Saturday, December 15, 2007

John Cooper had Another Idea

At the same time that Issigonis was designing the car, racecar builder John Cooper was adapting the same BMC A-series engine to his Formula Junior racecars and was running the BMC works racing teams. It was only a matter of time before Cooper dropped a race-tuned A-series engine, with modified bore and stroke producing 997cc (under the important one-liter limitation for several racing classifications) into the great-handling Mini to produce a candidate for sedan racing and rallying. In 1961 the Mini Cooper was born.

Never one to be content with just enough, Cooper worked his magic again and adapted his 1100cc Formula Junior engine to the Mini to produce the Mini Cooper S, introduced in 1963. A year later, a 1275cc version of the Mini Cooper S was introduced. This little buzzbomb could go from zero to 60 in less than 11 seconds and continue accelerating up to 97 miles per hour, capable of beating most sedans on the road.

With the handling that had always been a strong suit, this was just the car to take on the Alpine and Monte Carlo rallies. And so Cooper did, with his cars winning the Monte Carlo Rally in 1964 with Paddy Hopkirk at the wheel and in 1965 with Timo Makinen. In 1966 Mini Cooper Ss took first, second, and third place in the Monte Carlo rally, only to be disqualified for violating a rule about light switches. However, Rauno Aaltonen took his revenge, conclusively winning the Monte in his Cooper S in 1967.

With its superior handling and ability to accelerate out of turns, the Cooper S became very popular in shorter distance track events. The new European Touring Car Championships was a perfect opportunity to show how easily the car could be tuned for high-speed competition in the under-1000cc Group II classification. Minis did very well at Nurburgring, especially against Fiat-Abarths which were the main competition. International teams from Spain, Sweden, France and Germany as well as Great Britain, ran Minis quite competitively. Works cars were event built to compete in the Tasmanian series in Australia and New Zealand.

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