mini cooper dakar rally

To 4 Wheel Drive or not to 4 Wheel Drive, that is the question

When the category 4×2 was created at Dakar it had the objective to be a budget option for privateer teams than the 4×4 prototypes. Their simplicity in their design and superior reliability having less breakable components like transfer case, front diff and driveshaft was more than appealing for limited budgets. What nobody was expecting was the return of Peugeot to the rally, and doing so with a 4×2 buggy that created a ‘boom’ in that category with what was believed to be an inferior tech but with the advantage of virtually unlimited budget of the factory supported teams. This maneuver opened Pandora’s box , Mini has taken advantage now and it looks so far is working.

The differences between the buggy of Mini and the Toyota are abismal, starting with the Mini’s weight, 3600 lb against the 4100 lb of the Toyota Hilux, the ability of changing the tire pressure from the cabin in the Mini’s, 12″ of travel against more than double in the Mini’s and if that’s not enough, the 4×4’s can use a 33″ max tire size when the 2×4 can use 37″ and wider tire sizes. To nobody’s surprise during the South American Dakar and it’s WRC-style stages the Buggy didn’t do well, but now they are in their natural habitat, seeing during the 5th stage how the Mini’s passed Nasser and his Hilux (To me the fastest Dakar driver) with ease and even Sainz could recover the time he lost with a puncture in front of a confused Nasser.

The playground for the next 5 years. Photo credit: Dakar

The arguments in between both Mini and Toyota, Sven Quandt and Glyn Hall made more to ignite this battle and without a doubt the second half of the Rally will be in favor of the 4×2 and if their reliability holds I see almost imposible that Toyota, even with Nasser Al-Attiyah, could be capable to take away the Mini win. Of course we still need to wait and see what happens but I believe the scale should be pushed in favor of the 4×4’s because if it doesn’t change, Mini will sweep the next 5 years that the Dakar will be in Saudi sands.

Enrique Bonafonte

Native from Spain, Enrique is an expert Rally Raid driver with more than 10 years of experience including two participations in the Rally Dakar.