We were at MINI United for the launch of the new MINI GP, which arguably was the icing on top of the big fat MINI United cake. I wont give you any in depth details on the car, as what details there are are all over the internet anyway, instead I want to say a little on my personal impressions of the car and its launch.
I have seen this launch described elsewhere as a soft launch with the main launch to follow at the Paris Motor Show later in the year. This is because the only details we know of the car are that it is 19 seconds faster than the original GP around the Nurburgring and that on the outside it will look like the car above! I think calling this a "soft" launch is a kind way of saying "going off at half cock." I say this because being there for this launch we felt frankly cheated. All the windows were tinted so that you could not see inside, so clearly, the interior is not ready yet, no figures are available for the car so you can bet that even the engine has work to be done on it yet and basically, we felt that the car was only there to boost the importance of the MINI United festival. Also the car was hidden away in a dark corner of Paddock 11 where if you blinked you would miss it.
The MINI GP launch then was to our eyes a bit of a damp squib. But what about the car?
Well, there is nothing not to like about the car as such, but we couldn't help but feel underwhelmed. the plus points are bits we don't really understand such as improved suspension and underneath tray leading to a rear diffuser, a more efficient rear spoiler, better brakes etc. etc. However, what we do understand is looks. We admit it, we are old school all fur coat and no knickers kinda people - if it looks good then that is the battle almost won for us. This GP looks good in the way that all R56 MINIs look good but it also looks like you could very easily make your own look alike GP. There is no unique body kit like we had with the original GP, so the car compensates with a brasher decal finish with more red bits than the original, so we ended up looking at it and thinking that in some ways it is trying too hard and in other ways it is not trying hard enough. However, I/we qualify all this by reiterating that this is just our own personal and unprofessional view and a drive of the car might well make us think it is the best thing since... er the first GP! Somehow though I doubt that.
The original GP and the new GP were side by side in their gloomy lair and both me and Lady Peanut kept looking at the original more and more, then we were discussing the original, " oh look Darling see how it juxtaposes the bold and the brash with its cuteness" and other such nonsense that I am so good at coming out with at these times.
So the launch of the new GP then has brought us closer than ever to buying an original GP. I don't think it is part of BMW's plan but yep the new GP is so good it has almost certainly guaranteed that we will have an original GP in our lives...
Click any photo for a photo slideshow
The Midland Automobile Club (MAC) founded and has always operated Shelsley Walsh. The MAC is arguably the oldest motor club in the world, certainly the oldest still using its original name although there are a few close rivals. The club was founded by a number of prominent members of the early motor industry whilst Queen Victoria was still on the throne. The MAC is Shelsley Walsh but it is not all they do. In addition to Shelsley Walsh speed hill climbs, the MAC organises sprints, sporting trials, classic car events and social events. The MAC feature something for every motor sport and motoring enthusiast. They are the heart of Motor Sport in the Midlands.
The future of Shelsley Walsh was secured with a new 99 year lease in 2005. A program of works to renovate the old buildings at the base of the hill to provide improved facilities for the use of competitors, spectators and visitors alike continues as and when funds are available.
On Sunday we went to a MAC event at Shelsley Walsh, a Vintage & Classic car event which began with a run around the countryside and ended back at Shelsley for a non competitive hill climb and a chance for visitors to look around the varied collection of cars from all ages. The location is superb, set in some of Worcestershire's finest countryside and the facilities are first class with a very nice cafe serving food all day.
We had a smashing day there photographing many of the cars and exploring the venue. Our personal favourite car was one of the newest ones on show - a Morgan plus 4 Supersports, which I have looked at here. I make no secret of the fact that I am a Morgan groupie, I like the direction that Charles Morgan is steering the company in and I think the addition of the young designer Matt Humphries was a masterstroke. Matt is Head of Design for Morgan and is rapidly becoming one of the most respected automotive design engineers in the industry. His innovative ideas have created a wonderful mix of the best of the old and the best of the new in the recent Morgan cars. This juxtaposition has massively widened the appeal of the cars to a much wider age range than perhaps was previously the case. Many companies have to "engineer" a pedigree, or a history or a unique style but Morgan don't. Their's is there for all to see, genuine and stretching back donkey's years. They revel in it and rightly so but at the same time they are not stuck in nostalgia, the cars are classic in appearance but are evolving all the time and mixing some of the most modern and innovative production techniques with traditional techniques which go back as far as the factory has existed. Anyway I digress, all I wanted to comment on was that this limited edition of just 60 models are all blessed with a set of stop watch timers attached to a metal plate sitting to the front of the gearstick! Wonderful! Morgan we love you!
The Morgan though was just one of many cars to drool over and there were lots of classic Porsches, a lovely Aston Martin DB4, an E-Type Jaguar and a few lovely old MGs to name but a few. The MAC seemed a very friendly, easy going club and we will have a good look at it with a view to joining as they have a lot of events that look fun. Click on either of the photographs to see a slideshow of pictures from the day!
Brooklands New Mini Day was on the 25th March 2012. It was a very last minute decision for us to go as I had been due an operation on the 19th March which would have prevented us going. However, this was cancelled and eventually rescheduled for the 26th March. This then needed to be a day of fun to stop me worrying about the surgery the next day. I wasn't disappointed.
We drove down to Ashtead on the Saurday and stayed with my cousin Lorraine and we had a lovely dinner on Saturday evening with Lorraine, my Auntie Enid and Uncle Jim and my other cousin Andrew and his wife Christie. Next day Uncle Jim joined us at Brooklands for a wander around the Mini event. All in all this made for a very pleasant weekend.
Sunday morning came and we got there at around 9.30 and parked on a part of the old Brooklands track, which instantly makes it all feel a bit special.
Soon afterwards we met our friends Storm and RVW who had come to the event from Lincolnshire, in their Dubman. Ray's Dubman had recently had a disastrous encounter with an inept graphic fitter and it was good to now see the car's roof with its new painted graphics which give the car a very contemporary look very different to the retro look that you get with conventional vinyl graphics. I am sure a lot more new Minis will be opting for this look instead of vinyls as more people see Ray's Dubman on the circuit.
The event is very much geared towards the classic minis, so there was little to buy or see for the New MINI. However, they were there and we got to see a very well graphiced white Countryman, the new Roadster and the new Coupe Works. The Roadster is a handsome devil, but we have our Opel so it does not come into consideration for us. The Coupe Works though is a different matter. It is a bit gawky looking and that does send me warning bells but it seems such a perfect little coupe, dinky and fast and I keep thinking it is the perfect car for Mrs P. Just around the corner though, is the Countryman Works, which has perhaps the better balance of practicality and performance especially as we can get snowed in in our cars here halfway up the Malvern Hills. Anyway this is the dreaming that we do as we wander around events such as this and there is no harm in dreaming, so long as you are prepared to one day try and make your dreams come true!
About half eleven Uncle Jim turned up. He is a Korea veteran and he always adds an interesting slant to matters, be they cars, engineering or the armed forces and his company certainly added to the day.
Oddly the last car event I did in 2011 was Brooklands and here it is our first for 2012 but the museum is certainly up to 2 visits in a row as there is always something extra going on on top of the usual museum exhibits. I always get a little sad though when I see Concorde. It should still be gracing our skies.
Anyway it was a great way to kick off our 2012 car events calendar and our next two events have now been confirmed, A New Mini Severns meet at the end of April and then MINI United in the South of France in May.
PS Click on photos for a slideshow fof the day.