Mini's Electric Hot Hatch Formula E Safety Car Has Extremely Good Wheels

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Image: Mini

It probably doesn’t send the right message when the safety car for your all-electric open-wheel racing series has an exhaust pipe, right? So now that Formula E’s BMW i8 safety car has reached the end of its life, and BMW has announced it’ll be axing its participation in said series, it’s time for a plucky youngster city car hot hatch to step up to the plate and deliver without any tailpipe emissions whatsoever. Here comes the new all electric Mini Pacesetter Insipred By JCW safety car.

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Starting with round three of the 2020/21 season, the Pacesetter will set the pace. It will make its debut on April 10th at the Rome E-Prix with official Formula E safety car driver Bruno Correia at the wheel. Formula E tends to be a fairly contact-heavy sport, so it’s likely that the Mini Pacesetter will be logging a decent amount of miles this season.

Illustration for article titled Mini's Electric Hot Hatch Formula E Safety Car Has Extremely Good Wheels
Image: Mini

“We have already shown how well driving fun and electric mobility go together with the MINI Electric,” says Bernd Körber, Head of MINI. “However, the MINI Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW goes at least a step further and blends the performance character of the John Cooper Works brand with electric mobility. This extreme version of the MINI Electric has been developed as the Safety Car for Formula E, so is clearly not intended for use on public roads. But it does reveal one of the directions we could take with the electrification of the JCW brand. For me, the message is clear: electrification and John Cooper Works are a good fit.”

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Image: Mini

The body kit on this machine isn’t quite the same as the out-of-this-world hard-edged Mini Cooper JCW GP. It incorporates a pretty aggressive widebody set of flares and side skirts, plus a more aggressive front and rear fascia, plus the GP’s giant wing tacked on the back replete with all the requisite safety car lights. Without the livery and lights, this could easily be a production-ready electric hot hatchback. I really hope it is. I really like how this thing looks.

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The wheels are my favorite part. They’re the standard JCW GP split four-spoke design, but with color accents that really make them pop. With black centers and orange everywhere else, they look like they’re a totally different wheel. This is a very cool piece of design to make the Mini Pacesetter stand out on track. We all know I love bright color accents.

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The interior of the car has been stripped to the minimum necessary, for obvious reasons. With only two front seats remaining, lightweight racing seats and harnesses, and a bespoke welded-in roll cage, this thing is track ready. Everything from the center gauges to the steering wheel have been yanked out and remade in carbon fiber to simplify and add, well, you know. Even the door panels have been stripped back as much as possible, with cloth straps to aid in closing the door rather than a handle. Then the entire interior was painted in Racing White.

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Mini says that it has managed to get the Pacesetter’s weight down to just 1230 kilograms, which is about 130 kilos lighter than the street-going Mini Cooper SE electric hatch. The powertrain remains the same, however with 181 horsepower and 206 pound-feet on tap for zippy city performance. After lightening the car, Mini claims a 0-60 time of 6.7 seconds, but Car & Driver recorded a 6.1-second run from the street Cooper SE, so it’s likely the Pacesetter can drop a few clicks of the stop watch from even that time.

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Suspension work is handled by proper racing coilovers, which are three-way adjustable, plus race-spec control arms, 10mm wider track, and four-piston brakes cribbed from the JCW GP. Tires are picked right from the Michelin Pilot Sport bin in 245/40 R18 size, meaning these are identical in construction to the race-spec Formula E front tire.

Mini, I am begging you, sell this car to the world right now. Exactly like this.

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

I’m excited for fun/track focused EVs. The closest would be the Taycan, at this point, and it’s very capable, but it’s still like a Panamera. Great and theoretically capable, but probably not seeing a lot of track days.

I hope they make this car, but the stock Cooper SE drivetrain isn’t going to cut it. Power-wise, this thing probably does 0-60 in 5.7-ish, now, which is quick enough, BUT thermal throttling happens really quickly with the “regular” Cooper SE.

If they said they were making this exact car but with track-capable cooling (and faster charging), I’d order one, now.