

It's aerodynamically optimised. The front splitter, apron surround in the nose (known as the Blackband) and the double-contour, reversed-wing-profile rear roof spoiler all go towards reducing lift at both axles. Huge air intakes in the front channel cooling flow to the engine and brakes, while the extended wheel arches are made of carbon-fibre composite and feature the relevant build number of the GP in question on them (from '0001' to '3000').

What about the visual detailing, outside and in?

There's but one colour, which is the Racing Grey metallic with Melting Silver metallic contrast details on the roof and door mirrors. Then there's lots of Chili Red (the same colour used for the brake callipers and interior strut brace) and black on the outside to pick out certain features - red for the cross-member on the (otherwise black) hexagonal radiator grille, the lower air intake inserts and the inside of that roof spoiler, and black for the headlamp surrounds, rear 'Union Flag' lights, the fuel filler cap, the door handles, the MINI emblems front and rear, and the central bonnet vent that has been a Cooper S feature since time immemorial (well, 2001, actually...). There's a lengthened GP graphic in Rosso Red metallic matte along the bottom of the doors, lots of 'GP' logos dotted around the exterior of the MINI and then, moving inside, just the two sports seats finished in Dinamica/leather, plenty of red, silver and black highlights, a 3D-printed build number graphic embedded in the passenger-side dash, and a Nappa leather steering wheel with a 12 o'clock marker and red stitching. Options will include climate control and the Connected Navigation Plus package, while the digital instrument cluster mounted on the steering column is standard-fit.

And how much will it be?

No idea, as yet. But we're banking on it being in the 40,000 ballpark, truth be told. We're also banking on it being brilliant to drive, because - JCW Challenge aside - no modern MINI drives as wonderfully well as the GP1 and GP2 twins.

Matt Robinson - 19 Nov 2019

2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.

2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.2020 MINI John Cooper Works GP. Image by MINI.    - MINI road tests
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