RallyRaid International brings 16 years of hard-fought distance rallying expertise to the creation of their latest model, the Desert Warrior 3. The DW3’s rise and current dominance of FIA endurance rallying is an interesting “underdog” story. Exclusive interviews with team principle Paul Round and lead designer Mike “BD” Jones reveal the details of the BMW-powered DW3’s exotic in-house design and the current two-model range.
The RallyRaid DW3 looks like a simple body-style evolution on the familiar Bowler template for Land Rover-based Dakar rally cars. In fact, the Evoque appearances are just a cosmetic touch to provide continuity between the DW3 and RallyRaid’s previous generations of Defender -inspired Desert Warriors.
UK-based RallyRaid International is a small, battle-hardened operation that shies from the limelight much more than others in the high-dollar rally prototype scene. The competition schedule demands the bulk of the team accompany the race cars on their frequent two-week-long, 1,000-plus-mile off-road races in some of the most desolate, inhospitable corners of the globe. There is no road-legal variant and there’s no fancy customer showroom - aside from the dusty podiums of the Dakar finish line.
Please follow the jump for the full mechanical specifications, an awesome video montage of the car’s design and construction and image gallery of the Desert Warrior 3 inside and out.
The Desert Warrior 3 makes a big splash for a lot of reasons. The exterior is fashionable and comparisons with the Range Rover Evoque coupe are unavoidable due to the shared headlamps and similar glasshouse and body profiles. The DW3 resembles an Evoque like a touring car or a stock car vaguely recalls a series production vehicle, except in this case the look is not enforced by sponsor dollars and marketing tie-ins.
The Evoque comparison ends there. Lead designer BD Jones designed the DW3 around mechanical requirements learned in years of competition. The car’s overlarge fender flares are the DW3’s least successful feature but are deemed a necessity for ground clearance and suspension compression depth. The somewhat small-looking wheels are FIA-mandated 16-inchers and the DW3 includes seven of them as standard. With wheels off and the built-in jacks extended, the wheel arches open a cavernous servicing area for the brakes, suspension and engine.
Two of the DW3’s most striking elements are its giant body-color roof scoop and its tiny overhangs. The scoop enables a scary roof-high wading depth by feeding snorkel air to the engine intake, as well as cool air to the mid-mounted differential oil cooler. The barely-there front and rear overhangs give the DW3 unstoppable approach and departure angles as well as a very high break-over point.
The interior of the DW3 is very purpose-driven. The seats are RallyRaid UK racing buckets with TRW HANS competition belts and a raid booster cushion for bad terrain. The FIA-approved frame is made from T45 tubular steel with roll cage padding for safety.
Both Sport and Elite DW3 trims come well equipped to handle rough running and include features like built-in a hydration system, mini tool kits in the doors, three aluminum cases of spare parts, and a heater for demisting purposes.
There are some key interior differences between the Sport and the upgraded Elite DW3 models, such as the Elite’s giant AC and upgraded racing, telemetry and navigation hardware. The Elite models have more technology inside thanks to the controls for the adjustable tire pressures and additional HID headlights.
The overall atmosphere is that of a pure two-seat rally car, with giant switch banks, dash-mounted fuse boxes, and exposed metal framework all around.
The Desert Warrior 3 runs a 3.0-liter BMW turbo diesel engine remapped to produce Dakar-levels of reliability and torque. The Elite’s twin-turbo setup bumps the numbers from 260 horsepower to 285, and torque from 650 up to 700 pound-feet. The vehicle weighs approximately 3,900 pounfd and the RallyRaid team stresses that 0-to-60 mph is not the best benchmark for their long-range trucks. The estimated 60 mph sprint for the Elite is 7.0 seconds and it tops out at an estimated 140 mph. The single-turbo Sport model is likely significantly slower but more economical.
Fuel MPG is only half the battle for the Desert Warrior 3. The real challenge is total possible range. As such, the DW3 features a 75-gallon racing bladder fuel tank capable of 700-plus miles before refueling.
|Peak power||285 horsepower|
|Peak torque||700 pound-feet (est.)|
|0-to-60-mph||7 seconds (est.)|
|Top Speed||140-mph (est.)|
|Fuel Tank||75 gallons|
|Max Range||700-plus miles per tank|
Suspension and Brakes
The suspension is a clever modular setup using the same size double wishbones front and rear, top and bottom for easy repairs. The reinforced hub mount assemblies are 4-inch solid steel. Twin shocks and dampers on each wheel can be upgraded to optional adaptive Reiger racing dampers for enhanced control in corners or at high speed. Brakes are also interchangeable 12.2-inch vented discs, upgraded to an ALCON set of discs and calipers in Elite trim.
The differential setup is, along with the engine, the biggest change from Sport to Elite. The Sport makes use of a Ford Racing diffs with electronic locking and an e-LSD. The Elite runs hardcore, plate-locking SADEV limited-slip differentials front and back. The Elite also upgrades the center diff to a locking SADEV unit with its own dedicated oil cooler.
No press drives of the Desert Warrior 3 are available, but the truck looks nimble and nippy in its off-road trial videos. The DW3’s athleticism is greatly enhanced by its fast steering rack.
RallyRaid International supplies Desert Warriors as competition racers to other teams. The prices vary by the amount of works preparation each car requires, but the base prices are very steep nonetheless. The Sport is $290,000 and the Elite costs $390,000. The company also offers race support to customer teams and a full suite of services for the Truck and Bike groups in the “Rally Raid” class.
The Bowler EXR offers some stiff competition for the Desert Warrior, but each has different priorities. The EXR demolishes the DW3 in most street-car performance measures but lags well behind the DW3 for maximum range plus the toughness of the transmission and differentials. The DW3’s small racing tires don’t help its appearance compared with the Bowler.
The Desert Warrior 3 offers a globally competitive package designed to win long-distance rallies. It doesn’t benefit from major manufacturer support or supply chains, but overcomes all obstacles via clever engineering and years of trial and error from Chile to Siberia to Morocco.
Endurance racers at Le Mans made the switch to diesel power in the mid-2000s, a few years after RallyRaid began evaluating big diesels as the answer to long-distance racing. The BMW 3.0-liter diesel won out over many other candidates in the last ten years of brutal real-world testing.
The RallyRaid team’s laser focus is rarely seen in the wider automotive world. On current racing performance, the Desert Warrior 3 is their best car yet. Let’s hope their rally drivers are good salesmen: the losing teams might be making an order soon.
- Innovative BMW turbo diesel powertrain
- Inhumane maximum range from giant fuel tank
- Roof scoop
- Somewhat bloated appearance on small FIA wheels
- Less exciting exhaust note than gasoline-powered race cars
- No road-going version