The sun is beating down and the temperatures of the tarmac on the Circuit Paul Ricard are already well above 40 degrees Celsius on Saturday morning. MINI fans from all over the world are embodying the MINI United motto of "Friends. Festival. Racing.", already flocking to this vast former Formula 1 venue in the south of France, where just a few hours before, music acts such as "The Rifles" and "Iggy and the Stooges" were wowing the crowds on the main stage.
In the midst of all the action, Stéphane Peterhansel announced that he would once again be entering the 2013 Dakar Rally as the defending champion in a MINI ALL4 Racing for the X-raid Team, while the training sessions for the new club racing series MINI RUSHOUR and MINI Trophy were held on the nearly four-kilometre-long circuit. There has therefore been plenty of racing action for the spectators. MINI clubs from all over the world have pitched their tents on the festival grounds, are showing off their funky MINI designs and are enjoying a huge MINI fan party together. MINI United is once again living up to its reputation of being the best MINI festival in the world.
Once again on the second day of the festival, there has been one treat after another for the fans. The cars competing in the MINI Trophy and MINI RUSHOUR series hit the racetrack four times in total, with a qualifying session for each event and the first proper races pulling in numbers of motorsport fans to line the stands of the Circuit Paul Ricard. In the MINI RUSHOUR series, which will henceforth be held in Italy, the first race victory goes to Andréa Gagliardini, with guest starter Kris Meeke hot on his heels in second place. And in the MINI Trophy series, Thomas Tekaat puts in a first-class performance by securing a start-to-finish victory.
For a few minutes, 23-year-old Halim Erdogan has had enough of MINI United. He and his friends have travelled nearly 2,500 kilometres to Le Castellet, from a MINI club in Istanbul. And because all of his friends agree that Halim is the "worst MINI driver in the whole of Istanbul, if not the whole of Turkey", they signed him up for the Fun & Agility Training given by specially trained drivers. The training session lasts 15 minutes and towards the end, one of the trainers decides to give Halim an unforgettable experience by performing a few spectacular drifts. Nobody was to know that Halim’s stomach wouldn’t take kindly to the centrifugal forces it was subjected to. Luckily for Halim, there’s a deckchair nearby marked "Hang out for a while", which is exactly what he does in order to recover and let his stomach settle.
After signing autographs for the best part of an hour, rallying professionals Armindo Araujo and Patrick Sandell could really do with a break too. Beforehand, they joined Dakar winner Stéphane Peterhansel and two Mini veterans from the 1960s, Rauno Aaltonen and Paddy Hopkirk, on the MINI Motorsport stage in front of the pit building for another Q&A session with the fans. The assembled fans were then treated to the live servicing of a MINI John Cooper Works WRC by Armindo Araujo’s crew of mechanics from the WRC Team MINI Portugal as well as Stéphane Peterhansel taking to the wheel of his MINI ALL4 Racing to go for a spin round the MINI Motorsport stage.
On Saturday afternoon, the stage is then the venue for the next event highlight – the presentation of the new MINI John Cooper Works GP. Equipped with motorsport suspension, an exclusive chassis, new aerodynamic details and more than 200 hp, the new MINI John Cooper Works GP brings a real motorsport feeling to the road and delivers the ultimate rush of adrenalin every time. And it boasts a great deal of exclusivity too, with just 2,000 MINI John Cooper Works GP vehicles being sold worldwide. Anyone who is lucky enough to own a MINI John Cooper Works GP is therefore a member of an exclusive group of drivers.
Halim Erdogan, who has now recovered from his stomach-turning drift experience, is more than impressed by the MINI John Cooper Works GP and takes photos of the latest addition to the MINI family from every possible angle. "Owning a car like this would be a dream come true," says Halim. Grinning from ear to ear, a friend of his taps him on the shoulder and says: "That will only ever be a dream for you, Halim, because you can’t even drive properly." Halim takes it on the chin and the two of them head off towards the main stage, where the line-up of music acts is about to reach its zenith with the band "Gossip" and their blend of funk, electro beats, disco and punk. Beth Ditto, the band’s unconventional leader singer, is already on stage.
There is therefore still plenty more to come on this spectacular second day of MINI United 2012.
After finishing fifth in the Dakar 2013, Orlando Terranova will be showing off his new love – the MINI ALL4 Racing – in front of a home crowd at the Desafío Ruta 40 in Argentina.
The MINI Motorsport family is large and embraces the whole world. Find out more about the MINI Stars worldwide.
Classic Minis provide action galore in the British Car Trophy. Whether production-based or optimised: any Mini is welcome in this popular racing series.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
Vaclav Pech has go this mojo back. After a brief winless streak, the Czech Republic’s most successful rally driver is back to winning ways at the wheel of his MINI.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.