If you read the NY Times “A” section last Sunday you saw the full-page, four-color ad by MINI USA challenging Porsche Cars North America to a race at Road Atlanta, Monday, June 21st. What so very few know about are the details behind the curtain. It’s the sort of factual info we’ll be presenting soon with the re-launch of our GoMotoring.com site. Not just “exclusive” details but hard facts and insight on a daily basis!
The story started about three months ago with Jim McDowell, V.P. MINI USA. Now our Jim likes a good joke or two; it’s said that he’s a bit of prankster, too. He shared his idea only with 5-6 US staff, and with the help of Trudy Hardy (US marketing exec), he planned this bold and crafty campaign, telling no more than the people that can comfortably fit into a MINI Clubman. It was that tightly guarded until the Wednesday before the NY Times ad, when he called Munich and let the cat out of the bag to his Munich bosses our Scoopertm tells us. Even we at MC2 had no details until Monday morning.
We’ve been skulking around in dark places since then, with our contacts.
By Monday the story had gone viral. The auto sites had picked up the story, MINI USA’s Facebook site had the first info, and even a Website – www.minivsporsche.com- had popped up along with the You Tube video.
Being a jokester, Jim decided to poke the giant some, as Porsche was his employer for eight years, before his stint at BMW marketing and MINI. He even admits to owning several Porsches, making fun of getting girls, and being follicly challenged using some Photoshop-style gags. You should see the You Tube video and sites for yourself.
If you know road courses, you know Road Atlanta is a “power course” what with its 2.3 miles, so we all figured MINI wasn’t putting all 52 playing cards on the table. It also has a short course and some driver training areas that could be integrated into a course that best demonstrates Porsche’s HP and MINI’s go-kart handling qualities. Add a few sections with little orange cones – forget about the water and skidpad as that wouldn’t be fair- and some straights and you’ve got the making of a course fair to both brands.
Chosen driver for MINI is Brad Davis, a long-time SCCA winning driver, MINI USA’s driver in the 2006 MINI United challenge, and the GM at MINI of Charleston, one of the Rick Hendrick-owned (yes, as in NASCAR), award-winning dealerships. Lest we forget, Brad’s son, Robbie, is a SCCA hotshoe in SSB and SSC showroom stock classes and a Motoring Advisor at Hendrick MINI. See issue #26 of MC2 for their family photo. Even their service dept. races autocross in MINIs, so these guys know MINI performance!
No matter what Porsche does – and no bets were placed on MINI by Vegas odds makers!- Porsche loses and MINI wins. “No guts,” “chickens” and “guess their polyester sweaters are in the wash that day?” are all over the Internet. So, yesterday Porsche replied with some very nicely crafted words telling MINI USA to save the money for valet parking and the T-shirts they will need at the race track.
No matter, MINI’s forging ahead, making a video reply to Porsche for posting next week, inviting every autojournalist they can to Road Atlanta and readying the track. They’ve a full video crew hired and will be ready next week, no matter what Porsche says or does. We hear they’ve even bought their own Carrera S- it’s easier than renting one for a few days. (Look on the Auto Trader website for slightly-used Porsches late June )
And there’s a lot of interest in Hollywood. A MC2 reader from a online celebrity site says that a major comedian and two big-time A-listers want to drive for MINI as they own MINIs, too. Even Brad Davis is getting in on the gag asking, “You’re not afraid of my MINI are you Hurley?” A reference to Hurley Haywood, a driver that’s won many international races in Porsche over the years.
We’re just as disappointed as you are. This was shaping up to be a fun
spectacle for all. But we’re not deterred. The underdog (and we‘re more than
the underdog in this race…we’re like the double-underdog) does not back down.
With your help and enthusiasm we think we can convince them. This is not over.
Not even close.