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Super-hot Mini forced to bypass Australia

Maxi Mini: The two-seater GP reaches 100km/h in 6.5 seconds.

Tough design rules strike out any chance to homologate hot hatch

Mini logo1 Mar 2006

THE fastest and most powerful production Mini ever built made its world debut at the Geneva motor show in Switzerland this week but it will not be sold in Australia because it does not meet Australian design rules.

The iconic British brand, which has attracted a strong following in Australia since it returned in 2002, has created a two-seater GP (Grand Prix) version of its Cooper S Works model which ekes another 6kW of power from the standard 154kWJCW-fettled 1.6-litre supercharged engine and includes even firmer springs and dampers and higher-performing brakes with 16-inch inner-vented discs.

The GP kit increases the car’s top speed to 235km/h, while the burst from 0-100km/h drops a tenth to 6.5 seconds.

According to the national Mini manager in Australia, Justin Hocevar, federal government authorities rejected the company’s application for low-volume (30-unit) importation of the hot GP-branded Coopers based on the vehicle’s 80mm ride height.

"We can’t get it homologated," he said. "The vehicle’s ride height is so low, and it’s such a low-volume special model – there are only 2000 of these being produced worldwide and demand on them is super-hot.

"The only application that people could order one into Australia would be for a specific motorsport application for non-registrable use.

We’re finding that there is a lot of interest in that area for people but, really, they’re looking at ordering a car that’s a fairly low-specification car." The GP’s performance enhancements stem from modifications to the intercooler on the compressor and the electronic engine management. A limited-slip differential is fitted as standard and stability control is available as a non-cost option. Light-alloy 18-inch wheels and low-profile tyres are specifically matched to the GP model.

39 center imageLEFT: Mini Concept Geneva.

Other features include new front and rear airdams, extra-low sidesills, a race-bred roof spoiler and red-painted callipers on the front brakes.

As Mini launched its Park Lane and Checkmate “character” models this week inAustralia, the BMW-owned British brand also used the show to unveil the latest incarnation of its forthcoming long-wheelbase wagon model - dubbed the Mini Concept Geneva.

Mr Hocevar revealed that this new model line should be available in Australia late in 2008, around 12 months after the new-generation Cooper hatchbacks.

"I have seen the new car (Cooper) and it is not a radical departure from the current vehicle," he said. "It’s a maturing of the model to a degree.

"There will be steps towards enhancing the already-good safety (credentials) and new engines that are going to have significant weight savings, improved economy, (lower) emissions and great performance.

"There have also been a lot of steps to make a very smart use of space. I get the impression that although the dimensions of the vehicle won’t change drastically, there will be a greater sensation of space inside the car."Mr Hocevar also said the latest Australian design rules should enable importation of European-spec models in the next generation (if not before), ending the current situation where the large central speedo – the cabin’s most unique feature – is left off models imported Down Under.

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