Built to take on the toughest tracks, as well as serving up serious on-road thrills, this tuned Mini JCW GP3 is one epic performance machine.
Feature from Performance Mini magazine. Photos: Jason Dodd.
When you get into something, and you find that you really enjoy it, it can suddenly start gathering pace and taking over in a way you never would have thought possible, and so it was with Aaron Singh and his tuned Mini JCW GP3. It certainly didn’t start out as a track build, but after sampling circuit thrills in his hardcore F56 Mini, he found himself thinking about ways in which to improve the car’s performance and then, before too long, he found himself with a Performance Mini feature car. But we reckon he’s not complaining about any aspect of his journey or the awesome tuned Mini JCW GP3 he’s ended up with.
While Aaron has enjoyed several cars during his life, including a ferocious 750hp wrapped and lowered Audi RS6, Mini has always been on his radar. “I’ve always had an interest in Minis since I had my first one, an R53 Cooper S about eight years ago, which really ignited the respect for the brand and the car, and since then, I’ve always wanted to get back into a MINI,” he says. “That car was black with chequered flag roof and GP wheels, I loved the way it handled and the supercharger whine, which is why I bought it,” explains Aaron, but it wasn’t the Mini he really wanted. “I decided to buy the GP3 just over a year ago, having lusted after the GP1 when I had my R53, so it made sense to try and get a GP3. I was lucky enough to chance upon a customer order that was looking to sell due to personal circumstances, I viewed the car, and the rest is history so to speak,” he says, and so his Mini JCW GP3 journey began.
“My initial plan,” Aaron tells us, “was to simply protect the car for when I was using it as a daily and for taking it on track. This was done within a few weeks of taking delivery at Detail Driven, where the car had a new car detail (swirls corrected etc.), XPEL PPF was applied, and then it was ceramic coated with Modesta coating,” and thus his GP3 was all set, but Aaron wanted a bit more from his Mini. “I also had decided that the car needed a racier look to it, so I started talks with Mark Webber at Tyrepoint, Maidstone in terms of options for the car,” he explains, and wheels were on his mind.
“To be honest, I’m not a fan of the stock wheels, so I was always going to change them, but due to the massive calipers it limits the choice somewhat if you’re going to keep to the stock 18” rim size. I actually had chosen a different set of OZs for the car, however, they wouldn’t have cleared the calipers, so I settled on the Superturismo LMs,” he says, which the car still wears now. It might not have been Aaron’s first choice, but this is an iconic motorsport-inspired wheel, and it looks great, it suits the GP3 perfectly and with a set of 15mm front and 20mm rear Eibach spacers fitted, the Mini’s arches are filled out to perfection. With carbon-look centre caps and white lettering, these OZs have got attitude to spare and that’s further enhanced by the lettering on the sidewalls. This lets you know that Aaron is running a set of super-sticky Yokohama A052 tyres, and while the tyre stickers certainly won’t be to all tastes, we reckon they fit perfectly with a track build like this.
“From here, I decided it was time to take the car to a track day, and decided that the best place to debut both the car and me was at the Nürburgring,” says Aaron, and that’s certainly a baptism of fire, but why the hell not? “Within a month of ownership, I had the GP3 in Germany for a private track day event. All in all, the car performed flawlessly: the first day was wet so it meant the track was mostly empty, which allowed me to really learn the track and get to grips with the car. The second day, however, brought glorious sunshine which egged me to push the car as far as I dared, which highlighted the weakness of the stock brake set up. Within a lap and a half, the stock pads had melted, and the discs had warped due to excessive heat build-up,” he grimaces. “This resulted in limping the car home to head to Tyrepoint where we fitted new stock discs and EBC Yellowstuff pads to the front,” he says, but this was only the tip of the iceberg. With that intense track session having pinpointed the weak points in the GP3’s stock setup, Aaron was keen to hone the car into a serious track day tool.
“I took delivery of the car at the height of lockdown in May, so no aftermarket suppliers had really developed any mods for the model. It was tough to really get the project moving, which seemed to really pick up speed once I got back from the Nurburging,” he says. “I ended up chatting at length with Marc Rutten of Beek Racing in Holland, who was an active member on a GP3 group, and was discussing their work with Manhart for the GP3, which fuelled the enthusiasm with pushing this build further.”
One of the things at the top of Aaron’s to-do list was getting the suspension sorted on his tuned Mini JCW GP3, but perhaps not in the way that you might think. “One of the first aftermarket products to be made for the car was the AST 5100 coilovers, and for me, they are a mod that has made a massive impact on the car. The stock suspension is excessively stiff for UK roads, so with the coilovers, you can soften the ride, add camber and also they just give you more flexibility,” he explains. This added compliance and the ability to fine-tune the suspension has really enhanced the car’s handling.
Chassis suitably sorted, now was the perfect time to add more power to the package, courtesy of the eminently tunable turbocharged B48 sitting under the bonnet. With Marc’s assistance, Aaron’s GP3 was put to use as a development car for several companies, which opened the door to a host of go-faster goodies. “There is an Airtec intercooler on the car, which is there to help with the intake temperatures. The B48 engine suffers heavily with heat management on the GP3, so the intercooler is a massive need, especially when remapping the engine for more power,” Aaron explains. “I’m also running big boost pipes, an Airtec intake and a Milltek non-res exhaust and sports downpipe. Due to the downpipe, the car needed a remap to work properly, but due to COVID I was unable to get the car over to Marc at Beek Racing,” he says. “So, I reached out to Lohen, who took the car in and applied its remap (350hp and 428lb ft), fitted Goodridge braided lines and a set of Eibach anti-roll bars for me. Thanks to the coilovers, we’ve since been able to find the perfect setup with the two combined after some trial and error at Tyrepoint,” he says. At this point, he had a seriously sorted GP3 with a sweet suspension setup and some impressive power, but Aaron was seeking performance perfection and knew there was more to come.
“From there, the car was working and working well, but the ultimate goal was to get Beek Racing to work on it for two reasons. Firstly, it helped develop the map for the Manhart Minis, which were the special one of one remakes, so it was a proven map that worked well, but also because Marc Rutten had helped me with organising some areas of the build,” he says. “In November 2020, I was able to get the car transported over to Holland where Beek Racing performed a service and remapped the car for me. It’s now essentially running the Manhart map, resulting in 375hp and 384lb ft of torque,” and that’s a hefty power figure to be enjoying in the lightweight GP3, and Aaron was understandably pleased. “At this stage, I was happy with the car and power, but I felt it needed more noise along with better intake performance. This resulted in me heading to Cobra Sport to get its valved rear section exhaust and de-cat downpipe, and reaching out to Imran at Eventuri for the intake system also,” says Aaron. As a result of these final performance mods, his Mini made 380hp on its last dyno run.
With the performance and chassis upgrades sorted, Aaron was now keen to address the car’s remaining weak points, namely the tyres – taken care of by the aforementioned Yokos – and the brakes. After cooking the stock setup at the Nurburgring and finding the stopping power lacking on subsequent track outings, something seriously heavy-duty was required. “I reached out to Nick at Tarox Brakes to see what could be done regarding the braking capability of the car. Tarox was already in the position of putting together a solution but needed a Mini JCW GP3 to finalise the measurements and fitting of the two-piece floating discs. Naturally, our views aligned on working together and finalising the product as quickly as possible, and the brakes went live on my car as the first build in March 2021,” says Aaron. The monster two-piece Tarox discs really fill out the front wheels and have been paired with Corsa pads for maximum stopping power, while at the rear sit a pair of grooved discs with Strada pads to complete the brake upgrades, and Aaron finally has a setup that won’t let him down on track.
The last piece of the puzzle was the interior, and Aaron knew what he wanted when it came to upgrading the GP3’s cabin. “I always wanted to make the interior more track-focused, while keeping within an OEM style look, almost as if Mini had factory options to make the car more track-focused. So there was always going to be a roll-cage at some stage along with buckets and harnesses,” he explains and that’s exactly what he’s added. Aaron went to B-Road owners Ed Little and Roger Grey for assistance with finding the right seats, and up front sit a pair of single-piece Corbeau Sprint buckets. They’re finished in custom red and black covers that tie in with the two-tone theme across the build and are paired with matching six-point harnesses. “After lots of conversations with lots of different cage makers, I eventually got introduced to SVG Motorsport. The company typically specialises in Ginetta race cars, but it took on the job with my very particular build instructions of making the cage look as OEM as possible,” says Aaron. SVG has built him a very sexy cage, painted in red to match his colour scheme, and it’s the perfect track-based finishing touch.
As hardcore as the GP3 may be out of the box there’s always room for improvement, and Aaron has turned his F56 into a full-on track machine, albeit one that’s still comfy and compliant enough to make for a good road car and can provide just as many thrills out on the street as it does at the circuit. There’s no frivolity here, the styling has been kept as-is, not that the GP3 needs much assistance there, and Aaron has focused on everything that will make his MINI that much sharper. All the slack has been taken out of the chassis, the brakes deliver awesome stopping power, and the engine delivers just straight-up awesome power. This is a serious piece of kit and no mistake.
Of course, even with this tuned Mini JCW GP3 in its current state, there are still a few more things left on Aaron’s to-do list. A JCW flat-bottomed Alcantara steering wheel along with longer carbon paddles is awaiting fitment, while a torque-vectoring LSD designed and built by Drexler and AC Schnitzer is scheduled to be added imminently and will assist Aaron in deploying all 380hp. The GP3 sits alongside Aaron’s Porsche Cayman GT4 and, in his eyes, he’s got the perfect two-car garage. The fact that this F56 is the perfect partner to one of Porsche’s most focused machines tells you everything you need to know – in a word, this tuned Mini JCW GP3 is a masterpiece.
Tech Spec: Tuned Mini JCW GP3
2.0-litre turbocharged B48, Airtec intercooler, Eventuri intake, Airtec big boost pipes, Beek Racing map
Power & Torque:
380hp+ and 384lb ft+
ZF eight-speed automatic gearbox
AST 5100 coilovers, drop links and top mounts, Eibach anti-roll bars
Tarox two-piece floating discs with Corsa pads (front), Tarox rear discs with Strada pads (rear)
Wheels & Tyres:
18” OZ Superturismo LMs with Yokohama Advan A052 225/35 tyres
Corbeau Sprint bucket racing seats and six-point harnesses, custom made SVG Motorsport roll-cage, ScanGauge II running on the dash
Roof decals and build number with ‘GP’ logo