The outlandish looks of the Mini speak volumes about the car’s performance intentions. Needless to say, I went out in it first. I set out on the race track after toggling through the menu and setting it up in Sport mode. The screen flashed 'maximum go-kart feel mode' and with the press of the pedal, the fantastic acceleration surge got the car going. The driving position is spot-on like a go-kart. It's deep enough into the car to make you feel like you’re right in there with it. In the C2 & C3 corners, the Mini feels well balanced and very much tied down. As a result, corner entries become very addictive with the short, sharp downshifts and good braking at C4 & C8. With each pull of the left-hand paddle, the crackle and pop fireworks keep you entertained. For a turbo motor, the Mini’s 208bhp 2.0-litre mill is astonishingly responsive. Especially with loads of torque available even below 1,500rpm. This combined with a low riding stance makes the turn-ins feel sharp, and even if steering is heavy, it is quick. Post C7 and C12, the overall balance at higher speeds too is impressive with a flat ride.
Then, moving into the spacious and comfortable cabin of the RS, the engine here is certainly quieter than the Mini. The throaty thrum is audible only when you rev it hard. And that's what I did, only to account for some wheel spin with loads of torque coming in and the ESC off. There's generous amount of tyre squeal at the C1 right-hander and even in the tighter C5 and C7 sections. The 227bhp engine is quite a gem, but with so much power the RS understeers a lot. Thankfully, due to a lowered ride height as against standard Octavia, the RS feels much more composed when you flick it from one corner to another like the C10 and C11. Still it feels a lot heavier and is not as nimble as the Mini. And despite my inclination towards three-pedal cars, the DSG automatic gearbox in the RS satiated me. It provides a quick-shifting punch that should please even the most ardent enthusiast. On the longer straights, I noticed the 6,500rpm upshifts were crisp and if perfectly timed keep the boost on the boil.
Even though I'd thought the Mini will beat the RS on the track with relative ease, the JCW Pro did not. Our test driver, Rayomand Banajee, reported the lack of launch adhesion on both cars, but he clocked the 3.7km circuit in the Mini in 2.08.88 seconds flat and consistently on both runs. The Octavia also managed the same time on the first run, but did the second run in 2.07.60 seconds. While that's only a tad faster but astonishing and impressive nonetheless. Especially when it was least expected. Our race driver said that since the Mini went flat around the tight track against the RS that rolled more, it could have an advantage. However, the Octi's most impressive feats were hustling to a better speeds at C1 and C10 and beating the Cooper.