Mini Magazine travelled to Donington Park to meet with Mini Se7en racer Charlie Budd and BTCC star Andrew Jordan back in 2015. A full feature with pics from Matt Woods was printed in the October 2015 issue, which you can buy a copy of here: http://shop.kelsey.co.uk/issue/View/issue/MMG243/mini-magazine-october-2015
So Andrew, we hear that you’ve a bit of history with the Mini?
AJ: “Yes I started out in Junior Rallycross in a Mini and I love them. Actually I’m restoring a road car for myself now – a ‘65 MkI that I’m going to do as a Cooper S lookalike, in Old English White with steel wheels. So I’ve always been a fan of them because that’s where I started out. Dad and I also run a historic race team as a sideline, we share an Austin A40, but it’s cool to come and drive loads of different cars – I drive anything really.”
How did you manage to persuade Charlie to lend you his car?
AJ: “It came about because I know Charlie from the rallycross days. I also watched the Mini Se7ens for years as they used to support the British GT championship when my dad was part of that. So I’ve always wanted to race one from a very young age, and when I saw Charlie doing the Mini Se7ens I got in touch on Facebook.”
Charlie, how did you first get into Minis?
CB: “I started racing short circuits in a Mini when I was 12 and have been into Minis ever since, with a year in an MR2 in between. It went from oval racing to Junior Rallycross, which is how I know Andrew, and from there to Mighty Minis for a few seasons. My dad Ralph did the Se7ens in the early ‘80s when it was still 850s and my brother Dan now runs the Real Mini Company and races too. Racing in the Se7ens was always the goal, not that I thought I could ever achieve it, and this is the first year for me. I still think rallycross is without doubt one of the best ways to start out and it’s only a tenner on the gate; that’s the difference.”
Did you build the car yourself?
CB: “I can’t take the credit for the car – we bought it ready to go with the intention of painting it up, but my dad, Clive and Phil got a bit carried away and it turned into a complete rebuild – the only thing that’s the same now is the rollcage. Richard Parker built the engine and Keith Calver did the head. We wanted to try a different approach, rather than going to the regular suppliers that everyone tends to use. Thankfully Pristine Condition has been really supportive in helping me to go racing.”
How are you finding Mini Se7ens so far?
CB: “We weren’t competitive at the beginning, but with help from KAD we’re making real progress now. Things don’t always go as planned on paper when you are revving past 8000rpm and I struggled at first because I was driving it like a Mighty. You really have to wring its neck and make it scream. It feels more competitive in the Se7ens than the Mightys, but I can’t knock that series – as a learning point it’s great. The cars are easier to maintain, but finishing in the top 10 in the Se7ens is probably just as good as a podium for me in the Mightys, simply because you have people who’ve been racing there for decades.”
What do you think of it Andrew?
AJ: “Yeah it was great – just what I’d hoped it would be. The handling was great, there’s not really anything I’d want to change there, and in general I really enjoy driving cars on lower-grip tyres as they move around nice and progressively. It’s not like on cars when you have loads of grip then it snaps – it’s far more progressive. I loved every minute of driving it; there was a big smile on my face all the way round. I came in after six laps to let the car cool down, as they’re highly stressed to get that much power from the engine, so although I would have liked to stay out all afternoon I thought best not.”
How does it compare to your rallycross days?
AJ: “It handles a lot better than the rallycross Mini as it’s a lot stiffer. The suspension set-up there was always a compromise between the gravel and tarmac setup, but this feels like it’s quite stiff, in a good way. I think rallycross is a great platform to learn from before you progress to something like this. It teaches you the car control for when you get out of shape or off of the tarmac and gives you confidence in the car in the wet. So in touring cars I’m normally really good in conditions when the car is moving around quite a bit. That said, I was way too aggressive when I first went to circuit racing, working the front tyres way too hard. When I go back to rallycross now I’m probably a bit too smooth.”
We saw you out in the Swiftune Longman 1275 GT replica at Goodwood. How does the Se7en compare to that?
AJ: “The Swiftune car runs more modern tyres and has quite a lot more grip, but they’re all like big go karts. Having less power makes you think more about your driving, as it’s all momentum based – there’s no power to pull you out of a corner so it makes you think harder about your driving style than in a more powerful car. It’s the same with the A40 I race. Every car, no matter what the power, always has its own challenges for the driver to get their head around.”
So could we see you out racing properly soon Andrew?
AJ: “I certainly wouldn’t say no to a couple of races. The racing all looks really good when you get the tow behind the others to make it properly close. It all looks pretty clean too from what I’ve seen, although a bit feisty at times! Unfortunately I wouldn’t be able to do the full season at the moment but I’d like to do a race at some point.”
We suppose the Mini would tie-in well with your MG. How’s the new car going?
AJ: You know someone else said that the other day and I hadn’t really thought of the link before. Although it’s obviously all different owners now the MG link is there with the A40 too. This season? We’ve had some good weekends and some bad weekends – it’s been quite tough but I’ll just keep going. As long as I go back from the track each weekend knowing I’ve done the best I can that’s all I can do.”
It must be quite a step up from the Mini racing in terms of media attention?
AJ: “I just politely smile most of the time. The live TV is what makes touring cars what it is; why it’s so attractive for sponsors. Even if you’re pissed off after a race, you put a brave face on it and you’re still there getting coverage for the sponsors. It’s the big part of any sport but the sponsors have to get something back.
Would you like to do move up to different formulas Charlie?
CB: “Obviously it’s the dream to do touring cars like Andrew, but realistically I’m enjoying this and want to do it for as long as I can. I can’t imagine mastering the Se7ens straight away, but I never got to win the Mighty Mini championship so that’s something I’d really like to aim towards here. First though, the aim is a podium.”
What have you picked up on so far?
CB: “We saved a second and a half straight away after taking advice from Ian Curley on stiffening up the rear anti-rollbar and dampers, as it was pushing on in the corners. Ian Gunn has sorted the suspension set-up and the car feels amazing now. It had to be running perfectly for when Andrew came to test it – that was quite a bit of pressure!”
It’s cool that you’ve both progressed with racing alongside your dads. Has it helped?
AJ: “Out the historic, my dad tends to be a bit more aggressive than me, so I tell him to be a bit smoother, but it’s really close between the two of us. I really love racing with him, and also testing. We always push each other a lot and there’s never more than a tenth in it.”
CB: “Yes it’s the same here with the Minis. Me and dad went out on a test day with the Go Pro in to compare driving styles and push each other on. He was a very slightly quicker in the end, so he said he won’t get back in it now after that!”
Just time for one last question – will you be lending your car to Andrew again soon?
CB: “We’d definitely like to see if we can get Andrew out in a race at some point. I do want to be up in the top 10 of the championship though, so maybe it’ll have to be at the non-championship round at the end of the season. Watch this space, we’ll see what happens.”
Thanks again to Mini Magazine and Matt Woods Photography for allowing us to upload the interview. Mini Magazine is running an archive series each month on the Mini 7 Racing Club's 50th anniversary, so you might fancy a subscription to avoid missing out! Details here: http://shop.kelsey.co.uk/subscription/MMG