31 May 2016 Last updated

My wheels

Francis and his cool Mini Cooper JCW

Imran Malik
Added 00:00 | February 12, 2016
  • Francis has owned many different cars over the years including a three-door Alfa Romeo 147 and an Mk4 Golf GTI.

    Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM
  • Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM
  • Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM
  • Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM
  • Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM
  • Source:Aiza Castillo-Domingo/ANM

Francis is mad about Minis and owns a very sharp, British Racing Green Cooper JCW. He calls it ‘Pocket’ and says it’s his dream car. And a 488 GTB...

Welcome to My Wheels, Francis. As the chairman of the Mini Club Dubai, it’s fitting that you own one of the best models out there. Tell us about your Mini John Cooper Works…

I’ve had this car, which I’ve nicknamed ‘Pocket’, since 2013. I was driving a Mini Convertible at the time and happened to see this gorgeous British Racing Green John Cooper Works parked outside Abu Dhabi Motors one day. Apart from the limited GP2 Mini, this was the fastest Mini you could buy at the time. I used to have a 1990 Racing Green Classic 1.3i Mini in the UK so I couldn’t resist the temptation to have a look. The salesman was very persuasive so I put down a deposit and sold the Convertible the following week. I did briefly think about the GP2, but was sold on the Racing Green and white roof for sure. I’ve only seen four other Racing Green Minis in Dubai so it’s a pretty special little car.

Ever since learning to drive in a Hillman Imp in 1988 I’ve loved small cars. This is my seventh Mini after four classics and now my third BMW-built Mini.

You sure love them don’t you…


Name: Francis Donohoe
Job: HR Director
From: UK
Wheels: 2013 Mini Cooper John cooper works
In the UAE: Four and a half years

Some would say I’m obsessed with them. My first car was a brown, 1979 Mini City 1000. I had an accident in it (a Robin Reliant pulled out in front of me, which resulted in a new left wing) and I remember at the time not being able to find the correct brown paint so I got the whole car sprayed matte black. Maybe I was ahead of my time!

Yep, that hue is mighty popular these days. You’ve done some work to your JCW; some paint on the ducts, added new wheels and mirrors — does it get many comments from people?

Yes I matched the ducts, mirrors and alloys 
to the roof and fitted the GP2 rear diffuser last year.

It does get quite a few comments from other Mini drivers here and abroad, on forums and Instagram. It was very popular with tourists parked outside of Atlantis I found out recently.

It has 211bhp and 280Nm torque and feels like it has extra zip as I’ve fitted a K&N air filter. It does 0-100kph in 6.3 seconds and handles well enough to surprise a few other cars on track days. It has Brembos as standard, which provide plenty of stopping power.

An Aston Martin and Ferrari driver couldn’t believe the speed of the Mini through the corners and chicane at the Autodrome.

It looks in good nick; how do you maintain it?

I keep Pocket covered most evenings and regularly get it detailed inside and out. I will probably get it Nano coated this year as well. Aside from having to replace the battery and a number of flat tyres, it’s been as good as gold. But my biggest frustration is getting the doors dinged when I visit the malls.

They’re great fun to drive aren’t they…

It’s an amazing car to drive with plenty of power and perfect go-kart handling as you would expect. I test drove the new JCW Mini quite recently and didn’t think it was as much fun. This car puts a smile on my face every time I get in and press start.

It’s a daily driver and I’ve taken it on a few long runs with Mini Club Dubai and with my partner, to Jebel Hafeet, Musandam and Liwa. We have a few cruises planned for the spring including a return to Jebel Jais, which was the most fun by far.

However, the best car I have driven was a Ferrari 360 Spider. The sound of that V8 through the Atlantis tunnel was amazing.

You plan to build a classic Mini in British Racing Green to match your current ride, how’s that project going?

Well I have a wedding to save for this summer so that project is on hold for the time being, but definitely keen to get a Racing Green classic to sit alongside Pocket. I can get one built, with AC and left-hand drive for around Dh40K. Alternatively, I’ve been looking to get one imported from Europe as another option.

Other plans include a Stage 2 tune/remap and a larger Wagner Intercooler, which should get Pocket up to 255bhp and 330Nm of torque, at least.

But as it is, it’s got quite a lot of grunt, hasn’t it?

I can’t complain; I had a random Mustang try and race me up Jebel Jais once. He failed.

What is your dream car?

I’m driving it! OK, if I had the choice, it’d be a Ferrari 488 GTB, Equus Bass 770 or Jaguar F-Type R.

Got a hot ride? email us at mywheels@gulfnews.com with a photo and description and you could be our next my wheels star!