Called the JCW GP Concept, the competition-inspired MINI points the way to the third-generation GP hatch.
Set to make its public debut alongside an electric concept of the Mini hatch, the John Cooper Works GP Concept is described as a design study created to evoke the competition-honed styling and pared back character of earlier go-fast Mini models.
Arguably the most radical looking Mini concept to appear since the British carmaker was purchased by BMW as part of the Rover Group in 1994, it serves to convey Mini’s plans for an even more aggressive GP model than the first- and second-generation models launched in 2006 and 2013 respectively.
Known under the internal working title R59 GP3, the third-generation Mini John Cooper Works GP is planned for launch towards the end of the model cycle for the existing hatchback in 2019.
As well as setting the tone for a third John Cooper Works GP model, the new concept also serves to celebrate Mini’s long association with motorsport, both in rallying and circuit racing.
“The MINI John Cooper Works GP Concept is all about the unfettered feeling of driving and levels of performance found in motorsport competition,” MINI's Peter Schwarzenbauer said. “This is driving fun in its purest form.”
Included in the John Cooper Works GP Concept’s visual makeover of the standard third-generation Mini John Cooper Works hatchback is a deep front bumper featuring a prominent splitter that protrudes from underneath the grille incorporating a trio of large air ducts.
Fashioned from carbon fibre, the new front bumper flows back to form two vertical wing elements that sit proud of the front fenders, giving the new concept the impression of added width. There’s also a new look grille with a honeycomb shaped insert, bonnet fasteners, revised headlamps with revised graphics and a single centrally mounted windscreen wiper.
Further back, Mini’s design team has provided the new three-door competition inspired concept with F1 inspired exterior mirror housings, a roof mounted air duct, complex sill structure underneath the doors, similar wing like elements over the rear fenders as those used up front and a towering rear wing element that sits above the hatchback style tailgate.
The rear end of the John Cooper Works GP is distinguished by revised tail lamps. They feature a new LED graphic that mimics the Union Jack emblem used on the English flag as a nod to the company’s beginnings and main production plant in Oxford, England. There’s also a deep new diffuser element that incorporates two rain lamps either side as well as a pair of round centrally mounted brushed aluminium tail pipes.
Commenting on the uncompromising look of the new car, BMW Group senior vice president of design, Adrian von Hooydonk, said: “If you know about Mini, you’ll be aware of the brand’s long and successful history in motor sport. The John Cooper Works GP Concept brings together the full suite of defining Mini design elements and showcases them at their sportiest. What we’re looking at here is maximum performance, maximum Mini.”
The treatment brought to the interior of the latest Mini concept is every bit as hardcore as that applied to its exterior. The stripped out cabin receives a full roll cage, two hard shell racing seats with five-point belts, a new digital instrument binnacle and an updated steering wheel with shift paddles.
Underlining its competition roots, the concept’s doors are opened using recessed grips with fabric straps, while a large emergency cut off button dominates the centre of the dashboard and a fire extinguisher is mounted between the low mounted seats. The rear seat, headliner and other trim elements are deleted in the interests of weight saving.
In a hint that future Mini models will provide a more digitally orientated control system, the suspension settings can be altered via a touch sensitive display.
Mini is not making any claims about the mechanical package of the John Cooper Works GP Concept.
The previous Mini John Cooper Works GP, launched in 2013, used a turbocharged 1.6 four-cylinder petrol engine. It delivered 160kW and 280Nm of torque on the overboost, providing the front-wheel drive track focused hatchback with a 0-100km/h time of 6.3sec and top speed of 242km/h.
The upcoming production version of the new Mini John Cooper Works GP Concept due out in 2019, however, is expected to run a powered up version of the turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol unit used by the latest John Cooper Works model. Nothing is official just yet, though insiders suggest the N48 designated unit could receive the same state of tune as it does in the BMW 330i, which offers 185kW and 350Nm of torque. In keeping with tradition, this would make the new John Cooper Works GP, the most powerful Mini hatchback yet.
As with the previous two Mini John Cooper Works GP models, the upcoming third-generation model is expected to be produced in limited numbers and sold at a high premium to less-powerful models.
Mini imported just 55 examples of the previous-generation Cooper Works GP, a car that cost $56,900 plus on-road costs.