Luis Perocarpi’s lifelong dream was to own a racing team. He likes making cars get faster. Fortunately for Mini owners everywhere, what he does makes street cars faster too, because his team isn’t just a racing team. All the performance-enhancing parts they use on the race cars have to be publicly available for owners to buy.
[Full disclosure: We hung out with the LAP Motorsports team when they raced at Circuit of the Americas, and the team picked up the tab at dinner.]
“When I was a kid, I wanted to work for a car manufacturer and I wanted to make cars go faster,” Perocarpi, the founder of LAP Motorsports, told Jalopnik. He considers this dream fulfilled at this point, especially considering that he raced classic Minis when he was younger.
Unlike the more purpose-built cars in other series, Perocarpi’s team focuses on using items available to the general public—and developing parts for Mini-driving track rats everywhere to buy.
2016 was Mini’s first full season back as a manufacturer in any series in the United States, and they went all out supporting their Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge effort. The car runs in the fairly close-to-stock ST class, which allows Mini to send actual dealership mechanics to work on the LAP Motorsports cars every weekend. Not all teams there are factory-supported.
At Circuit of the Americas, for example, 10 mechanics from 10 different Mini dealers across the south were there as sort of an honorary gig, working on the race cars. The dealership techs gain valuable experience, and the team gets more hands on deck.
Unfortunately, it’s getting harder to make a production-based car into a race car now. Both LAP’s Mini Cooper JCW and C360R’s Audi S3 were new in 2015, but have experienced significant teething issues going up against cars that have been developed for two to three years. This year, LAP had the newest car in the series.
According to Perocarpi, cars are now primarily designed to be green and safe for road use, so when you go race them, it’s hard to simply get the car to understand what you’re doing. When a car pitches sideways or flies over a bump on track, many modern safety systems try to shut things down, sensing that you’re heading for a crash instead of track-out.
And thus, LAP’s biggest gains in speed throughout 2016 have been through the development of the electronics of the car. Drivers are no longer fighting the car as much.
That being said, any performance parts on their car must be publicly available. If you own a Mini, you should be paying close attention to this CTSCC team. All of the parts you’d need to build your own CTSCC car, including the fender flares, sway bars, and KW coilover kit are all available for customers to buy.
Not everything is modified, however. The car runs the factory Mini JCW brake calipers with the same size rotors and more aggressive pads.
It took them two months after buying their base cars on Dec. 13, 2014, to get them ready to race. They had to miss Daytona, but eventually made it to Sebring at the last minute in 2015. They never even had the chance to test either of their then-two cars before showing up to Sebring, but one finished solidly mid-pack in 18th, regardless.
Perocarpi said that the cars themselves were barely changed from stock that race, and while one car’s boost controller failed, the other one’s respectable result signified that they had a possible contender on their hands.
What will happen to the LAP Motorsports team with the possible switch to the TCR spec for the ST class, then? Not too much. Perocarpi said that Mini was looking into being a builder for TCR, and the spec suits the team’s needs, as it’s for front-wheel-drive, two-liter turbo, four-door cars.
Plus, TCR is a worldwide platform, which means the development LAP does in the United States could be huge for selling the new race car around the globe. Either way, ST’s current cars won’t go away for at least a couple years, so LAP would still have a few years left out of their 2015 Mini.
To me, CTSCC was easily the most fun series to watch last year. Besides the perpetually close battles up front, I love the notion that I could buy the cars out on track. People complain about stock cars no longer being “stock” and brush off manufacturers’ claims of road relevance all the time, and this series was proof that you could tweak a car—not even an ultra-high-end sportscar, but a regular car, for much of the ST field—off the showroom floor and take it racing.
While that’s certainly proven to be more challenging given all the technology in modern road cars, the Mini is one of the most popular cars out there. It’s a brand that’s relatively accessible to own, and Mini promotes the crap out of its racing efforts to its broader fanbase.
Perocarpi said he’d love to build on his current team’s momentum and take Minis elsewhere, especially off-road, as he’s also a two-time Baja 1000 winner. His ultimate dream would be to race in Dakar, but he’d also love to see a Mini in Rally America.
All I ask is that the rally parts be available for new Minis, too. Let’s be equitable here, right?