Mini Pacesetter to Debut at Formula E World Championship

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
mini pacesetter to debut at formula e world championship

Tasked with building something to serve as the official safety car for the 2021 FIA Formula E World Championship, Mini has delivered a vehicle that bridges the gap between the raucous and rowdy John Cooper Works model and all-electric Mini Electric. While one-offs aren’t usually all that interesting to your average consumer, the Mini Pacesetter seems to be providing the automaker with a space to test some of its theories about how a JCW EV might take shape and will likely foreshadow such a product.

The manufacturer has even acknowledged this, though it’s a little early to expect an electrified version of Mini’s flagship performance model. Despite looking like it’s ready to compete in a series of its own, the Pacesetter uses an unmodified motor lifted from the Mini Electric. That means about 180 horsepower and a smidgen over 200 foot-pounds of torque, which would have been outstanding on the featherweight original. But the last few decades have forced Mini’s products to become comparatively portly, requiring the brand to shave as much weight off the Pacesetter as it could.

Designed exclusively for the track, the 2-door hatchback has abandoned rear seats, infotainment systems, interior door pulls, sound-deadening materials, any unnecessary trim, and swapped the standard steering wheel out for one made of carbon fiber. The components that it needed to be built were 3D printed using lightweight materials. Mini said it managed to save 130 kg (about 287 pounds) vs the roadgoing electric model, even with the addition of a full roll cage and harness system. While the changes fail to transform the car into a straight-line monster, the manufacturer estimated 62 mph would be achievable in about 6.7 seconds.

That’s noticeably better than the standard electric model but it’s the handling where Mini feels it’s doing the best work. The suspension has been heavily modified and now boasts three-way-adjustable coilovers. The track has also been widened by 10 millimeters, with Mini borrowing the wheels and brakes from the JCW GP. Those with some seat time described it as kart-like, which is usually what you want from this product line.

“We have already shown how well driving fun and electric mobility go together with the Mini Electric,” said brand head Bernd Körber. “However, the Mini Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW goes at least a step further and blends the performance character of the John Cooper Works brand with electric mobility. This extreme version of the Mini Electric has been developed as the Safety Car for Formula E, so is clearly not intended for use on public roads. But it does reveal one of the directions we could take with the electrification of the JCW brand. For me, the message is clear: electrification and John Cooper Works are a good fit.”

When we will see that manifest into something you could walk into a showroom and buy is another matter, however. For now, Mini has only issued plans to get the Pacesetter on track when Formula E kicks off on April 10th.

[Images: BMW Group]

Comments
Join the conversation
  • MaintenanceCosts We hear endlessly from the usual suspects about the scenarios where EVs don't work as well as gas cars. We never hear the opposite side of the coin. From an EV owner (since 2019) who has a second EV reserved, here are a few points the "I road trip 1000 miles every day" crowd won't tell you about:[list][*]When you have a convenient charging situation, EV fueling is more convenient than a gas car. There is no stopping at gas stations and you start every day with a full tank.[/*][*]Where there are no-idling rules (school pickup/dropoff, lines for ferries or services, city loading, whatever else) you can keep warm or cool to your heart's content in your EV.[/*][*]In the cold, EVs will give you heat from the second you turn them on.[/*][*]EVs don't care one bit if you use them for tons of very short trips. Their mechanicals don't need to boil off condensation. (Just tonight, I used my EV to drive six blocks, because it was 31 degrees and raining, and walking would have been unpleasant.)[/*][*]EVs don't stink and don't make you breathe carcinogens on cold start.[/*][*]EV maintenance is much less frequent and much cheaper, eliminating almost all items having to do with engine, transmission, or brakes in a gas car. In most EVs the maintenance schedule consists of battery coolant changes and tire maintenance.[/*][*]You can accelerate fast in EVs without noisily attracting the attention of the cops and every passerby on the street.[/*][/list]
  • MaintenanceCosts Still can't get a RAV4 Prime for love or money. Availability of normal hybrid RAV4s and Highlanders is only slightly better. At least around here I think Toyota could sell twice the number of vehicles that they are actually bringing in at the moment.
  • Tree Trunk Been in the market for a new Highlander Hybrid, it is sold out with order time of 6 months plus. Probably would have bit the bullet if it was not for the dealers the refuse to take an order but instead want to sell from allotment whether it fits or not and at thousands over MRSP.
  • AKHusky The expense argument is nonsense. My mach e was $42k after tax credit. Basically the same as similarly equipped edge. And it completely ignores that the best selling vehicles are Rams, F150s, and Silverados, all more expensive that a bolt, MAch e or ID4. As an owner, I'd say they are still in second car territory for most places in the country.
  • Johnster I live in a red state and I see quite a few EVs being purchased by conservative, upper-class Republicans (many of them Trump-supporters). I suspect that it is a way for them to flaunt their wealth and that, over time, the preference for EVs will trickle down to less well-off Republicans.
Next