MINI is known for their exciting launches. Other car companies invite you round for tea and biscuits, MINI invite you to an exciting video with a sideline challenge to spice up the evening. The Mini Roadster launch was no different.The event took place at an illustrious bar close to Kyalami Racetrack. We were welcomed and given wristbands identifying us as new arrivals and we were not to be served alcohol. This initially puzzled me, until it was revealed that we would be driving the new MINI Roadster around Kyalami – in the dark!
Now, a quick aside. I have never been round Kyalami. Ever. Not even as a passenger. The thought of my first lap of Kyalami being in the dark did have an effect on the nerves.
Kyalami – In the dark
Soon, the First Lady and I were taken to our car – a white John Cooper Works Mini Roadster with red racing stripes. It was an aggressive, sexy looking car. It has the same large rear end as the Mini Coupe, but without the rather ugly roofline. I think it looks similar to the Daihatsu Copen, or is that just me?
Getting in, we turned down the road, into Kyalami and got a quick briefing. Basically – don’t overtake and don’t turn the stability control off.
Onto the racetrack we went. We were in the 2nd car after the pace-car, and as such had a clear path round the track.
The track was not in its normal open state, with a slalom course on each straight and bales of hay put up after the straights, giving it a gyhmkhana feel. After 2 laps at pace, it was time to change places. I got in the passenger seat and the First Lady took over.
The car in front of us, also a white JCW, now had a new driver. This guy liked to push it. The First Lady also likes to push it. A lap of Kyalami in the dark, as a passenger, with what felt like a lunatic driving, was exciting … in the same way being shot at is exciting. I must say, the First Lady can drive!
She has often told me of her track experiences, but most people lie and inflate their abilities. Hers are on par with her talk. After two laps round the track it was time to return to the bar for a night of partying, chatting and some phenomenal DJs.
The Party – #MiniYourNight
Another sidenote: What I love about these functions is that they are rarely more than 100 people. It’s relaxed, intimate and friendly.
Later on, DJ Fresh took over the decks, getting the house vibes going; the First Lady and her rather camp friend enjoyed a good dancing session while I sat at the bar with the guys.
The Mini Roadster JCW
The main attraction at the event: The Mini Roadster. Completing the current Mini line-up, the Roadster joins the Mini Coupe in not having any backseats; not even to put your laptop on. What this means is that this little car, which looks a bit ‘Lego’, has a big boot. This is impressive.
The interior is probably very nice, but it was dark so I couldn’t see. It does have 20-something colours of interior lighting to choose from, however. I chose red, blue, yellow, green and purple for my drive.
The seats were fantastic. Anyone who read my first driving account of the Mini Coupe will know that it gave me backache after 5mins. The roadster didn’t. I suspect this is because the JCW model we drove was fitted with the optional Recaro racing seats.
My only gripe is that the windscreen comes alarmingly close to your head. I have never driven a convertible before, and the First Lady assures me this is normal.
My thoughts? For R397 000, the Mini Roadster JCW is very expensive. At that price it competes with the Mazda MX-5 and 2nd hand Z4′s and SLK’s. I would certainly consider it, however. Especially as it handles like a go cart, makes a fantastic noise and has a kind of nerdy-retro charm.
Thank you Mini!