When we think of automotive icons, the classic Mini is undoubtedly one of biggest, despite its miniscule size. Whether you’re into cars or not, the humble Mini is instantly recognisable thanks to its ground-breaking design; penned by legendary car designer Sir Alec Issigonis in the late ‘50s.
Fast forward to 2001 and the all-new MINI was introduced to the world. Now under the ownership of BMW, the rebranded MINI model was of course larger (as many new cars are) but it still kept many of the classic car’s quirks and features, such as razor-sharp handling and nippy performance. Since its rebirth, the new MINI has been extremely popular thanks to mimicking the original with its go-kart like handling and its bespoke customisation possibilities. The icon’s legacy continues.
John Cooper Works ChallengeJohn Cooper Works aka JCW models are the sportiest, range-topping MINI models available which include a rich heritage, produced from motorsport. This was thanks to John Cooper who became fascinated with the classic Mini. He saw the car had an enhanced potential so went about adding a more powerful engine, improved the brakes and gave the car sharper steering. The humble Mini had been turned into the giant-slaying Mini Cooper, winning various motorsport events.
When BMW launched the new MINI, the John Cooper legacy was continued via racy JCW models. This limited edition JCW Challenge model further enhances what is possible from a MINI. The Challenge name is an indication of the cars nature, named after the MINI Challenge racing series – again, another connection to motorsport. Built by the team that build the MINI Challenge racing cars, this particular JCW Challenge is one serious MINI; a road legal racing car.
How Serious?With only 53 ever made, the JCW Challenge is a rare hardcore car that can embarrass much more expensive metal on a race track, or whilst hustling down a B-road; it’s not for the faint hearted. This is thanks to some serious performance enhancements and race car inspired styling.
All 53 examples are finished in a White Silver paint finish which is complemented by a menacing JCW body kit along with various styling enhancements, and black stickers for good measure – it is a road legal race car after all. The styling is just the start though, as driver focus is the main concentration. Therefore, the JCW Challenge comes complete with a Quaife ATB Limited-Slip Differential to diminish understeer, along with Nitron Adjustable Dampeners to enable the fine tuning of this MINI’s incredible chassis for road and track work. The ride height has been altered too, now sitting 20mm lower at the rear and an impressive 40mm lower at the front – teamed with a touch of negative camber – again impersonating that of a racing car.
The JCW Challenge also sits on lightweight Team Dynamics 17” wheels and ultra-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres. These aren’t just your ordinary tyres though, as they appear on some of the world’s fastest cars; some of which have smashed the production Nurburgring Nordschleife lap time.
The JCW Challenge features the same engine as the standard JCW, so you get a 2.0-litre turbo 228bhp unit, in a car that only weighs 1,215kg. This ensures a 0-62mph time in just over 6 seconds. The only transmission option is that of a six-speed manual too – the purists and drivers’ choice naturally.
But we haven’t got to the best bit yet.
The Best BitMany cars eventually get assigned to the history books, having never really achieved their potential or never really getting under the skin of enthusiasts – which is seen as a monumental failure if it happens to be a performance car. So how do you ensure a performance car is accepted? Perhaps one of the biggest characteristics of a performance car is the noise and if it doesn’t stir the senses this can be fatal drawback in the success of a performance car.
So where does the JCW Challenge rank? Well it doesn’t sound just good. It sounds absolutely incredible. The carbon-tipped set-up gives the JCW Challenge a superb character that imitates an old rally car, staying true to its racing heritage and giving the Challenge a racy, yet premium tone that can match that of an exotic supercar.
It can be primed using a keyring you get with the car, so you can even tone it down if you would want to. But then again…