One of the biggest shocks at etGP06 (et 1/07) was this '02 Mini Cooper S built by Mini-Madness of Hillsboro, OR. With 329hp, 237 lb/ft of torque, consistent quarter-mile times in high-13s and a fourth place finish on Streets of Willow against some of the fastest VW and Audis in the nation, this Mini is not to be messed with. Within its little chassis is a fully built racecar, stripped and turbocharged for racing.
Caelin Gabriel of Seattle, WA owns the car. Before its transformation it was a daily driver and he'd take it to club events at the local road course. It was during one of these track days he met a client of Mini-Madness. Both cars were out on track but the Mini-Madness customer annihilated Caelin. This confused both drivers since their cars essentially shared the same modifications. That was enough to convince Caelin he should visit the Oregon tuner for advice.
In late '05, George Mehallick, president of Mini-Madness, took the car under his wing. "We got that car in a messed up state," George explained. "It had various parts from different Mini tuners - for example the intercooler, exhaust and software - but they were mismatched and it wasn't running right. We diagnosed what was happening and tore out the problem parts. We then replaced everything with parts better-suited to his needs."
Once George and crew corrected Caelin's Cooper, it returned to Seattle where a rematch was scheduled with the other Mini. Of course, Caelin's rejuvenated Mini performed exceptionally well and defeated the other car. From that day forward Caelin was sold on Mini-Madness and continues to use them.
In fact, the Mini went back for a second round of upgrades to improve the suspension and brakes. The car was still street-driven at this point, but both parties agreed to take the car further down the dedicated racing path. "The second time it came back to our shop it journeyed into track-land. It was already lightly stripped with some panels removed, so we discussed a full weld-in rollcage. Both the owner and I decided it was the right thing to do and 75% of the car was then stripped out. The Mini still retains the heater for cold and wet weather driving, so the car still has some streetworthiness," George stated.
After the interior was finished, George upgraded the springs and shocks. He opted for Leda coilovers from the UK: "It's one of the only kits with good street manners that's also easily tuned for the track - a great crossover kit," he said.
The rest of the suspension work was crucial. The Mini retains the stock front sway but the rear was changed from a 16mm to a 22mm bar for less body roll. It also received new tubular front control arms, weighing 2.5 lb less per side than the factory parts and providing more precise turning. Updated rear control arms with hind joints were also installed for better cornering. To finish the job, front camber plates adjust tire orientation for maximum traction.
With the suspension dialed-in for professional racing, George upgraded the brakes to balance the car. A Wilwood big brake kit in the front provides substantially more reliable stopping power. Performance pads and stainless steel lines complete the braking package.
The finished chassis solutions presented a decent Mini Cooper racecar but it lacked sufficient power beyond an aftermarket chip, exhaust and intake. To be more competitive on longer road courses, it would need substantial engine mods.
George had a remedy that would change the Mini forever. "We'd been experimenting with a turbo kit," he explained, "and since Caelin wanted to maximize power, he allowed us to use his Mini to develop the kit."
The factory 1.6 liter supercharged motor was taken out for a close inspection. Parts such as the supercharger and cylinder head were then removed. George took the opportunity to port the head to maximize airflow. He also decided to strengthen the motor. "For this setup we decided to do everything, such as JE pistons," he explained. "We could have left it alone but since the budget wasn't a concern we increased the bore size to over 25psi of boost. The stock bottom end is very strong and durable, it's built like a tank. But with this Mini we have a hardcore setup. To finish the job we balanced everything so the motor is built to handle high revs and boost."
With the motor ready for boost, George installed a Garrett GT28RS turbocharger on a custom tubular exhaust manifold and 3" exhaust. Now the challenge was to reconfigure the electronics to understand the new form of forced induction.
"It's been a really long road working within the confines of the Cooper S," George admitted. "It would've been better if the car had been naturally aspirated to begin with because the vacuum and pressure sensors have been fooled by the turbo so we have to do lots of trickery with the electronic throttle body. They were seeing boost in all the wrong places. For example, when you push down on the gas, it was not directly affecting how the throttle opened. The turbo threw it into chaos because we had a sensor that was used to seeing vacuum when it now sees boost. It really messed everything up and the throttle didn't know what to do."
Another key area was the fuel system. It now features larger injectors, higher-capacity fuel pump and a fuel return line. Because more fuel was required, the fuel pressure wouldn't stay consistent across all the injectors. The solution was a new fuel rail that allowed equal pressure across the larger injectors.
The turbo system was finalized with a water-to-air intercooler (chargecooler). "In the Mini's case, placement was a major issue," George explained. "There were space constraints so there was no room for an air-to-air front-mount. We cast several pieces to allow the chargecooler to fit where it is."
Once development of the turbo kit was complete it proved reliable, powerful and ran consistently without problems at etGP06.
The current turbo setup runs at 17psi, which is the limit for these injectors. Apparently the turbo is capable of 25psi but Mini-Madness is content to run below that at present.
As for the drivetrain, the factory six-speed transmission remained. "The standard gearbox is strong," George confirmed. "It's rare to see them break, even under these kinds of pressures."
To improve reliability, a RPS lightweight flywheel and Spec clutch were fitted, while a Quaife limited-slip differential provided better traction.
As a final touch, the Mini was painted in a Honda satin metallic black. The yellow bug-eyed headlights then give the car a mutant look.
After a year in the making, the Cooper S turbo is a permanent track toy for both Caelin and Mini-Madness. Future plans include lots of track time on SCCA and BMWCCA events. So if you happen to find this Mini on a road course, don't be fooled by its size. Although it's mini, it's a demon.
Tech SpecCaelin GabrielLocation: Hillsboro, OR
Occupation: Audio Specialist and Innovator
2003 Mini Cooper SEngine: 1.6 liter four cylinder with JE pistons, balanced and blueprinted bottom end, ported head with larger valves, Mad Dog GT28RS turbocharger, AEM engine management, Mini-Madness chargecooler, oil cooler and baffled oil pan, 3" straight exhaust with no catalytic converter or muffler, larger injectors, fuel rail and fuel pump
Driveline: six-speed manual transmission with RPS lightweight flywheel, Spec clutch, Quaife limited-slip differential, short shifter
Suspension: Leda coilovers, H&R springs, Mini-Madness 22mm rear sway bar, tubular front control arms and adjustable rear control arms, poly suspension bushings, front camber plates
Wheels & Tires: 17x7" SSR Competition wheels, 225/40-17 Avon Tech R-A tires
Brakes: Wilwood big brake kit, DS2500 pads, stainless steel lines
Exterior: OE Mini aero kit, carbon rear spoiler, Honda satin black paint
Interior: OMP seats, five-point harness, welded-in rollcage, tachometer with shift light, Turbosmart boost control, oil pressure and water temp gauges, Traqmate GPS tracking and data acquisition system, Momo steering wheel