March 27, 2023

Design Classics: 50 years of the Mini Cooper S at Brands Hatch @MINIUK

The Mini Cooper S, the legendary racer is due to turn fifty – an anniversary which will be celebrated at Brands Hatch on the weekend of 22-23 June. First appearing in 1963. The MINI Festival is set to attract thousands of classic Mini and modern MINI fans. As well as live music, vehicle shows and lots of MINI action, a special highlight will be races featuring both current and historical vehicles.

Developed for the race track half a century ago, the then most powerful version of the classic Mini is one of the most successful vehicles in motor racing history. Later Formula 1 champion Niki Lauda won the first mountain races of his career in a Mini Cooper S, and the British car sped from one victory to the next on the circuits of Europe in the 1960s. But it was on gravel and ice that it became a legend: the Mini Cooper S won the overall ranking at the Monte Carlo Rally a total of three times – in 1964, 1965 and 1967.

All this was due to the perfectly matched collaboration between Mini creator Alec Issigonis and sports car designer John Cooper. From its first presentation in 1959, the Mini’s compact dimensions, low weight, novel configuration of engine, gearbox and drive and progressive suspension technology gave it an astoundingly agile driving response. John Cooper realised early on that there was sporting talent to be tapped into here, and it was at his initiative that a version named Mini Cooper went on the market just two years after the revolutionary little car’s original premiere – with its output now increased to 55 bhp. Since the response to this power enhancement can only be described as euphoric, Issigonis and Cooper got together to prepare for the next level: the Mini Cooper S was born another two years later.

Following a tried and tested principle of motor racing, the combustion chambers of the 4-cylinder engine were enlarged in the new model to give it a further power boost. With the stroke kept constant, the bore was expanded to the maximum level possible and the cylinder head attachment reinforced. The displacement was 1071 cc – just under the limit for the cubic class envisaged for racing. The engine also demonstrated increased revving power, reaching its peak output of 70 bhp at 6,200 rpm. Meanwhile the brake system of the Mini Cooper S was also optimised to match the car’s sporting potential: with larger discs and a servo unit it was ready to handle the increased power. The time had come to chase racing victory.

In its modern version, the MINI Cooper S follows on where its legendary ancestor left off – both as the basis for the MINI Challenge racing car and as the epitome of extra driving fun on the road. The 4-cylinder turbo engine of the current MINI Cooper S mobilises 135 kW/184 bhp from a capacity of 1.6 litres. Its spontaneous power delivery and efficiency have earned it worldwide acclaim: just a few weeks ago its engine was pronounced the best in its capacity class for the third time in succession at the International Engine of the Year Awards.

All the generations will be represented at the MINI Festival at Brands Hatch to compete in a handicap race and find the sportiest MINI Cooper S from five decades. There will also be a display of current and historical racing and rally vehicles –  including the Monte Carlo winner of 1964 and the MINI ALL4 Racing in which Stéphane Peterhansel won the Dakar Rally this year.

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