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R50 MINI Cooper Rally Build
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Default R50 MINI Cooper Rally Build - 13th June 2014, 11:05 PM

The Full Build Story from 'Rally370' here:
Mini Cooper N/A rally build - MINI Cooper Forum

Since the debut rally back in November 2013 a lot of preparation work has been performed on the Mini to prepare for the 2014 season with the view to win the N2 (1600 cc class) an optimistic view but a goal to try and achieve. So what was done? To avoid the running hot issue a new radiator was fitted to replace the 130,000 miles original. Another issue was the super soft suspension which was my error picking the 2008 STI Impreza suspension which was the worst suspension for the new model Impreza. After some searching on Ebay I found a full set of 2013 STI suspension with just 200 miles for $300 with 60% stiffer damper/springs which should help cure that saggy bottom! Also I replaced the spherical joints on the Helix lateral arms and fitted ¼” plates on the front strut tops to stop the mushrooming of the tops with the stiffer suspension.

The jolly Midlands MA gearbox got a refresh of new bearings and a better used 2nd gear to fix the captain crunch gear change, while the box was in bits I found the 5th gear chipped so it would be wise to replace it as rallying has a tendency find out the weak components. The 5th gear replacement turned out to be a big drama.
The first the rally of 2014 was set for the May 17/18 being a round of the NACAM FIA rally championship with teams competing from Peru, Mexico and Columbia in N4, N3 and N2 . For the this weekend my works schedule put me in the US but I was going to fly in for the event like a real rally star as the Mini was a unique and popular car in the Costa Rica rally scene. The drama of the 5th gear lasted 6 weeks with 2 sets of 5th gears going MIA on the way from the UK to US! In the end Emini Parts of Bedford NH came through with a new gear the day before I left for Costa Rica..Phew! When I left CR the week before I had the gearbox ready to accept the new gear which is about a 45minute job, then I got all the spares ready for a 3am kick off to Liberia a 4 hour drive away, my co-driver Nella showed up in her car which I lined with cardboard to convert it to “service van” A little bit like a superman change! Hahaha

The drive to Liberia was issue free with 5th doing what it should saving me some fuel! Hahah Once we got there I took out as many spares from Nella’s car to the Mini to lighten the load for the recce. There were to be 2 stages of 8km and 4 stages of 25km on and Saturday and 4 private land stages of 9km on the Sunday. That was the format but lucky for the Mini the 8km and 25km stages were canceled due to Mr Traffic director wanting to be the great “I am” and not granting permission to run the roads even though the permission was in place.

I say lucky because the first was a real car breaker with huge rocks and rough sections. After several meetings and format changes the decision was the run Sunday’s private land 9km stages 3 one way and 3 other way back on Saturday and Sunday. These stages were a good mixture of gravel, tarmac and broken tarmac which was going to be interesting running on gravel tyres. Once the recce was done we took the Mini for the technical check, then some dinner before heading off the town center for the start ceremony packed with fans eager to see the rally cars in action the following day.

After a good night’s sleep I woke with some panic thinking how would the Mini handling with the stiffer suspension, would we be off on the first fast bend? Would we roll? Nella was pretty much the same with worries about the notes as the stages were very technical with very few references. To set up our simple service area of a tarp and EZ up canopy we got there about 2 hours before the start due time in order to have a relaxing start.

I checked over the Mini to make sure all was well then suited up for the first stage using the HANS device neck brace for the first time( now we are real WRC stars!). Yes we were nervous as always but we had to focus and give the Mini a good test. The first mile or so was very very fast so I took it really steady to feel the handling. All seemed well as we progressed along the 8km stage. I must say on the tarmac the Mini was superb even with gravel tyres. At the end of the stage our time was the slowest…..yes second to last! Ouch! Well it was a test and in the excitement I forgot to wear my glasses!!! So stage 2 was a repeat which I wanted to test the Mini more and test it I did recording a 30 second improvement and I could even see with my glasses! Nella was also singing the notes which helps to improve confidence.

Now we were in the zone and I was really happy with the Mini and the notes. Damn the suspension was a superb set up for the gravel and tarmac, impressed? To bloody right! So I pushed more on each stage with Nella on the money with the notes until we took out the competition on day 1 finishing first in N2. I was amazed as was the opposition! The service area was abuzz with new reporters coming to interview Nella and I .Even the N4 and N3 teams were coming over to say how well we were doing. Day 1 finished with us being the leaders N2, winning 4 of the 6 stages in our class.

That night we had to compose ourselves to focus on the next day with the view to repeat day 1. No pressure for day 2! The same stages but another day so I had to keep it together, the first stage being the same as the last stage of day 1 which our best time was 6:53 on day 1 so when I got a time of 6:39 we were amazed because I thought I couldn’t go any faster, I did feel we were very close to the limit so I backed off a touched at the advice of Nella to save the car. I did 3 seconds less each stage but was still quicker than everyone else and sometimes only a few seconds off the 2.0L N3 leader. We actually beat several N3’s during the day.
The stages ran like clockwork with the Mini never missing a beat. Even the Midlands gearbox was behaving which was good as I needed all the gears, actually I found that storming round in 3rd was much faster than dropping down into 2nd. On the long straights I was pulling just over 6000rpm in 4th which would be around 90mph. I could have gone for 5th but I was only going to be in 5th for a few seconds so it was not worth it.

The only drama I had was when a man with a Go Pro camera on a stick jumped out in front of me! This startled me, forcing to take an off road excursion luckily into some small bushes until I returned to the road. At the end of the stage some other drivers reported the same problem so the organizers removed the man from that corner. There was also a moment on stage 2 as we had to slow down for a crashed Subaru Impreza of Montalto across the road which dropped us some time as we were slowed down 3 corners before the accident.

The very last stage we took very easy as we had a 2 minute cushion to the next car in class. Once we pasted over the final stage we were ecstatic in the car! We had done it, Our first finish on NACAM and after our first rally in CR back in 2009 we have seen a 3rd place and a stage win in the Suzuki but nothing as dominating as with the Mini. We won 10 of the 12 stages and finished 1st in N2 gaining much respect from the other teams and media. Overall the Mini performed better than expected with excellent grip and a wonderful sideways handling. The brakes never faded even in the extreme heat of the day which was due to the EBC yellow stuff pads. It was not an easy rally but preparation and consistency paid off in the end, so if there is the perfect storm then this must be the perfect rally!

After the rally the Mini was tech inspected and we got our well-deserved trophy! The best reward though was a nice cold beer! Hahaha once all the teams had left we went back to the hotel to swap the road tyres onto the Mini and move all the spares to another vehicle as I was driving back early the next morning. The Mini drove back with no hint that the previous 2 days were a rally. Once back at the house I un-loaded the spares then headed for the airport……ending a perfect weekend. I return to CR for work in a few days so I’ll be inspecting the suspension and replacing anything worn…..A big thanks go to Nella for keeping the Mini and I on the road, Mo Joe’s, G-Oil , EBC brakes, Muflas Sicar and Mini gearboxes UK.
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