The Dakar Rally is probably the toughest motorsport race on the planet, so to withstand the ever-demanding event, X-RAID MINI sent an eight-strong team, with three of the brand new John Cooper Works Rally cars taking part in the South American-based event.
At the finish line in the Argentinian capital Buenos Aires, seven of the eight MINIs that entered completed the gruelling competition, with three finishing inside the top ten.
Due to severe flooding in the Río Grande area, two stages were cancelled, with a total of 1,400km taken off the original route length, but there were still plenty of challenges for the team to take on in the remaining 7,300km.
The highest finishing MINI was of Argentina’s Orlando Terranova with German co-driver Andreas Schulz, as the pair finished in sixth place, one hour, 52 minutes and 31 seconds behind the winner in their JCW Rally car.
At the finish, Terranova said: “It was a nice race; a very difficult first week for us and we made many mistakes which lost us time, but the second week was better. The stages were long and the navigation was difficult, but the car was fantastic and we are happy.”
Despite finishing in seventh, Jakub Przygonski of Poland and Belgian Tom Colsoul finished a further two and a half hours down, but felt the event was better than last year in their MINI ALL4 Racing.
Przygonski said: “This was indeed a hard Dakar, a lot of hard moments and difficult navigation with big speed but we enjoyed racing together. We’re really happy to be in the top 10 and feel we got a strong result, it feels like a huge difference from my first Dakar last year and I am only getting faster.”
Driving the older ALL4 Racing car, Qatari driver Mohammed Abu Issa finished a respectable tenth place, four hours, 53 minutes down on first place and said: “This Dakar was very different for me; it was my fourth but three of them were in a quad so this was my first in a car.
“I’m not sure if this one was hard because the challenges are different in a car than a quad, I cannot compare but I know it was still tough. I want to win the Dakar in a car one day and this is where I start. I have mixed emotions to finish, I can’t wait to see my family but I am sad that Dakar is over.”
Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen and Michel Périn finished 13th, Stephan Schott and Paulo Fiuza were 15th and the Brazilian pairing of Sylvio de Barros and Rafael Capoani ended the rally in 18th.
Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al Rahji and German Timo Gottschalk are provisionally 27th, however their position is under review after having to withdraw from Stage 4 due to Al Rahji suffering from severe altitude sickness.
However, it was a sad end to the event for Chile’s Boris Garafulic and co-driver Filipe Palmeiro of Portugal, who retired from the race following a crash on the penultimate stage while sitting seventh overall.
Overall, despite not being on a step of the podium, it was an important year of the Dakar for the X-RAID MINI team, who can take on the lessons of 2017 and return to next year’s event with an even more competitive edge and fighting chance of challenging for the Dakar win.