Mini John Cooper Works GP Boasts Impressive Nrburgring Time Despite Being Not Yet Fully Baked

Anthony Magagnoli
by Anthony Magagnoli

In conjunction with the 24 Hours of Nürburgring this past weekend, Mini presented a lightly-disguised John Cooper Works GP well before its scheduled on-sale date in 2020. With more than 300 horsepower on tap, the new JCW GP is almost half a minute faster than its predecessor around the Nordschleife.

While development tuning is still in process, the JCW GP lapped the “Green Hell” in less than 8 minutes. While that is impressive for any front-wheel-drive hot hatch, it will inevitably be compared to the 7:43.80 that was set by the Civic Type R. Whether it reaches that figure or not, it shares outlandish design style and boy-racer looks with the Type R.

The winged fenders feature deep reliefs cut into them. I’m struggling to envision the aerodynamic purpose of this design, though I hope there is a rational explanation. Maybe to control the airflow down the side of the car? If they’re a pre-cursor to 4-inch extensions for TCR racecar bodywork, then I’m OK with that. The fenders almost made me overlook the cartoonish spoiler over the rear hatch.

Ultimate performance of the JCW GP will depend significantly upon tire selection. The demonstration car was fitted with Hankook Ventus S1 Evo Z *star* tires. The current Ventus S1 Evo line of tires falls into the Tire Rack’s “Ultra High Performance Summer” category, which would be typical for an OE summer performance tire. There are still the “Max Performance Summer”, “Extreme Performance Summer”, and “Streetable Track & Competition” categories above that. We’ve seen many performance cars fitted with tires like the Pirelli P Zero Corsa or Michelin Pilot Sport Cup2 to simply set a blistering lap time.

It is possible that the JCW GP will be offered with another tire that prioritizes track performance, as that is kind of the point of this version of the car. I suspect that they’ll need it if they hope to chase down the Civic Type R’s Nürburgring time. As for the “star”, that generally means that the tire was specifically designed for a particular vehicle application. The reality is that many OE tires are specifically tuned for the vehicle that they come on and aftermarket replacements may not be identical, but that’s a conversation for another day.

Three-thousand of the John Cooper Works GP models will be produced, which represents a 50 percent jump over the 2,000 offered in each of the prior two generations.

[Images: MINI USA]

Anthony Magagnoli
Anthony Magagnoli

Following 10 years in Toyota's Production Engineering division, Anthony spent 3 years as a Vehicle Dynamics Engineer for FCA. From modest beginnings in autocross, he won a NASA SpecE30 National Championship and was the 2017 Pirelli World Challenge TC Rookie of the Year. Aside from being a professional racecar driver, he is a private driving coach and future karaoke champion.

More by Anthony Magagnoli

Join the conversation
2 of 4 comments
  • Formula m Formula m on Jun 25, 2019

    This seems pointless. BMW is getting sued for destroying the Mini brand. So they develop a vehicle that will be even lower to the ground to improve handling. My co-workers JCW Mini can barely creep around the parking lot avoiding speed bumps/pot holes. The Civic Type R is $41-42k CDN. This Mini will be $45-50k+ I would guess. Pretty pointless

  • NG5 NG5 on Jun 26, 2019

    I love hot hatchbacks, and even more cars with only two doors, but I don't understand why they want to set lap times with this. Why set yourself up to be compared unfavorably to the (likely cheaper) Civic Type R before even being released? Did they think they could beat the time and then not succeed on their track day, forcing them to release the time anyway to justify track costs? Are MINI buyers salivating over fast lap times? Is there a hardcore base of MINI track drivers in some country? Just tell me if it's fun, that the goofy add on bits make it more fun, and where it compares favorably to other hatches (smaller, interior materials, etc.). I've driven an older Mini a lot and I like the brand, but I don't think "track car".

  • ToolGuy Personally I have no idea what anyone in this video is talking about, perhaps someone can explain it to me.
  • ToolGuy Friendly reminder of two indisputable facts: A) Winners buy new vehicles (only losers buy used), and B) New vehicle buyers are geniuses (their vehicle choices prove it):
  • Groza George Stellantis live off the back of cheap V8 cars with old technology and suffers from lack of new product development. Now that regulations killed this market, they have to ditch the outdated overhead.They are not ready to face the tsunami of cheap Chinese EVs or ready to even go hybrid and will be left in the dust. I expect most of their US offerings to be made in Mexico in the future for good tariff protection and lower costs of labor instead of overpriced and inflexible union labor.
  • MaintenanceCosts This is delaying an oil change for my Highlander by a couple of weeks, as it prevented me from getting an appointment before a business trip out of town. Oh well, much worse things have happened.I also just got a dealership oil change for my BMW (thanks, loss-leader prepaid plans!) and this didn't seem to affect them at all.
  • Kwik_Shift_Pro4X Gonna need more EV fuel.