Padiham-based Mini Sport has been at the forefront of keeping the iconic classic Mini on the road for the past 50 years. It supplies a wide variety of after-market parts for enthusiasts, and also through its sister company Motorsport Advanced Developments manufactures its own brand of performance parts for Minis, both classic and new.
The own-brand parts were originally produced by neighbours and fellow engineering enthusiasts Hope Technology. However, as Hope’s business grew its capacity to take in sub-contract work for Mini Sport diminished and Mini Sport took the first tentative steps into machining. As the demand grew the realisation that it needed a separate machining facility, if only across the road, dawned and Motorsport Advanced Developments was born. From a single CNC machine this business has grown into a world leader in the machining of performance parts for rally cars and also a leading supplier of sub-contract machining to a variety of customers, with work split 60/40 between Mini Sport work and a limited external customer base.
To meet this demand, Motorsport Advanced Development’s Managing Director, Daniel Harper, son of Mini Sport’s founder Brian Harper, has made significant investment in machine tool technology, with a total of 10 Mazak’s at his disposal, including six twin-spindle lathes, three vertical machining centres with fourth axis capability and the latest arrival an i600 five-axis machining centre. In addition to machining Motorsport Advanced Developments has also invested in 3D printing and scanning technology for reverse engineering of parts. To go along with this investment in machine tools he has also developed a partnership with tooling supplier WNT (UK).
“We have worked with WNT from day one of the business and in those early days we came to rely on the expertise and experience of WNT’s Technical Sales Engineer Nigel Walls,” says Daniel Harper. “That expertise and support is just as vital now as we move into the five-axis environment. Nothing is too much trouble for WNT, whether it is providing tools on trial to Nigel standing in front of the machine helping us with methodology and just making sure things work for us. It is important to me to have that personal contact and approach to business.”
This ability to call on the depth of technical knowledge available from WNT is particularly important to a relatively young business like Motorsport Advanced Developments. While it is a business with an active apprentice training programme, with one apprentice, Ben Anderson, being crowned the number one turner in the country, it also has a relatively young workforce, with an average age under 30. “While our team of 12 is highly skilled, it always reassuring to have the backing of a company like WNT when new tooling and machining strategies are developed, especially with the five-axis machine.”
As a result of this close working relationship, WNT (UK) is now responsible for around 70 per cent of the cutting tools used by Motorsport Advanced Developments. Regular use tools are stored in one of WNT’s Tool-o-Mat vending system, which is also used to provide detailed reports of tool usage and automatically reorders stock, which is then replenished by WNT on a regular basis. Anything beyond these regular tools is ordered as normal, making use of WNT’s next-day before noon delivery service. This rapid response proves invaluable, as the sub-contract side of the business means that urgent jobs can arrive with very short notice and, on very short lead times.
In addition to following in his father’s footsteps as far as business is concerned, Daniel is also continuing the family love of rallying. Having used a variety of cars in a number of different classes over the years, including classic Minis, his attention has turned to developing and rallying the modern BMW Mini. Mini Sport was the first to rally the new Mini back in 2004, when it developed a showroom car to put the Mini back at the forefront of rallying. In 2016 Daniel went on to win the Manx Rally Championship, at which point it was decided that it was time for a new car. This new Mini JCW-01c World Rally Car was one of just 33 created by ProDrive at a cost of £350,000 each! The car benefits from 300 hp and what Daniel describes as a ‘lot of torque!’ It has also had further modifications with parts machined by Motorsport Advanced Developments.
“This new car contains a very high level of technology, much of it on a level of Formula One, it is a phenomenal piece of kit. This meant that buying the car was one thing, running it and competing was another. It is here that the working partnership between ourselves, WNT and Mazak is a powerful combination that works to everyone’s benefit,” says Daniel. “WNT, with its involvement in womens’ professional cycling, motorcycling, powerboating, were happy to get on board and offer advice and support.”
Speaking on behalf of WNT’s involvement, Tony Pennington, UK & Ireland Managing Director says: “The opportunity to support Daniel and his rallying activities was a good fit with our engineering technical support and tools. We use our participation in sport to strengthen two of WNT’s core philosophies of teamwork and fighting spirit. This partnership with Motorsport Advanced Developments is simply an extension of that.”