After years of domination at the hands of the Mitsubishi Pajero, the Volkswagen Touareg won the famous rally raid three years running. But these days, it’s all about the Mini. This is the fourth-straight victory for MINI in the Dakar, which took place over the past two weeks in Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. The 665 competitors race in a total of 414 vehicles – 164 bikes, 48 quads,138 cars and 64 trucks.
After 5,600 miles spanning three countries across South America, the Mini All4 Racing machine piloted by Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar, with France’s Mathieu Baumel as co-pilot, has taken the top step on the podium in Buenos Aires. The duo won five out of the 13 legs to claim the race, marking the first win for Baumel and the second for Al-Attiyah, who won with VW in 2011.
Alongside co-driver Matthieu Baumel, Al-Attiyah took the lead early in the two-week event after overtaking team-mate Orlando Terranova when he was handed a penalty on the opening stage. Despite Robby Gordon taking the final stage plaudits on Saturday, Qatari Al-Attiyah came home in third to ensure he won the grueling race by 35 minutes 34 seconds ahead of Toyota’s Giniel de Villiers, with Krzysztof Holowczyc completing the rostrum.
It would have been a podium lockout again for Mini had it not been for Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz, who placed their Toyota Hilux in second, with additional Minis finishing in third, fourth and fifth. The troubled Peugeot 2008 DKR driven by Stéphane Peterhansel ultimately finished in 11th place.
“I promised last year when I was on the podium that I’d be back to win, and now I’m here,” Al-Attiyah said in a post-race conference. “It was very hard to lead the race from the very beginning and to continue keeping this position on the long distance.”
Though the MINI All4 Racing he was driving resembles a MINI Countryman, the vehicle is actually built around a bespoke chassis and powered by a diesel engine developed by BMW Motorsport. The engine is a 3.0-liter turbodiesel delivering 310 horsepower and 516 pound-feet of torque, and the vehicle’s top speed is around 112 mph.
Overall victory in the motorcycle category went to Spain’s Marc Coma riding on a KTM for his fifth victory. Meanwhile, the winner of the quad category was Poland’s Rafal Sonik on a Yamaha, and in the truck category the title went to Russia’s Ayrat Mardeev driving a vehicle from YaMZ.