MINI is tired of everyone saying that the all-electric Cooper SE is not a “real MINI”, so of course, the British brand (well, sort of) did what it does best – by taking the all-electric Mini to an Opel Trophy rally stage in Romania, opening a new chapter in its rallying history that dates back to the 1960s.
The effort was a partnership between the local Romanian BMW arm and Vitesco Technologies, a German company supplying electric drive solutions. However, changes to the Cooper SE that took part in this race were minimal – modifications were focused on safety and weight-saving, along with a cheeky “No gas? No problem!” number plate.
The rear seats in the MINI Cooper SE were removed, and the ones in front replaced with proper racing seats. A roll cage was also installed, along with six point harnesses to ensure the safety of the driver. In total, these changes shed approximately 150 kg off from the weight of the original car.
With the drivetrain, battery set-up, suspension setup and brakes retained from the stock car, and the only mechanical performance upgrade being a set of slightly-stickier Michelin Pilot Sport 4 (road) tyres, the electric Mini managed to complete the 5 km rally course in 3:18.
The MINI Cooper SE finishes round one in the second-half of the standings, and achieved an average speed of 96 km/h throughout the stage. However, the most impressive part of the feat is that it completed all eight runs in just one single charge. Yes, it’s only around 40 km in distance, but it’s 40 km of hard driving, on a hill no less.
According to the driver, Andrei Barbu, the car still had lots of potential to be explored, with this first entry being more of a benchmark run more than anything else. “I set off in this adventure rather skeptical towards the car’s potential. However, during my eight runs in this stage I learned a lot about the car, its pros and cons and I can say there’s room for improvement.
“This is where our partners from Vitesco Technologies will step in, as they will hopefully provide a better thermal management solution for the battery packs, so that we can squeeze 100% of the performance they can offer in future runs.”
This race was only the first in a long series to come, and the electric Mini will receive further modifications to better cope with the challenging conditions of the Romanian National Hill Speed Championship rally stages. For starters, the rally-prepped Cooper SE will receive a new suspension, new tyres and a new management unit for the battery module for the next race.
BMW Group Romania General Manager, Dr. Josef Reiter added: “We’re still in the early stages of this project and we don’t have any special modifications done to the car to enhance its performance so far but this only goes to show that the MINI Electric, even in stock form, can deliver incredible performance and keeps the ‘go-kart’ feeling alive and well.”
Closer to home, MINI Malaysia has only recently unveiled the MINI Cooper SE on our shores, priced at RM218k inclusive of sales tax exemptions. Powered by a single electric motor on the front axle which serves up 184 hp and 270 Nm of torque, the Cooper SE completes the century sprint in a brisk 7.3 seconds, and boasts a pure-electric driving range of 234 km (WLTP cycle) from its 28.9 kWh battery pack.