Origin of the Fortech Mini,
SCCA GT5 National Champion
1984 - 1986 - 1989 - 2003 - 2004
See the current Fortech Mini incarnation and other racing Minis in action on Toybox Racing's YouTube channel!
Mike Kearney and the History of the Fortech Mini
Like many of you, my love for the Mini has been a lifetime of joy. I started Fortech Racing in 1970. Here is a history of the Fortech Racing Mini:
Fortech Mini MK1: 1970 - 1975
The Fortech Mini MK1 was my first racing car, built from an almost new MK1 Cooper S. After taking this car to SCCA drivers' school in 1971, the learning curve was just about straight up for me.
Racing the MK1 taught me a lot about preparation. Being a big fan of the Trans-Am series, I would look at the Penske Camaros, then go home and try to put that kind of preparation into my own racecar.
In 1975, I entered the car in a four-hour Enduro at Sears Point. I invited Bondurant instructor Bill Cooper to drive with me. It was at this race that I discovered that I was a lot better at racecar preparation than racecar driving.
My crew chief Steve Maxwell and I had decided to go to the Runoffs the next year. Realizing that my desire to win was greater than my desire to drive, we enlisted Bill Cooper to drive the Mini in the 1976 racing season.
Fortech Mini MKII: 1976 - 1979
This was the famous black Fortech Mini. Interestingly enough, Fortech did not build this car.
The Fortech team went down to Riverside in February in 1976 for the first National of the season. The first time I saw the black car I didn't even recognize it as a Mini. As I got closer to it, I knew it was a Mini, but it had enormous fender flares on it. The car looked mean and it was a lot lower than mine. When it hit the track we could see it was much faster than my Mini. The car owner was Peter Haller and he had Mark Hallowell as Crew Chief. Mark had crewed for Bob Fox's 1972 National Championship Mini. Fox ran some Trans-Am races and was a friend of Richard Longman.
Peter took the black Mini to Sears Point in March of 1976. He was the first C-Sedan driver to break the 2-minute mark, and this car was the first C-Sedan Mini to go fast on 13" tires.
What started out as a great year turned to tragedy as Peter lost his life in a hiking accident that spring. Mark called and wanted us to fulfill Peter's dream of racing in Atlanta. I flew down to L.A and met with Mark.
Bill Cooper drove the black car to victory on the 4th of July, 1976 at Riverside.
Our first trip to Atlanta was a disaster on the track, but it left me with a burning desire to win the Runoffs. Fortech also had its first sponsor, a brand new Mini parts supplier named Seven Enterprises, Ltd.
The following year, 1977, I decided to have Doug Peterson drive the Fortech Mini. Looking back, that was the best racing decision I ever made. This year, we also started producing those monster flares that became Fortech Flares.
Fortech Mini MkIII: 1980 - 1985
This Mini was our first real racecar. It had coil-over shocks, a roll cage that was tied into the subframes, and relocated pickup points. After taking a year off to start Comptech Machine with his partner Don Erb, Doug was back in the Fortech Mini, bringing his engineering and driving skills to the 1980 season. The car was very fast, but the victory at the Runoffs was still only a dream for the Fortech team.
With the help of Comptech's dyno, Fortech undertook a real engine development program. With the extra power and Doug's skill behind the wheel, the Fortech Mini won its first National Title in 1984.
As of this writing, this car is now in Jon Becker's hands.
Fortech Mini MKIV: 1986 - 2015 (-ish)
In 1986, Comptech built two tube-frame Mini Coopers. Chassis number 1 went to Richard Kraus, who was 1993 National Champion, and is currently being campaigned by Ward Barbour.
Chassis number 2, the current Fortech Mini, was fast, and won the Runoffs first time out with Duane Davis driving, in 1986.
In 1989, Doug came back again and we had our best season ever. We were undefeated during the season and then at Atlanta out-qualified the GT5 field by 3.8 seconds, winning our third National title. We even would have had the pole for the GT4 race that season. The SCCA dumped 100 pounds on the mini after that race.
[As of this writing] The Fortech Mini is still going strong, and, although the car is over 18 years old, it is still considered one of the trickest cars in SCCA Club Racing. Doug is back behind the wheel and we race for fun now. But, we still have the will to win. In 2000, 2001, and 2002, we finished second in the Runoffs to Joe Huffaker's car.
Read: Gathering of Champions 2004
In June 2009 we won the Can-Am Mini Challenge at Brainerd International Raceway, against a field of 25 race-prepared Minis from all over the U.S. and Canada. Click here for photos and a full account of the Fortech Mini's run!
Fortech Mini: Passing the Torch
In November 2015, Mike made the tough decision to pass the Fortech Mini torch on to folks who would keep the Fortech Mini dream alive, Andy and Rachel Nelson. Andy and Rachel are keeping the Fortech Mini active on the vintage race circuit, and continue to add to the Fortech Mini story.