Notorious for his drifting antics in new cars, Top Gear’s Chris Harris has a way of finding speed—even in cars not known for it. For example, check out his laps behind the wheel of a vintage Mini during the 77th annual Goodwood Members Meeting. The trick to getting around the circuit fast in these little cars? Don’t use the tiny brakes—just hammer the go-pedal.
The Betty Richmond Trophy race was set up to celebrate the 60 years of Mini, bringing a group of 60 bulldog-stanced racers to the start line during the Goodwood Members Meeting on April 6-7. Chris Harris might not own a Mini race car, but thanks to Nick Swift of Swiftune Engineering, he was able to get in on the action.
The spec front-wheel-drive Minis feature a 1293-cc four-cylinder that pumps out 130 horsepower. That power feeds through a four-speed gearbox and a limited-slip differential. The 10-inch wheels don’t allow for the big brakes typically found on race cars, but based on Harris’ description of a lap in the Mini, that doesn’t seem to matter.
See, the trick to running one of these 1300-pound racers is to keep your right foot down. It sounds simple, but watching the in-car camera during a lap seems like an exercise in laughing through the fear. For multiple corners, rather than braking to weight the front wheels and rotate the car a bit, Harris merely lifts off the throttle and the weight transfer invites the rear axle to come around and set the angle of the car as it goes through the corner. Roll back into the power, set the line for the next corner, rinse and repeat.
With a top speed on a lap in the 120-mph range, it’s not about screaming velocity here. But the 90 mph average speed is evidence these cars are ripping around the track, as drivers act as if they were at a kart track with the speed limiters set low. It’s all about momentum and carrying as much as you can. Looks like fun to us.