It’s a classic David and Goliath story. An underdog versus the heavyweights. A tiny Mini Cooper in racing spec takes down some much bigger and more expensive cars, including supercars, on the rally circuit. But this isn't a story about the wins from the classic Mini back in the 1960s. It's a story from right now, and this champion didn't need petrol to take the chequered flag.

It involves a mostly standard Mini Electric – the previous generation one, mind you – and some Ferraris, Porsches, and rally-spec hatchbacks. Simone Tempestini, the 2016 Junior World Rally Champion is also part of the story, although he doesn’t have anything to do with the Mini’s performance.

But enough of the introduction. Let’s get to the facts. A Mini Electric just became the world’s first known electric car to win a national street rally championship against internal combustion cars. It happened at the beginning of the month in Romania where driver Horia Platona piloted the EV that’s lovingly nicknamed “Racing Mimi” to victory in the front-wheel drive class of the national Super Rally Championship.

Gallery: Racing-Spec Mini Cooper SE (Romanian Super Rally Series)

In the same class, you have cars like the rally-spec Peugeot 208 R2 (that has a 189 bhp 1.6-litre engine) and the TCR-spec Kia Ceed (which is powered by a 2.0-litre inline-four engine making 340 bhp.)

By comparison, the Mini Electric has just 184 bhp and, to make matters worse, it’s also one of the heaviest of the front-drive bunch, weighing about 1,200 kilograms (2,645 pounds). And that's even after it went through a diet consisting of fibreglass doors and plexiglass windows, among other things.

Some specially developed goodies include a supplemental dry ice-based cooling system and a Drexler limited-slip differential, with all of these being handled by Engange Engineering, which is based in the Transylvanian town of Brasov. 

They made sure the car was up to the task of running cool and fast in the six stages that are based exclusively on the urban streets of Romania, and looking at the result, they did a great job. Of course, the driver, Horia, also did his part to make the best of what he had and win the championship in his class with just one point separating him from the second place.

In the sixth and final stage of the Romanian Super Rally Championship, Racing Mimi outpaced cars like the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, Ferrari 458 Challenge, and Radical SR3 – which are arguably much faster than an all-electric road-going hatchback. 

However, pouring rain gave the two-door EV a massive advantage on the twisty Bucharest city circuit, and at the end of the day, Horia finished in second place, enough to secure a class win in the so-called 2A category, which includes all the front-wheel drive cars in the championship.

Mini Cooper SE - winner of the 2023 Romanian Super Rally Championship in the front-wheel drive class
Mini Cooper SE - winner of the 2023 Romanian Super Rally Championship in the front-wheel drive class

As for the former Junior World Rally Champion, Simone Tempestini, he was the winner of the Bucharest stage overall. But because he only has a so-called “one event” license for this particular championship, he didn’t score any points in the overall standings. Furthermore, he only ran in the last stage, while the Mini Electric SE completed all six stages and scored points in every event.

In the overall championship standings, including open-seater, rear-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive cars, Horia and his Racing Mimi finished a respectable 13th out of 26. Jerome France was the all-out winner in his Nova Proto NP03, which is a purpose-built carbon fibre race car similar to a Radical.

It’s not a bombastic Le Mans or Sebring win, but it’s still a worthwhile victory. The team says it might be the world’s first championship victory of an EV fighting combustion cars, as battery-powered racers usually compete in single events, like Tesla at Pikes Peak in the U.S., but considering the global presence of rallying there’s no way of knowing for sure.

Regardless, between stuff like this and the Rivian R1T that won this year's Rebelle Rally, it's further proof that EVs are real contenders in the racing world. And they're far from done yet.