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Electric Mini to become new Formula E safety car

Battery power meets John Cooper Works in EV racing

This cute and feisty electric Mini will be Formula E's new safety car. PHOTO FROM MINI

The decision to field a topless BMW i8 as the previous Formula E season’s safety car probably wasn’t the best idea especially when the heavens decided to open up. So, the EV racing series now has a new pace car that will not only handle as good as (if not better than) its predecessor, but will also give its driver a proper roof in case the weather turns sour. Formula E fans will now have to say goodbye to the i8’s sleek shape as the new safety vehicle is based on a Mini.

Even without the flashing lights, you can see this brightly colored car from a distance. PHOTOS FROM MINI

It’s called the Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW, which is quite a long name for such a short car. But there are two things that stand out in that lengthy moniker: electric and John Cooper Works. The electric part comes from the powertrain that is taken out of the Cooper SE. The numbers are quite modest at 181hp and 280Nm with a 0-100km/h time of a yawn-inducing 6.7 seconds. But for safety cars, corner-exit acceleration is more important. And the Pacesetter delivers with a 80-120km/h sprint time of just 4.3 seconds, allowing it to swiftly rocket out the bends to lead the Formula E racers.

The wheels and the brakes are from the JCW GP, while the tires are the ones used by Formula E cars. PHOTO FROM MINI

The John Cooper Works connection takes care of the handling. The Mini’s go-kart steering response is further enhanced by three-way adjustable coil-overs, race-spec suspension arms, and a wider track. The four-piston calipers are from the JCW GP, and the 245mm Michelin Pilot Sport rubber is identical to the front tires of the Formula E race cars. With a curb weight of just 1,280kg, the Pacesetter has the ability to change direction quickly and maintain high cornering speeds.

The rear wing is said to be 3D-printed from recycled carbon fiber. PHOTO FROM MINI

A pace car has to be visible. And for the Pacesetter, it is not just the array of flashing lights that make it stand out. The car is basically painted like a massive high-visibility vest with bright-orange 18-inch JCW GP wheels and a mostly silver body. Worth noting are the bulbous fender flares and the rear wing, which are made from 3D-printed recycled carbon fiber. There are 3D-printed components in the interior, too, such as the racing seat’s adjustable pads.

Mini was kind enough to leave these caring words inside the cockpit. PHOTO FROM MINI

The Pacesetter will debut on April 10 at the third race of the current Formula E season. Seeing a brightly colored electric hatchback lead a pack of low-slung race cars is quite possibly a better treat for the eyes than the conservatively painted Aston Martin safety car being used in Formula 1.

Miggi Solidum

Miggi is an editor-at-large at VISOR. Professionally speaking, he is a software engineering dude who happens to like cars a lot. And as an automotive enthusiast, he wants a platform from which he can share his motoring thoughts with fellow petrolheads. He writes the 'G-Force' column.