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MINI Electric Pacesetter leads the way in Formula E

By James Robinson, 31 Mar 2021 Car News

MINI Electric Pacesetter announced as new Formula E safety car

Safety car inspired by JCW showcases performance potential of electric-only MINI hatch

MINI has announced that a hotted-up, lightweight variant of its all-electric Cooper SE Hatch will be the official safety car of the Formula E World Championship race series. 

Called the ‘Pacesetter inspired by JCW’, the safety car looks very similar to its conventional, combustion-engined MINI JCW Works GP hatchback sibling, sporting a familiar exterior body kit, albeit one with less box-like flared wheel arches. 

The 2020 Mini John Cooper Works GP.

The new EV safety car has been put on a strict diet to ensure it can set the pace at the top level of E-motorsports, with MINI managing to shed 130kg from its regular Cooper SE Hatch, resulting in a car that weighs just 1,230kg.

The British manufacturer was able to accomplish this by ditching the rear seats and much of the car’s interior features in favour of a welded-in roll cage and a smattering of carbon fibre parts. 

Power from the car’s electric motor is still rated at 135kW and 280Nm, however, because of the mass reduction, the safety car is capable of accelerating from 0-100km/h in a brisk 6.7 seconds. 

MINI also points out that it’s the on-the-move acceleration where the stripped-out racer really comes into its own, surging from 80-120km/h in 4.3 seconds. 

However, the traditional fossil-fuel burning JCW Works GP still has both those performance stats beaten, completing the 0-100km/h sprint in 5.2 seconds and 80-120km/h dash in 3.3 seconds. 

It would still be interesting to see which car would be quicker on a hot lap though, as the safety car comes equipped with three-way adjustable racing coilover suspension for maximum attack. 

Surprisingly, the EV safety car is fitted with middling Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres, which aren’t exactly known for on-track performance. 

This is at odds with the road-going JCW Works GP wheels being shod in Hankook Ventus TD semi-slicks, which are far superior tyres for track applications. 

The electric safety car does have a wider track at front and rear though, utilising 245/40 R18 tyres, as opposed to 225/35 R18s in the Works GP, and 205/45 R17 in the Cooper SE. 

And thanks to being owned by BMW, the motorsport arm of the Munich automaker has also been involved in the development of the safety car, so it should be full of steering feel and precision.  

Bruno Correia, the official FIA Formula E Safety Car driver, has already driven the MINI Pacesetter inspired by JCW, and he found it favourable on track. 

“Agility, performance, a cool looking car - the MINI Electric Pacesetter Safety Car for the FIA Formula E World Championship has got it all,” said Correia. “It’s very fun to drive, it feels like karting."

It will be interesting to see whether any of the technical features or expertise learned from the safety car project will trickle down into a hot SE version of the all-electric MINI Cooper, as it could make for a compelling next-gen hot hatch. 

MORE: All MINI stories