The last time we talked about the next Mini GP, it had just been presented to us in camouflaged format at N24. We learnt much about it then (see below) but Mini declined to reveal a list price for the "fastest model ever produced in the 60-year history of the brand." Now, ahead of the car's official debut at the LA show, it has - the Mini GP John Cooper Works will start at £34,995 in the UK.
Clearly that isn't an insignificant sum given the model's 'supermini' status - a Ford Fiesta ST Performance Edition starting at £26,495, for example - but it's worth remembering that a) the GP has never been cheap, and b) you're getting quite a senior machine for money. Its manufacturer has confirmed that the car will get 306hp, and we already know that it's getting a trick chassis beneath that 'aerodynamically optimised body'.
We also know that it is capable of a sub 8min Nordschleife lap time (because Mini keeps repeating it) which puts the car right in the 'quickest ever hot hatch' mix. Using the Honda Civic Type R (£31,550) and Renault Sport Megane R.S. Trophy (£31,995) as a measure, and chucking in the GP's niche and limited edition appeal, you can see how its maker arrived at the figure.
Time will tell if it's actually worth it, of course. We'll know more later this month when the new model is finally shown to the public in production format - and we'll know for sure when it's finally ready to actually drive. That we can't wait is probably a good sign...
It all makes sense, if you think about it: where better, in fact, to release new info about an upcoming performance car than the 'ring on N24 weekend? The place is jam-packed with the most dedicated of fast car fans, exactly the kind of people who really would spend lots of money on a very powerful Mini with two seats. So there is the prototype Mk3 GP, plonked outside of the Nurburgring Info Center alongside its R53 and R56 predecessors, ready to be ogled by an eager public.
With a production debut still a few months off, there are elements of the John Cooper Works GP still under wraps. However, a few minutes with engineer Jurgen Matz has revealed more than few positive details about the upcoming flagship.
Firstly, very much like the two previous GPs and rather out of keeping with Mini tradition, the third generation GP will have no dynamic configurability. One passive suspension tune, one wheel and tyre combination - Hankook Ventus S1 evos, 225-section on 18-inch wheels - one brake package and so on. Matz talks of the being able reduce weight and complexity by eliminating the various options, as well as the focus that makes possible in perfecting one set up. All encouraging news.
The reason for the Nurburgring reveal - almost reveal, rather - is to talk about the new car's additional prowess around the circuit. It's going to have more than 300hp, with Mini already claiming a lap time below eight minutes (the GP2 recorded 8:23) and with more to come. The specifics aren't yet clear, though; the Countryman and Clubman JCW have 306hp, but the hatch could well have more power again. Front- or four-wheel drive hasn't been confirmed, and neither have gearboxes - the prototype car on display did have the automatic shifter present. Furthermore, despite two seats again carrying on in GP tradition, weight hasn't been disclosed.
Matz reckons the difference from JCW to GP dynamically is as great as the leap from S to JCW, with springs, dampers and anti-roll bars all significantly stiffer. While 80 per cent of testing thus far has been on the road, that final fifth has been on track, the 'ring again used for its ability to pack so many challenges into such a relatively short space of time. Questioned on rivals, the Megane and Civic come up in conversation - very good cars to benchmark.
While still only a development car, let's hope the production GP can look as silly as this one currently does. Modest and demure has never really been the Mini way, has it? The wider tracks are cloaked in some ludicrous arch extensions, way more aggressive than either of the previous models. The rear wing is bigger, the exhausts are bigger, everything evidently pumped up to wild proportions despite the disguise. There's an argument to make about the current Mini lacking the cohesive style of the previous two, though if drives with the same sort of impish enthusiasm then there won't be too many complaints.
Mini is promising in its press material a car that "takes the extreme driving fun offered by a Mini to a whole new level", one with "outstanding sporting potential". Given there have been some encouraging signs in the F56 Mini if you've known where to look - our Works 210 long termer being the ideal example - some cautious optimism about this GP would be understandable. Especially with more than 300hp. 2020 can't come soon enough...