MINI Track Day 2020 is all about going mad while staying sane

MINI Track Day 2020 is all about going mad while staying sane

MINI Malaysia organised a track day for driving enthusiasts to have a spirited go in the flagship MINI models.

Without any context, “Go Mad, Stay Sane” sounds like an oxymoron. But if you put it into the context of driving really fast while putting safety as your top priority, then the theme of MINI Malaysia’s MINI Track Day 2020 starts to make a whole lot of sense.

The MINI Track Day 2020 is all about bringing driving enthusiasts together to sample some of MINI Malaysia’s flagship models at the Sepang International Circuit (SIC). Namely, these are the MINI Cooper S 3-Door, Cooper S 5-Door, Cooper S Countryman. Also, the 2018 MINI John Cooper Works (JCW) 3-door and the current MINI JCW Clubman were in the fleet as well.

Making its first live appearance at the MINI Track Day 2020 was the new MINI Countryman Blackheath Edition. Only limited to 40 units, the MINI Countryman is clad in an all-black design, reminiscent of the dark shrubland of Blackheath, South East London in the United Kingdom.

Photo of Sashi Ambi with the MINI Countryman Blackheath Edition at the MINI Track Day 2020

That said, the special features a Midnight Black exterior colour and Piano Black design features. And the black stripes boasts a brushed aluminium texture unlike on the mainstream MINI offerings.

Inside, the interior gets an anthracite headliner with seats trimmed in Carbon Black Cross Punch leather upholstery and piano black interior trim comes naturally. The only thing that is coloured is the MINI Connected infotainment system and the 12 colour ambient lights.

Also, the limited-edition MINI comes with the latest update of the MINI Connected App, and a newly updated MINI TwinPower Turbo engine paired with the 7-Speed Sport Dual Clutch Transmission.

Besides having given a quick history lesson of how John Cooper got his name on the MINI cars, the participants were given a basic advanced defensive driving lesson through a timed slalom course before going on a guided lap of the SIC’s South Circuit.

Passion is synonymous with MINI, and it has earned that reputation by imparting more than just passion-fuelled drives for the past 60 years but also by playing a significant role in ensuring that passion translates safely on the road. The MINI Track Day is how we fulfil that responsibility while making it enjoyable for all, and we are glad to present yet another thrilling experience for MINI fans this year.

Sashi Ambi, Head of Corporate Communications, BMW Group Malaysia.

The driving experience of the MINI Cooper S five-door, 2018 JCW 3-door and 2019 JCW Clubman – a mini-review.

Through the four-eyed nerdy goggles of this writer, Breena Au shares her quick and brief experience driving the 2018 F45 MINI Cooper S 5-Door during the slalom exercise and the SIC’s South Track laps in the 2018 JCW 3-Door and 2019 JCW Clubman.

To summarise, the 2018 F54 MINI Cooper S 5-Door felt taut and agile, despite having a relatively longer wheelbase than the 3-Door body. And without having the perception of chassis flex, the 5-door delivered its promised handling agility. Moreover, the steering is direct and weighty, though lacking feel. However, the car’s dynamics can still be felt through the seats.

MINI John Cooper Works Clubman on the back straight of Sepang International Circuit during the MINI Track Day 2020

With 189 bhp at 5,000 rpm and 280 Nm at 1,350 rpm, the peppy engine and the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission’s closely spaced gear ratios are a nice pair. And in the MINIs, traction control does play an important role, which puts the engine’s bottom-end torque on a leash until the steering is corrected forwards. Thus preventing a one-wheel burnout when making a spirited u-turn.

All in all, the 5-Door was an easy-going car to drive and responses well to direction changes, especially when threading through the cones. The brake pedal felt positively progressive, too.

As for the JCWs, they were a thrill to drive, be it the pre-updated 228 bhp, 320 Nm and the 2019 JCW’s 302 bhp, 450 Nm versions. Having slight tweaks made to the springs and dampers to address the power hike, both the chassis of the 3-door and Clubman JCW’s shares the same characteristics as the 5-Door as mentioned but with a much stiffer and busier ride.

Moreover, having a mechanical slip differential in the previous model and the brake-actuated torque vectoring in the newer car does help the JCW MINIs to have a better on-throttle turn-in-ability without much of the torque steer. And, the eight-speed conventional automatic transmission is in both cars are nicely spaced and quick to shift.

A photo of the 2018 MINI John Cooper Works 3-Door on turn-13 at the Sepang International Circuit during the MINI Track Day 2020

Having 74 bhp and 130 Nm separating the two versions, the performance difference may look shockingly vast on paper, but the newer JCW feels a whiff quicker than the old car on the track. But, that isn’t a fair comparison considering that both cars were in their 3-Door and Clubman bodies.

Unquestionably, both cars are a joy and a confidence boost to drive on the track. Again, the body of both cars are sublime, and there’s plenty the car can tell you how the soft and sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres – instead of their respective default Pirellis and Continentals – were feeling. Furthermore, the direction changes for both cars are effortless and agile, while the Clubman’s longer wheelbase feels more progressive.

However, it would be great to take these cars in a real-world environment to better explore the duality of these cars. But unfortunately, these cars on track will be de-fleeted after the track day, and until then, hopefully, we get to sample the new cars in the real world.

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