BBC Autos

Mice in the desert: Minis dominate Dakar Rally

(BMW Group)

(BMW Group)

The Dakar Rally finished in Chile at the weekend. After two weeks, 10,000km and over 50 hours of racing (more than an entire season of Formula 1), it was won by a chap called Nani Roma. By a mere five minutes.

Nani Roma may not be a household name here, but do not underestimate the ability, resilience and endurance he has shown in getting to the finish first. Dakar is the most punishing motor race on the planet. Mostly as a corollary of that, it requires luck. Few would deny that legendary competitor Stéphane Peterhansel (below) was faster in his identical X-Raid Mini Countryman, but a couple of puncture-strewn stages early in the race put him on the back foot.

Stéphane Peterhansel. (BMW Group)

Stéphane Peterhansel. (BMW Group)

He gained and gained on Roma, but with the finish in sight X-Raid called team orders to reduce the risk. Ironically Roma then punctured on the penultimate stage, handing the lead back to Peterhansel on a platter. He chose not to press home the advantage and take his sixth Dakar car crown. It’s that sort of race.

The taking part is a big thing here, completion all that most teams dream of. It’s hard to come by. Of the 431 bikes, quads, cars and trucks that started in Rosario on the 5th January, only 222 made the finish in Valparaiso. Amongst the casualties were Carlos Sainz, who had briefly led in his Red Bull SMG buggy early in the race, but succumbed first to mechanical issues and then to an accident which briefly hospitalized him. Another hot favourite was ex-Nascar superstar Robby Gordon, whose exit on stage 11 came about as a result of fuel contamination.

Without Sainz and Gordon it was left to South African Giniel de Villiers, winner in 2009, to stop the X-Raid Minis in his Toyota Hilux. He’s been on the podium for the last two years, but had to settle for fourth this year, as Mini took the last of the top three spots courtesy of Nasser Al-Attiyah. X-Raid Minis also finished fifth, sixth, ninth, tenth, eleventh and twelfth. In fact of the 11 cars that X-raid entered, every single one made the finish proving that at the Dakar, the tougher you build ‘em, the better the chance of winning.