Red sunshine

Happy faces, fun, joy, talking shop and racing. The MINI Fan & Track Day at the traditional Belgian race track of Zolder is a complete success. In perfect weather, thousands of MINI fans celebrate themselves and their cars. One of the stars of the day is the Bulldog Racing MINI.

The Zolder race track. Summer temperatures. A day made for racing on the legendary 3,977-metre circuit, where triumphs and tragedies have already taken place. This time around, the focus is not on the high-horsepower Formula 1 cars, but on the MINI Cooper. Thousands of fans of the iconic brand conquer the race track at the MINI Fan & Track Day. The car parks around the Circuit Zolder are filled to the brim with MINIs of all eras and designs. An Austin Mini competes with an Innocenti Mini Minor and a Leyland Mini Clubman. Just a few metres away, a rare MINI Cooper S with JCW GP Kit from the R53 series basks in the sun.

The Union Jack is omnipresent and the glow on the faces of the MINI aficionados is only topped by the blue sky. Snatches of Dutch and French language waft through the paddock. “Dit zijn geweldige wagens” (These are great cars), one cheers. “Génial,” another states succinctly. The MINI fans celebrate themselves and their cars. The racetrack becomes a party mile. Food trucks stand ready and give off the appropriate aromas. Spicy, hot or guacamole? As much as you like. Burger? There you go. Topped with bacon? Absolutely. Cool refreshments are also provided. There is even a hairdresser on site. In the lifestyle shop, in front of which stands a statue of a red bulldog, fans can stock up on trendy accessories from the British brand or get new trainers in the trainer store, while the very young MINI fans romp in the ball pit.

The festival’s namesake is omnipresent. In the MINI Village there are racing simulators where fans can measure their driving skills against each other. A modern MINI is completely wrapped in green fur and seems to be screaming at the spectators. The motto “Roaaar” is the name of the game. Just a few metres away is a lookalike of Rauno Aaltonen’s bright red Rally MINI with seven headlights and the Finnish flag on the wing.

But the races are not only in the minds and imaginations of the visitors. After all, the motto of the cheerful party is “MINI Fan & Track Day”. Those who want to can test drive a MINI Cooper SE or chase a MINI Countryman around an off-road track. The very brave can show what they are made of on the Grand Prix track or dare to get into the passenger seat of a MINI John Cooper Works and be chauffeured around the track by a racing driver. Quite a few get out of the racer with wide eyes and pale noses. “Wow, does it brake late,” one young man gasps as he peels out of the car. “It’s amazing what that car can do,” analyses his buddy who takes the wild ride after him.

The star of the day finally enters the asphalt stage of the Circuit Zolder towards evening. As the Bulldog Racing MINI circles the track, applause erupts and smartphones are pulled out to capture this unforgettable moment. The fact that the appearance of the car, which in a few days will compete in the legendary 24-hour race of the Nürburgring, will be one of the highlights of the MINI party has been announced all day, as the red sunshine was snoozing comfortably under a canopy. As befits a celebrity, guarded by a bodyguard. A live bulldog suspiciously watches every move of the fans who gather around the red racer.

The interest in the MINI John Cooper Works is immense, as is the MINI disciples’ thirst for knowledge. Although an information board explains the technical finesse of the car, the people in charge of the Bulldog Racing Team are literally overwhelmed with questions. Every detail is interesting. “How does the pneumatic lifting system work?” “How did you integrate the fuel tank?” Or: “What did you do to the engine?” The component that fascinates the fans the most is clearly the huge rear spoiler. No detail goes unasked for. Starting with the downforce generated, to the weight and the aerodynamic subtleties in interaction with the bodywork. At times, the crowd around the rear of the Racing MINI was so dense that the car disappeared completely and only reappeared when it was rolled out onto the track. Not without receiving an admiring murmur from the crowd.