Keith Hartinger’s Austin A50, up from Florida, was an eyecatcher at the BLW show.
Photo by David Schwartz
BLW Car Show — Legendary!
by David Schwartz
SANDWICH, Mass., Oct. 7 — The British Legends Weekend (BLW) car show was back on the grass this year at the Oakcrest Cove Field in Sandwich. Jaguar and Land Rover were the featured marques, and once again there was a “Concours d’Evolution,” which paired classic vehicles with their modern counterparts.
Lunch was provided by several food trucks, a dessert truck and a well-attended beer truck. Our hosts, the Cape Cod British Car Club, arranged for a large dining tent next to the food vendors.
The day was dreary with a few raindrops in the afternoon. Even so, there was a stunning selection of classic Jaguars, including my personal favorites, the XK120 and XK150. In the “rarely if ever seen” category were a 1929 Rover Riviera fabric body 2-litre saloon, a 1950 Allard K2, and a 1955 Austin Cambridge A50.
Yes, I am including the Austin A50 with this rarified company because it made me smile more than any other car on the field. The A50 had right-hand drive and a two-tone turquoise-and-white paint scheme. They were never exported to the US and this was the first one I had ever seen. Owner Keith Hartinger trailered the car from Florida to the Cape. He has several other British cars and has previously attended BLW.
[Keith was the recipient of a British Marque Favourite Award a couple of years ago for a lovely bone-stock Mini he had brought to that year’s BLW. —Exec. Ed.]
Classic car expert and author Dave LaChance has been a judge at past BLW shows, and he was around this year, too. Since Rover was a featured marque, Dave drove his 1968 Rover 2000TC from the Berkshires, where he lives, to Sandwich. I have seen photos of the TC on-line and it was nice to finally meet her in person.
On our drive to the Cape, my wife Betty asked about cars besides Jaguar that were named after animals. We only came up with a few. Knowing there were many more, we held an “ask the expert” session with Dave, who came up with a much longer list, including the “horses”: Mustang, Pinto and Bronco.
Sidelined, but saved
Chris Cole and Gail Gray made their annual trip from their home in Vermont to attend BLW. They own a number of classic British cars and alternate between their Mini and TR4A. Despite the long distance, they never trailer a classic car to the Cape.
I knew something was amiss when they pulled onto the show field in an unfamiliar car. It seems they had a misadventure on the Saturday driving tour when a suspension part in their car failed and the left front wheel broke free. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Their car was towed to Mike Dallaire’s garage for temporary repairs. Chris and Keith Hartinger spent hours piecing it back together, but the car was not safe to drive any distance. Keith generously offered to give Chris, Gail and their car a ride back to Vermont (this after trailering his A50 up from Florida!).
Mike loaned his Triumph Spitfire to Chris and Gail to drive for the remainder of the weekend. What a great community.
Nuala Barker’s favorite in the car show was the MINI with a mermaid in the driver’s seat!
Photo by Iain Barker
NEMO on the field>
Congratulations to NEMO member Chris Izzo on his recent purchase of a 1983 Jaguar XJ6. Chris owns several British project cars including a Mini van. It was great to see him with a well-kept running car on the show field! As a bonus, the car won 1st place on its maiden outing.
The turnout of classic Minis was quite low, with only my 1968 Mini Traveller and Iain Barker’s 1967 Mini Cooper S in attendance. Four modern MINIs were on the show field with another two in the parking lot, including Iain’s 2015 Cooper S tow vehicle. A Honda VTEC-powered 1964 Mini van was registered in the show’s Modified class. Perhaps the rainy weather forecast kept NEMO members away.
Two non-human “drivers” were spotted among the Mini classes. A mermaid was seated in Pam Dallaire’s MINI convertible, and a tree sloth took the wheel of Iain Barker’s Mini Cooper S. It is nice to see car owners add some humor to the show.
The competition was tough, but Iain and I won 1st place in our respective classes. Bruce Vild took home a 2nd for his modern MINI, 1st going to Pam and her mermaid.
Best of Show was awarded to Dirk Burrowes for his 1929 Rover.
At the end of the show it was great fun to watch Iain pull his 2015 MINI onto the field, connect a tow bar to his classic Mini and drive away in tandem. There was some light rain on the drive home, but fortunately Betty and I made it to Framingham just in time to avoid the deluge.
Next year, BLW will be held October 11-13 in Plymouth, Mass. The Saturday evening banquet will be at Plimoth Plantation with the Sunday car show on a grassy field at Plymouth Airport.
See you there!
Food Bank donations fill the hatch!
Photo by Bob Shaffer
Winnepesaukee Rally — A Food ‘Drive’!
by Bob Shaffer
BEDFORD, N.H., Nov. 10 — The NH Mini Events rally group held their third annual canned food drive and Winnepesaukee Rally in conjunction with MINI of Bedford. The food drive benefits the New Hampshire Food Bank. This year, ten MINI owners and four passengers met at the dealership for coffee and donuts, and to drop off their donations.
As in past years, participants didn’t bring just a few items, but each brought several cases of canned goods. The donations more than half filled the rear of a 2018 MINI Countryman (see photo).
Following some photos at the dealership, the rally group drove north around the western side of Lake Winnepesaukee with a lunch stop at the the Bob House and the Reel ’n Tavern in Moultonborough. After lunch the Rally continued down the eastern side of the lake, concluding at the Cork ’n Keg Grill in Raymond. While the morning weather was rainy at times, the scenery along the New Hampshire country roads was gorgeous, with colorful foliage lining most of the driving route.
NH Mini Events hosts 6-8 rallies a year, featuring scenic drives on twisty roads around New Hampshire. Most rallies include a lunch stop at a good local restaurant. The final two rallies of each calendar year have a charity component. The November rally is a food drive, and the December rally supports Toys for Tots (and is also hosted by MINI of Bedford).
Paul Bradt founded NH Mini Events and continues to lead it. MINI owners interested in participating in the rallies can find more information on the group’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/NHMiniEvents.
Drone’s eye view of the MINIs on the Rally.
Photo by AH PhotoVideography
Haunted Apple Jack Rally
by Wendy Birchmire
What could be nicer than joining other MINI owners for a ride through the back roads of New England on a picturesque, but rainy Saturday? “Not much,” would be my answer.
The Haunted Apple Jack Rally on October 13th began at MINI of Peabody in Peabody, Mass. After meeting there and admiring the new MINIs for sale, 29 cars began the caravan to the Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury. We made several stops along the way to admire the autumn foliage.
The orchard provided pick-your-own apples of numerous varieties as well as a farm store stocked with wonderful pastries and freshly made donuts. After the sun began to shine, a group of hearty MINI enthusiasts ventured into the orchard.
The caravan reconvened and we were off to two different restaurants in Epping, N.H.
Somewhere along the way other MINI owners joined the group, so it was about 60 MINI enthusiasts who met for dinner at one of the two restaurants. The Holy Grail, which I chose, could only accommodate 40 people in their upstairs dining room, so the rest of the group went to the Rail Penny Tavern.
Following dinner, an adventurous group of MINI owners went to the Haunted Overload in Lee, N.H., to be scared by the witches and goblins. I headed home since I’m a coward and don’t like people and objects jumping out at me!
If you have never been on a rally, you should give it a try. Kristin Masta and Josh Amato do a great job organizing them. The people are genial and full of information about MINIs. It is a totally fun experience.
All the cars on the route today were modern MINIs, but classic Minis are always welcome.
Check the MINIs of Boston Group on Facebook for upcoming events at www.facebook.com/groups/boston miniclub.
Variant, or just a different model?
Photo courtesy Wikipedia
Variant, or Just a Variation?
by Bruce Vild
Body style, engine size, wheel size, suspension type, country of origin, even brand — there are so many ways classic Minis have varied during the car’s 41-year run that it’s sometimes difficult to draw the line between a “Variant” and a car that is just the result of product development, adaptation to a particular market, or up-market design for dealers of premium brands in the old BMC chain.
We may all agree that re-bodied or re-engined Minis are Variants (think Mini Marcos or VTEC powerplants here), but what about alternative body styles from the factory, such as the woodie wagons, the vans and pickups, or even the squared-off Mini Clubman saloon and 1275 GT of the 1970s?
The question “What is a Variant?” came up after the most recent British Invasion in Stowe, Vt. In the people’s choice competition there were two classes for Classic Minis according to year, and one for Mini Variants. The classes were sorted on the basis of the information provided about the cars at the time of registration.
An Austin Countryman (woodie wagon) wound up winning the popular vote in one of the Classic Mini classes and a 1st place plaque. The owner of the Mini saloon that placed 2nd lodged a protest, suggesting the winning Countryman be disqualified because it was in the wrong class. He said it should have been with the Variants.
After he and I traded several e-mails, event organizer Michael Gaetano decided that the Countryman would not be disqualified and the results of the popular vote would stand. However, we agreed that a clear, concise and consistent definition of Mini Variant needed to be developed going forward, and NEMO could help.
From some of the initial conversations I’ve had with people, we should start with body style. One person I spoke with said a Classic Mini is a “two-box” saloon, and all other body styles are Variants. So into the latter class would go the Austin Countryman, the Morris Mini Traveller, most certainly the Moke, the panel van and pickup. Add the Wolseley Hornet and Riley Elf as well, with their “three-box” (extended boot) layout.
The first-generation Innocenti Mini Cooper? No, that was a “two-box” saloon, therefore a Classic Mini.
Not so fast, said another person. The Innocenti Mini Cooper, along with the Australian Mini K, were saloons all right, but with enough bespoke features to put them in the Variant category. To the body style criterion for the Classic Mini he would add, “and manufactured in the Cowley plant in Oxford or the Longbridge plant in Birmingham, England.” Even if built under BMC or BL license, “foreign” Minis need not apply — they’re Variants.
What about other BMC models, such as the MG 1100, Morris 1100, Vanden Plas Princess 1100 or Austin America, which have Mini underpinnings?
No, the second person said, these were designed to be different vehicles from the beginning. In a show such as Stowe, they belong in classes for “Other MG, Morris or Austin,” not Mini Variants.
The third person I mentioned the controversy to simply replied, “Hmm. I’ll have to get back to you after I’ve given it some thought.”
And that’s where it stands now. We’ve all been tasked with giving it some thought. Get back to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the NEMO Google group and let’s get the discussion going.
And if you think trying to make the distinction by body style is bogus, let’s discuss that, too. The next Invasion is counting on us.
[Contrib. Ed. note: See the “ADO15” and “ADO16” articles in Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mini and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BMC_ADO16) for a list of vehicles based on the Mini’s transverse-mounted A Series engine. —DS]
Paddy Hopkirk leaves an autograph in Barbara’s car.
Photo by Barbara Newman
The Watkins Glen Mini Festival
by Dave Newman
WATKINS GLEN, N.Y., Sept. 6-9 — The second weekend of September was a time of wonder for classic Mini fans, both on the streets of the village “old course” and at the modern Watkins Glen International racetrack.
The weekend two events in one: the Watkins Glen US Vintage Grand Prix Festival at the track, overseen by the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA), and the Watkins Glen Mini Festival.
While the events were open to all who purchased a gate ticket, only 60 dedicated Mini Cooper fans got to purchase tickets for the Tower Suite that overlooks the track’s first turn and esses. This Friday-to-Sunday suite pass provided access to an indoor facility with huge windows, a rooftop viewing area, and breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday. It also included special Mini-only parking, VIP laps on the track Saturday night after the racing was over, and posters and programs signed by Paddy Hopkirk, the famous Mini rallye driver.
The Tower Suite was a great place to meet fellow Mini enthusiasts, and also to meet racing celebrities: Paddy Hopkirk, who was there for three days, Le Mans driver Marc Miller, and David Hobbs, who has driven almost every type of sports racer and has been a television commentator for Formula One and other events. The Tower Suite was arranged by Ian Rae of MotorWerks Magazine and Norman and Jesse Nelson.
The SVRA had all kinds of vintage racing going on that weekend, but the big event was the special Mini-only races, with trophies handed out by Paddy himself.
Friday was the day to visit the village of Watkins Glen, as they closed off the streets of the 6.6-mile “old course” where from 1948 to 1952 races were held on the public streets. There, among the haybales and thousands of fans, vintage racecars of all types took to the streets for a demonstration on the original course.
Watkins Glen International, built in 1956 just above the village as a dedicated racetrack, hosted vintage races from Friday to Sunday. These were held on the 3.4-mile, banked-corners long course, which has significant elevation changes and lots of runoff. This track has hosted F1 racing and continues to host NASCAR, IMSA, Pirelli, SCCA and other series during the year. It is a wonderful track to drive on, and very fan-friendly for camping, photography positions, stands and ease of visiting.
Watkins Glen is situated at the southern end of Seneca Lake. The village has many nice hotels, B&Bs, restaurants and shops of interest not only to race fans but to the average person. The MINI JCW Racing Team has had many 1st and 2nd place finishes at the July IMSA races. If you have never watched these races or visited the village, you are missing a lot.
British Attire Contest at Stowe, starring Paddington Bear and Tom Baker (as Dr. Who)!
Photo by Iain Barker
British Invasion ‘First Timer’s’ Report
by Wendy Birchmire
STOWE, Vt., Sept. 14-16 — The British Invasion is billed as “North America’s largest British classic sports car and motorcycle event.” As a first-time attendee, I didn’t realize it is not just a show, but also a weekend full of activities. My husband Tom and I only attended some of them but we appreciated all the offerings.
Friday afternoon registration was well organized and we quickly received our information packet, lanyards and drink tickets. Participants were treated to a welcome reception with appetizers and complimentary beer or wine. After the reception, drivers parked their cars in downtown Stowe for a street party with live music, food and general gaiety. Spectators were awed by the assembled show cars. Later in the evening a group of NEMO members gathered at the Hob Knob Inn for a delicious meal. I wonder what the major topic of conversation was. Could it have been Minis?
A show in late September means cool temperatures, right? Wrong! Saturday morning started with a bit of haze that eventually burned off and the temperature soared to 82°. It didn’t seem so bad for the first few hours, but later I felt like my 2018 MINI’s paint color, “melting silver”! My solution was to try every cold beverage sold by the food stands. Watermelon lemonade slush worked the best!
A sign designated an area on the show field as Class 32, for Minis produced in the ’70s through 2000. There were two cars parked next to the sign, a 1972 Mini (the class winner) and a 1999 Mini. Across the aisle was an elegant group of Minis that were also in Class 32. Although the class numbers were clearly visible on the windscreen placards, some people were confused about which car was in a given class.
[Some unavoidable last-minute changes led to regrouping some of the classes on the field, which may have caused some of the confusion. —Exec. Ed.]
It is really unkind to have a corral with cars for sale at any show. I wanted to buy them all! The little blue classic Mini was particularly attractive, but I know when to stop spending. Isn’t there an old adage that says, “You can never have too many Minis?” It must be true, because very few Mini enthusiasts own only one car.
Tom models Wendy’s ‘Most British’ hat.
Photo by Wendy Birchmire
The Invasion festivities include a bit of humor. Some participants dressed in British garb and meandered through the crowd. NEMO’s own Barbara Newman looked adorable as Paddington Bear (it was amazing she didn’t melt wearing a winter coat and rubber boots in the heat). An attendee dressed as Mary Poppins had a working carousel on her hat and circulated among the crowd with her brightly attired partner Bert. Other British enthusiasts wore kilts, bowlers, and related finery.
Speaking of hats, there was a ladies’ hat competition judged by “the Queen” (portrayed by Invasion regular Michelle Dickson) and members of her court, including Lord Bruce of County Marque (sometimes known as Bruce Vild, Executive Editor of British Marque). I received the award for the “Most British” hat.
The Saturday afternoon award ceremony began with a parade of gorgeous, shiny cars that took part in the Concours d’Elegance. Following that were awards for outstanding members at the event and then awards for the best costumes. By 4 p.m. the ballots were counted and awards for the 65 classes of cars and motorcycles commenced. I couldn’t wait for the awards to end so I could get back to the hotel and jump in the shower!
A suntanned group of 18 NEMO members chose to forgo the dinner sponsored by the Invasion and assembled for a meal at Junior’s Restaurant. Sometimes I think that listening to the Mini-addict “car talk” is as enjoyable as the show itself. I always learn something new from these knowledgeable folks.
Sunday featured the Competition of Colors, an event where all marques were grouped together by color. Vehicle categories were red, white, blue, British racing green, black, two-tone, and rainbow for any color not previously mentioned. Now that’s a different concept! Car owners cast their ballot for the best in each category.
Sunday was also the Tailgate Picnic Competition, with judging in seven categories. Prizes included Best Costume, Most Elegant, and Best Tasting.
When we return next year (we have already decided to add it to our “must do” list), maybe we will participate in a driving tour or other elements of the British Invasion. This year we came to sample and we liked what we saw.
MINI towing Mini to New Paltz? Yeah, this’ll work.
Photo by Iain Barker
Mini Meet East 2018
by Iain Barker
Mini Meet East (MME) in New Paltz, N.Y., was my first experience attending a classic car destination event. I’ve participated in a bunch of local car shows and driving cruises, plus one-day events such as the London-to-Brighton Mini Run back in ’92, but I had never gone to a multi-day event.
My first decision: Should I take the classic 1967 Morris Mini Cooper S, or the modern 2015 MINI Cooper S? I briefly considered driving my ’67 Cooper S the 220 miles from Cambridge, Mass., to New Paltz. The routes suggested by Apple Maps were either four hours on the highway, or six hours on back roads. The car is prone to overheating, and with a forecast for 90° plus I didn’t much fancy the chances of arriving with the head gasket intact.
Perhaps I could take both, towing the classic behind the modern? The MINI is not really known for its prowess in hauling loads. Tow hitches are available, but only for Class 1 up to 2,000 lbs. The combined weight of a classic Mini at 1,500 lbs. plus a lightweight trailer at 800 lbs. just wouldn’t work.
My wife had a thought, “You see RVs hauling cars behind them on their long Interstate adventures. Perhaps you could fix something up for the Mini?” Sounds like a project for a rainy weekend and fortunately I could see thunderclouds on the horizon.
So, having spent most of a weekend reading about flat towing and buying an assortment of angled steel bar and grade 8 bolts from Home Depot, I had a plan. This involved drilling out the front subframe bolts of the ’67 Mini and fabricating a parallel towing bar behind the front license plate, to which an RV-style flat towing trapeze from Harbor Freight could be attached. On the MINI end, it was a fairly simple job of removing the rear lights, bumper and crash structure to fit the Class 1 hitch.
The only problem came with hooking up the trailer lights. I bought a set of magnetic lights to fit onto the rear parcel shelf of the Mini, and ran the cable across a clothesline of bungee cords to the rear hatch of the MINI. But when I spliced the control box into the MINI wiring loom, all I got was “reverse light failure” displayed on the dashboard.
Hmm. It turns out MINI in their wisdom used a blue wire with a gray trace for the reverse light, and a gray wire with a blue trace for the brake light. Simple fix when I spotted my error, but really, BMW, couldn’t you have thought that through?
So, we were all set. Off to MME.
The drive was uneventful, other than a constant barrage of honking horns, thumbs up from other drivers and even some cars overtaking then dropping back to take photos! The instructions for the towing A-frame said to check the couplings every 100 miles. I didn’t fancy my chances maneuvering in a car park, so I pulled into the truck stop area of a highway service plaza, much to the amusement and curiosity of the big-rig drivers.
MME is technically a four-day event, Monday evening through Thursday evening. Originally, I planned to drive down on Tuesday. I expected the main event would be the car show on Wednesday, so I had only booked the hotel for three nights. After I decided to tow, traveling the day before seemed more prudent. Unfortunately, the host hotel was fully booked for Monday, but I managed to get a room in a hotel next door, literally just across the parking lot.
Iain’s car, tooling through the idyllic rural countryside of upstate New York.
Photo by Michael DiPleco
On arrival I was immediately impressed by the organization of Brits of The Hudson, the host club. They arranged everything perfectly for a speedy registration. There was a raffle for Mini- and classic car-themed prizes, so I entered a strip of tickets.
I spent the next few hours walking around the parking lot of the hotel, looking at the assembled Minis and MINIs, and chatting with a few of the owners. This turned out to be a mini car show all by itself! Then it was time for the first organized event, the Sunset Tour across local back roads, ending at an ice cream farm stand. The drive was well organized, with everyone assembling at the hotel to travel in a convoy. Even so, I managed to make a wrong turn (actually, following another Mini who went wrong!), but fortunately, my car being a Mini, turning around in the width of a narrow country road was no problem.
Now, truth be told, I had not put many miles on my Mini since rebuilding and fitting the original engine earlier in the year. I’d driven the 100 miles each way to British by the Sea and knew there was a small issue with oil smoke and a more serious overheating issue. Aside from that trip, the car was largely untested. So, the 40-mile-or-so Sunset Tour was a baptism by fire, but the Mini coped with it amicably. And more importantly, I had a great time. We even got to watch parachutists from a nearby municipal airfield skydiving across the sunset.
Tuesday was the first full day of the meet. A driving rallye had been organized, but I elected not to risk my luck and instead drove straight to the second event, the panoramic photo. After a well-organized barbecue (including vegetarian bacon sandwiches for us veggies) and more socializing with owners (during which I learned who the mysterious Hrach was — thanks, Barb), it was time to go to the field for the photo.
It was a scorching hot day and standing on the field for several hours was not particularly comfortable. Eventually the photo was taken and we all retired to the hotel. But, not for long, because there was an evening organized drive. The weather had broken and thunderstorms were brewing. So, I decided to take advantage of being a two-Mini attendee, and used my modern MINI for the drive in the rain to the famous Walkway over the Hudson, a disused railway trestle bridge set in beautiful scenery. Almost immediately I regretted that decision, as the classic Mini drivers were having much more fun.
Back at the hotel, people gathered around a parking lot full of Minis into the late hours, drinking beers from the nearby gas station and chatting about classic car stuff.
What are they doing? Why, the Funkhana, of course!
Photo by Iain Barker
Wednesday was car show day. The show was well categorized, with a specific class for “external hinge” Mk1 and Mk2 Minis, which included mine. There was strong competition from an immaculate yellow Speedwell Mini and a replica of LBL6D, the famous Monte Carlo-winning Works Mini. I had a good day looking around the other classes, in particular the Brits of the Hudson line-up of classic non-Minis. There was also a small swap meet, including a rare Innocenti heater being offered for sale. With rather amazing serendipity, an Italian Innocenti 1300 Mini owner attending the show needed just such a heater!
I met a couple of folks over from the UK whose names were familiar from the on-line Mini forums. UK Mini expert Nick Rogers cast his eye over my car and the only fault he called me out on was the horn being mounted upside down (since rectified!).
The next event was the Funkhana. As a Mini Meet virgin, I had no idea what this was and didn’t enter — just as well, since it needed at least three people in the car to do successfully. As far as I could tell, the objective was to thrash your prized Mini around a parking lot while the passengers jumped out of the moving car to take part in various tasks. Kind of like an obstacle course for cars. It all looked hilarious, with Mini Mokes having a distinct advantage in the egress/ingress department.
The third evening event was an organized drive to a local ice cream parlor to watch the 4th of July fireworks. This again turned into an impromptu car show with so many Minis descending at once. Of course, we enjoyed showing off our cars to the locals. Afterwards we drove back in the dark. I hadn’t thought about that in advance, and it turned out my headlights do a good job of illuminating 5 or 6 yards in front of the car, with high beam adding at most another 2 yards! We arrived safely back at the hotel and held another parking lot post-event discussion. Some of the show cars had already been packed away in their trailers, but there were still plenty of cars and owners hanging around to chat with.
Thursday, the last day of the Meet, was split into two parts: an autocross at the local university campus, and the award ceremony banquet in the evening. The autocross had drivers race against the clock to navigate a course of cones and professional timing lights. Again, not knowing what to expect (and not being entirely confident in the reliability of my car) I hadn’t entered the autocross. But it was fun just to spectate, eat pizza, and watch the lunatic brigade thrash seven bells out of their engines, Turbo Dave in particular!
The evening banquet had a good turnout. It opened with clips from the Italian Job movie, followed by raffle results and then the awards. On the big screen was a photomontage of the entire event, including a rather stunning photo of my car taken by Michael DiPleco.
The drive home was uneventful, even though it was raining hard. In all, I had a great first time at Mini Meet. Next time I’ll know what to expect, hopefully have a better prepared car and be ready to participate in more of the events. I’d like to thank Lorine and Derick Karabec for organizing such a great event, and the members of Brits of The Hudson for making everyone feel so welcome — in particular, stewarding the evening drives which made them much more enjoyable.
Next year will be “Mini Meet East Meets West” in Colorado.
What a MINI fan sees in Big Bend at LRP.
Photo by Barbara Newman
Lime Rock from a MINI Fan Perspective
by Dave Newman
Barbara and I are big fans of the MINI JCW Team. Last year we traveled to races in Watkins Glen, N.Y., Mosport in Canada, Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., and Road Atlanta in Georgia to see our favorite team in action. This year, due to attending Mini Meet East, we have only been to Lime Rock in July.
The MINI team has to be the friendliest and most fan-oriented team in IMSA racing. We see more fans hanging around the MINI paddock than at any other team, even the WeatherTech big boys. This year, same as last, MINI USA sponsored a MINI corral area where for a few bucks you had an exclusive parking area just for MINIs, a breakfast and lunch and soft drinks and coffee, paid for by MINI USA — and some of the best hillside seating to watch the race, on the end of the main straight with views of Big Bend and beyond. Big thanks must go to Tonine McGarvie from MINI USA who coordinates the team events. Tonine also held a prize raffle for MINI fans in the paddock. Barbara won a big bag of MINI goodies.
The MINI JCW Team competes in the ST class of IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. The Lime Rock race was a two-hour event, but there are three other events on the schedule, at Daytona, Watkins Glen, and a newly-added “Encore” race at Sebring, that are four hours in length, testing the MINI race cars to their limit.
The cars in ST (for “Street Tuner”) are basically the same as the MINIs you can drive every day. They are MINI Cooper JCW models, with racing tires, racing brakes and a fuel cell instead of a gas tank for safety. The interior is taken out and a roll cage installed along with fire and safety equipment and a team two-way radio. But the engine and drivetrain is pretty much street-spec with a race exhaust.
The sad news this year is that the ST class is going away for 2019 as IMSA specs change. Where our favorite MINI Team will be competing is up in the air at the time of writing. It may be in the Pirelli World Challenge series with MINI Coopers, or in the TCR (“Touring Car”) class in the IMSA series with a bigger MINI or something different. We shall have to wait until the end of the season to find out. After three years of ST class racing, we have grown very fond of “our” team. MINI fans are like that.
We were sitting in the MINI corral hillside, with our old Motorola police surplus radio programmed to listen to the team radio frequencies, wearing David Clark surplus headsets, and enjoying some fantastic weather for a race. Listening into the communications is fun. Keeping what you may hear confidential is just plain gentlemanly.
MINI JCW Team owner Luis Perocarpi (right) with his most dedicated fan.
Photo by Barbara Newman
We had been keeping our fingers crossed that the plague of broken CV joints (axles) that ended the runs of some of the cars in previous races this year would not happen again.
Before the race, I spoke about this with the team manager, Luis Perocarpi. He explained it was the rubber boots that kept ripping and causing the grease to leave the CV joints, causing them to snap. For some reason it only happened this season, leaving the team scratching their heads. Perhaps it was the stress of racing or the heat build-up from the brakes — or even a mid-year production change by MINI to the rubber boot composition? But for Lime Rock, all three cars had brand new MINI axles installed, and that seemed to do the trick. Thinking about this as a MINI JCW owner, we would almost never experience this failure in a street-driven MINI as it would never be stressed for two or four hours straight at top speeds.
The team had never won at Lime Rock. Last year some difficulties kept them off the podium. But this year was simply grand. After a hard-fought two-hour race, MINI #73, driven by Mike LaMarra and Mat Pombo, took 1st place in ST, and MINI #52, driven by Colin Mullen and Mark Pombo, took 3rd place. MINI #37 came in 4th, driven by Nate Norenberg and Derek Jones.
Luis was thrilled! The bubbly was being sprayed at the Winner’s Circle! The fans surrounding the podium all got to take pictures holding the trophies and with the drivers and team.
Yes, this team is friendly and approachable. They take time to talk with fans in the paddock before the races and during the Grid Walk right before the start and then after the race at the Winner’s Circle. I tend to believe that MINI fans are the best in IMSA, too.
Come to a race, meet the team, have fun! The last race is at Road Atlanta in October. Why not fly down and enjoy yourself? We might do it again this year. And with MINI’s lead in the Manufacturer’s Championship after Lime Rock, they are the favorite to take the series this year at Road Atlanta.
P.S.: A few weeks later at Road America in Wisconsin, the team finished 2nd (#73 car) and 3rd (#37 car).