How to race a classic Mini, with Chris Harris and Charles Rainford
Sixty Minis – one for each of the icon’s years – all competition Cooper Ss prepared to the nth degree and driven by some of the hottest and most entertaining drivers ever to take to the Goodwood Motor Circuit… what’s not to like?
The Mini’s 60th anniversary special race at Members, named in tribute to the Duke of Richmond’s Mini-loving grandmother, split the 60 Minis – and Mini variants including Riley Elf and half-timbered Traveller – into two heats. The fastest 15 cars from each heat would meet in the final on the Sunday.
Two of the drivers who survived the heats and made the final had never raced Minis before: some chap called Chris Harris and, the youngest driver in the entire 60-car field, Charles Rainford, 20, whose dad Shaun runs historic race car shop CCK.
Ahead of the final, here’s what both Mini racing virgins told us…
“This was totally new for me. My historic racing has been in mostly Jaguar-engined cars and a few Ferraris, nothing front-wheel-drive at all. I love it though. They are very technical little cars that look fantastic, sliding around.
“My car was entered by BMW Classic and was looked after by a great bunch of guys. They have been really helpful teaching me how to drive the thing. Before the heat we had to change the gearbox and I only got half a lap in in practice before I managed to wazoo the engine. But in the heat I got up to seventh despite making several mistakes, so made the final which was all I cared about.
“The racing is extremely close and, like anything, when you join a group of people used to doing something together it’s very difficult at first to understand the way they work. I had to feel my way into it.
“The Mini gives you a slip angle you can use but beyond that you’re gone. The slipstream effect is profound down the back straight. And the Minis don’t need to brake a lot around Goodwood. Normally any overtaking is done under braking, but not in Minis. I love it.”
Ed’s note: Chris finished 11th after starting 14th on the grid.
Charles Rainford, youngest Mini racer
“I started racing when I was 16. I have raced mostly my dad’s Marcos 1800 GT and Lenham GT Le Mans, and as an instructor now with Jonathan Palmer I have a lot of experience driving modern GTs – but all rear-wheel-drive. The only time I have driven a racing Mini was in a shootout at the Festival of Speed.
“I started in qualifying driving the way I know, so braking in a straight line, coming off the brakes then turning in and gradually feeding in the power. That doesn’t work in a Mini at all. You have to keep the power on and hope the rear follows the front, and if it understeers you have to give it more steering and more throttle. It’s all very backwards from what I know but all really good fun, and sometimes just a little scary too.
“The car was built by CCK from the most rotten Mini we could find, and is the car in the book we have just published called How to prepare a historic racing Mini. It was originally built for the Brands Hatch Mini festival in 2016 and doesn’t have all the fancy bits on it. It’s far more like a racing Cooper S was in period, so we were always going to be towards the back of the grid. I like to be able to see what’s happening in front of me…”
Ed’s note: Charles started the final in 26th spot and finished 24th.
Photography by Pete Summers, Drew Gibson and Jayson Fong.