What Makes it MINI? Only a Driver Knows the Feeling…
The journey begins at the International MINI Club in Munich, the hub of the international MINI scene. It was here, following the IMM 2010, that drivers of Classic Mini were determined to get to the bottom of "MINI-ness" - the feeling that encompasses both pride of ownership and thrill of pilotry, both in theory and in practice. The MINI Gang Rhön had set the International MINI Club to the task of doing so, and it was with this charge that they set out on a journey to find the answer.
Drivers came at the helm of their own Classic Mini, testing their mettle alongside a handful of pros. It was here that MINI's German Club Instructors, company engineers and amateur MINI "pilots" alike found the right answers.
Sometimes tough questions require us to get technical: to the academic, driving pleasure is thought of solely in terms of vehicle dynamics. Measuring performance is relatively easy by way of classic metrics, their numbers easily evaluated. Still, the question remains: Can you measure the fun factor, too?
Wherefore excitement, satisfaction and challenge in terms that can be measured? Why is it that time after time, a small MINI leaves its drivers with much bigger smiles than the hottest new SUV? Enter Jörg Weidinger: Jörg works as an engineer for MINI and is also a skilled racecar driver who holds championship titles in speed hill climbing.
Jörg also has another credit to his name: He was an instructor at the very first Classic Mini driving training session ever offered by MINI. Always pairing theory with practice, he immediately came up with ways to make the physics behind MINI's unique driving experience real.
"Hold a broom horizontally in front of you at waist level. OK, now try to move it to the left and right with nothing but your hips" he paused, watching, "Now - Try again, but this time hold the broom stick between your legs." The result of this little exercise was surprising. The further you bring the broom away from your feet, the tougher it gets, and he explains the phenomenon in the following way: "You can be apply this directly to vehicles. The feet represent the front axle - between that and the broom is the vehicle overhang. A long overhang means sluggish handling, and a short overhang means the opposite: agility. That's exactly why driving a MINI is so much fun."
It was Alec Issigonis's idea to position the wheels at the corners of the vehicle. This not only gives the MINI more interior space, but also enhances the driving experience. Jörg's experiments in vehicle dynamics also prove that performance alone does not guarantee that a vehicle is fun to drive. The Classic MINI has between 39 and 85 horsepower. This figure is significantly lower than your average sportscar, mind you...but as it zigzagged through a slalom course of cones, swerved around obstacles and demonstrated its maximum side acceleration on a circuit during the driving training session, in no-time flat, all of the behind-the-wheel participants were grinning from ear to ear - and Jörg knows just why. "The vehicle's lightweight and low center of gravity allow for amazing handling. In other words, steering response is powerfully immediate. It's this kind of spontaneity has an undeniable impact on putting fun back in the driver's seat, independent of engine performance."
Given all this, it's easy to see why the MINI's classic vehicle blueprint is as impressive as ever - even more so when you consider that its fundamental design is more than fifty years old. You don't need much to get maximum driving pleasure, just a MINI and a nice curvy road.
So perhaps the fun-factor question has a definitive answer after all. The only thing left to do now is get behind the wheel of a MINI, to experience what all this fuss is about. Only a driver knows the feeling: you can tell from the look on their faces as they step out of the car, after taking a series of Swiss S-curves at 30mph.
Interested in getting behind the wheel of a MINI Driver Training? Drop us a quick line at firstname.lastname@example.org with "MINI Driver Training" in the subject line to automatically receive information about upcoming driving training sessions.
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