PH was lucky enough to be there in person when the next Mini GP was revealed in prototype format over the weekend. With confirmation it’ll have over 300hp - and a-l-o-t of aero - the stripped-out super-hatch promised much for its introduction later this year. With an output to take on just about any hot hatch you care to think of, it ought to be a Mini for the ages.
A bit like its forebear, the GP1, was 13 years ago. When it arrived in 2006 with 218hp from a supercharged 1.6-litre engine, it had the performance to rank right at the sharp end of the class. What really set it apart though was its lack of rear seats, replaced by a shiny red strut brace. Don’t forget, this was three years before Dieppe stripped out a Megane to create the R26.R, so the GP and its 50kg weight made it look properly track-worthy. Although admittedly, even this paired-back R53 weighed 1,195kg.
Still, beneath the Frank Stephenson-designed body – complete with its teeny overhangs, bonnet intake and rear wing – there was a limited-slip differential, 10mm lower suspension and aluminium rear control arms, giving the Mk1 GP a pointy, playful chassis setup that was privy to the advantages of a cocked inside rear. It was grippier, quicker and even more playful than the Clio 197.
It felt more exotic, too, owing to its motorsport makeover. You sat in bolstered Recaro seats and thanks to the lack of rear furniture, the car’s twin-exit exhaust was more audible. Run over stones at speed and you might even hear them flick up into the rear wheel arches, like a proper Mini Challenge touring car. No doubt many fell in love with the GP for these traits alone.
Adding to the allure was the fact that assembly was handled by Bertone of Italy, which took the Oxford-supplied bodies in white and added all the special bits. Just 2,000 GP1s were made at the Grugliasco site, of which 437 (12 fewer than planned) made it to Britain. But, like many hot hatches of this kind (think back to the original Megane Trophy-R), demand did not reflect the respect the model garnered. The GP1 was and still is hailed as one of the very best superminis to make production.
Combine that status with rareness and coolness and you get 13-year-old hatchbacks priced at well over £10k. Today’s Spotted, for example, is up for a tenner less than thirteen grand despite its 88,000 miles. As many of us will know, enthusiast models of this kind – even those with decent usage – are often maintained to very high standards, and this car seems to fit the bill nicely. GP number 113 looks as clean outside as it does in; you only need to peel off the odd door sticker to bring it back to its best.
SPECIFICATIONS - MINI GP1
Engine: 1,598cc supercharged four cylinder
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive with mechanical LSD
Power (hp): 218@7,100rpm
Torque (lb ft): 184@4,600rpm
Recorded mileage: 88,000
First registered: 2006
Price new: £22,000
Yours for: £12,990
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