For those of us residing in the northern hemisphere, January kicks off the gradual countdown to spring – that long thaw to lengthier days and warmer temperatures. But that means summer is already in full swing south of the equator, which provides the right sort of climate for one of the most ruthless long-distance races on the planet – the Dakar Rally. Spanning well over 5,500 miles of brutal, car-killing, spine-shattering terrain, the Dakar is a challenge unlike any other, but for four years running, Mini has walked away with top honors. This year, the marque looks to add a fifth notch to its belt, as evidenced by this desert shakedown video.
Hit play, and one thing will become abundantly obvious – this is no ordinary Mini. The composite body panels are fashioned after the showroom model, but that’s where the similarities end. Underneath, the beastly machine you see here is actually a tube-frame chassis stuffed with a torque-monster diesel engine, ultra-heavy-duty suspension components, and copious underbody skid protection.
Of course, that’s to be expected, considering what the Mini is up against. Sharp gravel, high heat, treacherous mountain passes, hidden boulders – it’s all in a day’s work when racing the Dakar.
X-raid Team’s Mini ALL4 Racing cars are preparing to defend their crown at the upcoming Dakar Rally set to begin on January 5, 2013. However, these are not the cars set to enter the competition, but the cars that will assist the team through the 5,000 miles of desert through Peru, Argentina and Chile.
These very special Countryman have been equipped with a full range of original Mini Accessories, including: 18-inch light-alloy wheels with run-flat tires, mud flaps for the front and rear wheel arches, auxiliary headlights, and all-weather floor mats plus a protective load compartment cover made from hard-wearing PVC.
They will feature matte black paint combined with red roofs and racing stripes, and, of course, those Monster Energy logos. The black paint has been combined with silver-colored add-on parts for the front and rear apron, and side skirts.
Each car will also feature an off-road package that will help it deliver the best driving experience on any kind of road, be it gravel, desert tracks or mountain passes.
The Mini Portugal team, along with its WRC partner, Prodrive, actually started off pretty well in the 2012 WRC season, but things turned sour for the MINI rally team following its breakup with said partner. Following the March split, Mini never reached the podium again. Though the 2012 season is not quite finished, Mini has announced that it will withdraw from the World Rally Championship following this season.
In all honesty this really comes as no surprise, as Mini is thought to have only raced as a factory sponsored brand this year to get WRC homologation. Why is that so important? Well, this means that Mini now can sell its rally cars to private racing companies, make profit, and have zero racing overhead. This was all backed up by Dr. Kay Segler’s statement “By the end of the season WRC Team Mini Portugal will have competed in every rally in 2012. As such, in accordance with FIA regulations, we will have achieved the WRC homologation for the Mini John Cooper Works.” Well, don’t make it too obvious that you played the system, fine Doctor…
In all honesty, this is just one of the necessary evils of the racing world, as car manufacturers simply want all of the free advertising at these events without any of the corporate responsibilities. So in all honesty, we can’t fault Mini for its obvious using the rather loose WRC homologation rules.
With the Mini John Cooper Works WRC car pumping a wild 300 horsepower and 400 Nm (295 pound-feet) of torque from its little 1.6-liter Bimmer engine, we doubt that MINI will have any issues selling it to private teams. Since 2011, the rally Mini Portugal team made it to the podium three times and had its biggest success in the January 2012 running of the Monte Carlo Rally when it finished 2nd.
We’ll keep an eye out to see if any private teams select Mini as its WRC car.
Click past the jump to read Mini’s presser.
At last year’s Paris Motor Show, the English automaker Mini showed the world the Mini Crossover concept that took the cute Cooper and beefed it up with some off road attitude, and everyone expected to see the production version this September at the Frankfurt Motor Show. however Mini has announced that the crossover’s official launch has been delayed until 2010 at the earliest.
That doesn’t mean that the Mini booth will be empty in Frankfurt, the automobile manufacturer will be unveiling the Mini Coupe concept and the Mini Roadster concept at the German auto show, a fitting move considering that their parent company BMW is from the region.
The crossover model, reportedly called Crossman, is almost certain to make an appearance at the Geneva motor show next spring. According to a BMW Mini spokesman, "The Crossover launch has been pushed back as we wish to first explore differentiation within future Mini smaller models and get feedback." Hopefully we don’t face any more financial crisis before then.