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The JCW-Inspired Mini Electric Pacesetter Is Formula E’s New and Very Silent Safety Car

RIP to the incredible open-top BMW i8 roadster safety car. We loved you too much.

After an incredible two years of being the only international motorsport championship with an open-top safety car, Formula E has decided to go pedestrian and, for BMW’s final season in the series, run a Mini Electric Pacesetter ’round the street courses instead. The cutaway i8 roadster in use since 2019 asked questions like “is this safety car necessarily safe” and “shouldn’t this be an electric vehicle,” which gave Formula E the existential poise that any series facing down the heat death of a planet should. But as we head to Italy for BMW’s final round of the Rome street circuit, they’ve decided to set a new pace.

The new course vehicle, driven by former touring car racer Bruno Correia, was announced yesterday and will be first seen at the Rome E-Prix on April 10. Formula E announced two days ago that the Italy event would become a doubleheader race, only two weeks before it will actually happen, so the Mini gets a bonus, extra-long debut.

Formula E

It had always seemed anachronous that an all-electric series used a hybrid safety car, so moving to an EV is long overdue. Combined with the Mini electric’s city car status, a championship devoted to street circuit racing makes perfect sense to advertise it. The Mini might only just about top a 110-mile range (although it did go 40 miles over that in independent range testing) but that’s not really a massive issue for 45-minute races around relatively short circuits, even if for some reason the pace car led the whole shebang.

The Mini Electric Pacesetter is roughly 285 pounds lighter than a normal Cooper SE, and that’s saying something given the added heft of all those accessories. Its 181 horsepower and 206 pound-feet of torque push it from zero to 60 miles per hour in 6.7 seconds, and three-way adjustable coilover suspension means it can handle track duty just fine. Those 245/40R18 Michelin Pilot Sport tires help too, of course.

You can catch the all-electric Mini’s debut in what’s probably inevitably vehicular carnage on a reworked, faster Rome Street Circuit on April 10 and 11.

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