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Racing The MINI GP and BMW’s Around Bedford Aerodrome

Bedford Aerodrome is a little airfield next to the well known Bedford Autodrome designed by F1 driver Jonathan Palmer. I’d driven up in the morning to spend a day throwing the latest BMW’s and MINI’s around the aerodrome track.

I started out with the BMW M2 Competition. Getting a feel for the course, conditions and corners. It had rained that morning but now the sun was slowing drying the track, though there were still a few puddles scattered about, particularly near the most vicious corner.

The BMW M2 Competition Coupe has an M TwinPower bi-Turbo inline 6-cylinder petrol engine, 410 bhp and does 0-62 in 4.2 seconds. And it delivers all that power with true style. It’s pretty lightweight, coming in at 1,550 Kg, so it flies around corners. The interior is plush and modern for the price point, providing excellent comfort and luxury.

It’s also surprisingly good on a track. The course started with a long straight to get speed up, then a wide 180 corner, so you have to brake pretty savagely at first, then slam your foot down to come back out into another straight. The BMW M2 is extremely impressive and feels like a great deal more than 410 bhp. The engine roar is magnificent too. The balance is impressive for a saloon, the car is 4.4 metres long, but it’s extremely agile. You can feel the traction working as it slides around the corner. It’s very smooth indeed, but still threatening enough.

Next, I jumped into the MINI John Cooper Works GP which is an impressive albeit diminutive monster, complete with a giant rear spoiler in Racing Grey and Chili Red. Subtle this is not. It screams city racer and appears to have been pulled straight out of a video game. It is simple and sparse inside, a minimalist stripped-down design, but pleasing enough with the usual MINI touches. The large side skirts and front apron complete the racing look as does the huge red GP letters emblazoned on the spoiler. The 2.0 litre 4 cylinder turbo engine has 306 bhp and with the 8-speed automatic transmission does 0-62 mph in 5.2 seconds. It’s race-tuned with a secondary external cooler to maximise the available power. The 18” wheels are pared down and lightweight so the entire car weighs 1,300 Kg.

The GP roars as you start the engine and you’re in no doubt this was built for sporting fun, plus the paddle shifters are huge and marvellously easy to flip through. Stepping on the accelerator brings an instant smile to your face. The car positively screams as it leaps forward. It handles like a go-kart on steroids. The 301 bhp delivers a great deal of thrust and thankfully, the brakes are equally superb. It’s a thrilling drive and bravo to MINI for bringing something so extreme to make petrol heads everywhere happy. It’s like getting into a classic 60’s MINI and finding someone’s dropped a V8 in it. It blew my head off on the track. Sublime. They’re only making 3000 of these, so this might be one for the collectors.

Lastly, I settled into the power monster that is the BMW M8 Competition Coupe. This saloon shaped sports car has an unbelievable 625 bhp. It takes only 3.2 seconds to blast from 0-62 mph. The 4.4 litre V8 M TwinPower Turbo engine supplies explosive power and the 8-speed M Steptronic gearbox is smooth and fast. Shut the ESP down and you get the rear-wheel-drive only mode, which adds a few beads of sweat to the forehead. It even has a drift mode, oh yes.

It is hair raising on the Bedford track, which is not big enough to fully release this V8 to its full extent. Though I did manage to hit 120 mph on the straight and 50 mph coming out of the apex on the first corner. It has a low centre of gravity so the balance and steer are excellent. Pretty interesting for a tourer with a splendid luxury interior.

We’ll be covering these cars in more detail with some long tours of our own soon.

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