The 'function over form' design of Formula E's new Safety Car: The MINI Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW

To create an electric car fit to take on ABB FIA Formula E World Championship Official Safety Car duties, an unprecedented collaboration between MINI Design, BMW Motorsport, the FIA and Formula E was put to task. The result is the MINI Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW, which will make its debut at the Rome E-Prix. 

MINI has a rich history in motorsport, stemming from its dominance of the legendary Monte Carlo Rally in the 1960, and the MINI Electric Pacesetter builds on that legacy, marking the company's first foray into developing a high performance all-electric car for the race circuit while highlighting the potential future direction of the John Cooper Works brand.

“We have already shown how well driving fun and electric mobility go together with the MINI Electric,” says Bernd Korber, Head of MINI. “The MINI Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW goes at least a step further and blends the performance character of the John Cooper Works brand with electric mobility.

READ MORE: MINI Electric Pacesetter to become Official FIA Formula E Safety Car

"This extreme version of the MINI Electric has been developed as the Safety Car in the Formula E, so is clearly not intended for use on public roads but it does reveal one of the directions we could take with the electrification of the JCW brand. For me, the message is clear: electrification and John Cooper Works are a good fit.”

Purpose built for life on the track

In order to prep a car capable of carrying out duties as the Formula E's Official Safety Car, MINI pooled knowledge from its own internal design team, lead by Head of MINI Design Oliver Heilmer, and the motor racing knowhow of BMW Motorsport. The result is a bespoke, "extreme" car based on the MINI Cooper SE but heavily modified to cope with the demands of keeping a field of 24 of the world's fastest electric single seaters in check.

Introducing the new MINI Electric Pacesetter: Head of MINI Design, Oliver Heilmer

Everything from the car's exterior design, aerodynamics, interior and the powertrain beneath its skin have been tailored and optimised, with mid-range torque, as well as acceleration and handling key requirements.

Under the skin

Weight saving has been a particular focus in delivering the above - the Pacesetter coming in some 130kg lighter than the standard Cooper SE it's based upon.

GALLERY: The MINI Electric Pacesetter in pictures

Its drive system is derived from the same car, and provides 135 kW and 280 Nm (206 lb-ft), which enables the lightened car to sprint from 0-100 km/h (62 mph) in 6.7 seconds (standard model: 7.3s) and from 0-60 km/h (37 mph) in 3.6 seconds (standard model: 3.9s). That torque gives the car some proper mid-range punch, firing it from 80-120 km/h in 4.3 seconds (standard model: 4.6s).

Racing coilover suspension with all the adjustment that could possibly required - camber, compression, height and rebound - keeps the car planted and amplifies the MINI's traditionally responsive feel, while four-piston brakes get those John Cooper Works GP wheels and Michelin Pilot Sport Tyres stopped in short order.

Bare essentials

To get kerb weight down, the first things to go were the rear seats, with a welded-in roll cage and six-point belts for maximum safety taking their place. The minimalist dash houses a digital instrument cluster and the steering wheel with its 3D-printed carbon fibre impact absorber.

Gone, too, is the central information display of the road-going car, blanked off by more 3D-printed carbon fibre to save further grams. The pared-back centre console and door panels are also made from carbon fibre weave with cloth straps replacing door handles to save yet more weight.

Further printed parts line the cabin across the centre console and driver's door panel and also form the removable pads on the car's seats whose innovative structure combines comfort, robustness and modularity, with the pads adaptable depending on a given driver's tastes and physical requirements.

Form and function

The car is instantly recognisable as a MINI with its round headlights and familiar grille shape, though this is the first time John Cooper Works parts have been incorporated into electric MINI.

Its wheel arches are buffed out and adapted to the car's wider track. There's a deep front splitter, vents for the brakes and a blanked off grille for improved aero - thanks to the car's electric drive system requiring much less cooling than the combustion-engined siblings.

There's more aero down the side of the car, with 3D-printed carbon fibre "spats" placed specifically to steer air efficiently over its surfaces in combination with the sideskirts and spoilers. At the back, there's a prominent roof-mounted wing and a diffuser to aid with stability and provide downforce.

The main body colour is a matt silver and the signature colour of MINI Electric melds with that of the JCW brand as a high-gloss wrap with a two-stage colour gradient – from Highspeed Orange to Curbside Red metallic – covers the rest of the body to the rear.

To round things out, the Pacesetter sits on lightweight 18-inch four-spoke JCW GP forged alloy wheels in bi-colour black and neon orange and the Safety Car’s flashing lights can be found integrated harmoniously into the bonnet and atop the rear spoiler.

Ready for Rome

The MINI Electric Pacesetter inspired by JCW will come into use in Rome on April 10 for Rounds 3 and 4 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship.

At the wheel will be official Formula E Safety Car driver Bruno Correia, as BMW i Andretti Motorsport drivers Maximilian Guenther and Jake Dennis battle it out on-track in their BMW iFE.21 racers.

“It has agility, performance, and it's a cool looking car. The MINI Electric Pacesetter has got it all and it's very fun to drive,” said Correia.