So it all started with this:
Now, if you have any experience driving at Watkins Glen I don't have to tell you a lap like that in an fairly stock Mini Cooper S street car (with Hoosiers) is phenomenal.
The Driver is Bob Pielli Jr. a fellow Group 52 track rat and at the time we had had featured the video on Axis. A couple of weeks ago, Bob got in touch with us with a picture and to say both him and the Mini had, in the ensuing years had a bit of an...intervention.
If you're reading this I'm guessing the idea of a rear wheel drive mini with the engine in the boot tickles all the right spots so, I'll let Bob tell you about how it all came about.
We'll keep you up to date on the project as it moves along. Cheers Bob and Gregg, you are true maniacs! Love it.
So what do you do when your MINI is just too "MINI"? by Bob Pielli Jr.
You let yourself get talked into going down a road that most people would say is crazy, that's what.
Not being happy just playing with P-cars and Bimmers thru the corners at WGI/LRP/NJMP meant it was time that I go have a chat with Greg Vasileff, owner of a small shop called Onasled Racing up in the Northeast corner of Connecticut.
Greg had been doing small repairs and maintenance work on my 2003 R53 Cooper S for a few years prior. When I slid off I-295 heading to New Jersey Motorsports Park for my last DE of the season in October 2011 (the day of that "Perfect Storm", the big Nor'easter), I banged up the steering rack bad enough it needed replacement.
So off the car finally went in Feb 2012 on a flat bed to Greg's shop to get repaired, or so I thought. Greg found this time as the perfect opportunity to get me to turn the corner and get a safe car around me, as he and others have been concerned that my lap times were becoming to fast in a car that was not up to snuff to protect me if anything were to happen, so discussions were had about maybe lightening up the car in places and putting in the caging that friends were nudging me towards. Greg's main goal was my safety and that a Hans device could be used properly.
I gave in. First it was just to be the caging, full containment seat, and removing of some metal in select areas. But this soon now included a race clutch/flywheel and a Quaife LSD, as the 2003 R-53 Mini Cooper only came with an open Differential. Nothing overly drastic as far as I was concerned, especially since I really never drove the car other than to the track and back, but when Greg said he thought he could build me a custom front sub frame that sounded pretty interesting as I was looking for better handling anyway. The Mini had just been eating up the Hoosiers, never lasting more than a couple days or so. Of course I ran them longer than I should have trying to stretch that dollar, too long sometimes. We won't go there tho...
Well, it wasn't long before discussions turned into just gutting the car. This meant no more street driving, turn in the plates, and figure out how I was now going to get the car to the track. Being I was very familiar with Greg's last race Mini build, I felt comfortable making this commitment. Now began the fun!
Lexan windows - check!
Full containment seat - check!
Pedal set - check!
Sensing that I was pretty open minded, and shared the excitement of where Greg wanted to take the car, Greg approached me with an idea that really turned things toward a new beginning, yes, just the beginning I was soon to discover. If a new front sub frame was going to be built than why not do something really different? A few days later Greg sent me a picture of my motor and drivetrain now sitting BEHIND the driver seat. Yes, he had just placed it here, in now what was a completely stripped out bare chassis. "Hey Bob, whatja think?" I liked it! So I green lighted it...but things were really starting to snowball quickly now so shortly thoughts turned to a completely different way of getting to that same end build. A better way.
A tube frame. Keeping it as MINI as we could meant stock drivetrain (for now), whatever we could salvage from the stock chassis, and keep it MINI "looking". Budget, ... it was very tight as I had never planned I would be doing such a transformation to my Mini, but Greg felt comfortable that it could be done. Being I wanted a budget cap 15" wheels/tires were chosen for cost, as I had a set already, and that was really the only limiting factor. Greg's mind went into overdrive and so it began:
More time lapse video after the break