The MINI has always marketed itself on being fun, and what’s more fun than getting out on track and giving your oily bits a right good kicking? But even though the MINI is good fun out of the box, there are things you can do to make the fun even greater.
As such, we’ve had a think and come up with five modifications for your MINI that should see you hunting apexes like a boss. For this list, we’ve focused on the R53 model with the supercharged 1.6 engine, because superchargers are for winners.
1 Up the boost
The R53 has the benefit of being supercharged. From the factory, it made for impressive power figures, namely 163bhp. However, that was MINI playing it safe. It didn’t want everyone to blow their engine to smithereens. That said, there is still room for improvement.
The supercharger is belt-driven. If you change the pulley on the supercharger for a smaller one, it spins faster per revolution of the engine. The faster it spins, the more boost you get.
A John Cooper Works pulley was 12% smaller, but you can go 15 or 17%, though be warned; the latter needs an uprated intercooler. But it’s worth it, you cn expect an extra 20bhp or so and improved torque.
2 Get sticky
Power, as they say, is nothing without control. And what’s responsible for maximum control of your car? The tyres of course. If you skimp on the rubber, you’re not going to have a fun time. You’re going to find yourself sliding about, or understeering, or something else equally unpleasant.
If you’re making the commitment to hit the track, do you want to wreck your road tyres? Of course you don’t, so plump for a spare set of wheels and get some sticky rubber on there. You’ll feel more connected to the track, and as such, you’ll be faster but also safer. When combined, that makes for more fun.
3 Caged animal
Go to any track and you’ll be greeted with a familiar sight – the “Motorsport is Dangerous” sign. And it’s not lying, motorsport is dangerous. And that includes track days. Okay, so you’re only competing against yourself, not a field of racers fighting for a championship, but even so, you’re still pushing the car hard.
And the harder you push, the bigger the accident will be if you’re unlucky enough to have one. As such, a roll cage is worth considering. There are plenty of bolt-in options available for the R53, and they’ll give you that bit more protection should you run out of talent.
If you go for a full cage, it will also have the added benefit of making the car stiffer. And stiffer means faster. Fact.
4 On a diet
You never see a load of fat people running the 1000m do you? There’s a reason for that, and it’s because weight isn’t associated with speed. And this is never more evident than when it comes to a car. When you see a proper race car, it has the bare minimum inside; seats and a steering wheel usually. All the trim, the rear seats, so on and so forth, it’s all going to slow you down.
So why not bin it? Okay, so this is only really wise if your MINI is a pure track day toy, as the kids won’t enjoy the school run with no seats. If you can afford to do it though, you’ll be glad. You could lose enough weight to easily bring your lap times down. But more than that, a light car is more responsive and agile. And that’s good.
5 Get low and slow
As we said when talking about the tyres, power and control go hand in hand. Two ways to make sure you have lots of the latter come from the brakes and the car’s centre of gravity. The brakes keep everything in check, so it makes sense to ensure your MINI’s are in fine fettle.
Or why not go one step further? You don’t need to fit massive brakes, you can just uprate the discs and pads. It’s off the shelf stuff you can fit yourself, but it makes a hell of a difference. As will lowering the suspension. The lower the car’s centre of gravity, the more planted it is to road.
Happily, there is no shortage of kits for the R53, and fitting new springs or full coilovers is the kind of thing a competent owner can do at home, too. Win!