A Brief History MINI at the Dakar Rally.

MINI has competed in the gruelling Dakar Rally since 2011, winning 3 of the 4 it’s entered. This new era of MINI motorsport dominance is beginning to rival the legendary days of the 1960s, when MINI won the Monte Carlo 3 of 4 years, barely missing the fourth due to a controversial technical penalty.

While the endurance rallies of times past were unquestionably not for the faint of heart, the hard-hitting off-road trials of Dakar beg for an entirely different breed of racer. To carry them across whatever terrain the journey throws at them, a specially outfitted vehicle is a must.

Development for the MINI ALL4 Racing first began in 2010, just in time for entry in the 2011 Dakar Rally. At the helm would be the fearless daredevil of a driver Guerlain Chicherita world champion pro skier turned madcap motorist. Prior to 2011 he had already completed 4 Dakar rallies. The first run for MINI at the mighty Dakar took a tough turn during practice when Chicherit, sitting at a respectable 9th overall, tumbled the vehicle end over end after charging one of the rally’s infamously dangerous crests. Despite the setback, he still took MINI the rest of the journey to the finish line in Buenos Aires.

The winning streak begins. With Chicherit moving on to put MINI through its paces in wild world record feats like the first unassisted backflip legendary racer Stéphane Peterhansel – then winner of 9 Dakar titles – joined the team and was hungry for his elusive 10th win. Known respectfully as “Mr Dakar”, the French racer did not disappoint. Though led by his teammates like Nani Roma for several stages, a foreshadowing of years to come, Peterhansel secured the inaugural first place win for the MINI ALL4 Racing. Adding proof to the worth of this finely tuned new vehicle, he didn’t stand alone on the podium. Nani Roma followed in a close second after getting stuck in a dune in the final stage and 3 other X-raid drivers behind the wheel of MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles finished in the top 10.

“Mr Dakar” seized his 11th Dakar title with a commanding victory, celebrating at the finish line for a full 42 minutes before the runner-up arrived. Like the year before, Peterhansel faced fierce competition throughout the race from his teammates. Leonid Novitskiy passed Roma in the final stage to take 3rd after Roma had ridden in convoy with Peterhansel the stage before, helping ensure safe standing. Overall MINI took 1st, 3rd and 4th, as well as spots 12 and 48.

Hat-trick with a clean sweep. After a bumpy start in its first year of the competition back in 2011, the X-raid Team driving MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles stole away with a 3rd consecutive win in four years, stacking the podium and top 10 like never before. Spaniard Nani Roma, himself a previous winner of Dakar in the motorcycle category, had been a close competitor with Peterhansel in the years before and was out for the top spot in 2014. With Roma clinching victory, Peterhansel closely followed in 2nd with teammate Nasser Al-Attiyah in 3rd. Beyond the podium, drivers of the MINI ALL4 Racing took 5th and 6th place, as well as 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th. Every single one of the 11 MINI ALL4 Racing vehicles completed the rally that only half of all entrants can finish.

The pressure is on for the X-raid Team and the MINI ALL4 Racing to deliver yet another stellar performance in 2015, but whether 4 consecutive years on top can be clinched or not, the track record proves we’ll be seeing quite a few MINI kicking up dirt and leaving competition in the dust at the Dakar Rally.