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The maddest Dakar racers in the world

  1. Peugeot wants to compete in the 2015 Dakar rally. A worthy intention, considering the capacity of the world’s toughest endurance race to reduce grown humans into gibbering, weeping wrecks of despair.

    The Dakar is an annual 6,000 mile trek that doesn’t actually take place anywhere near Dakar any more (it originated when Thierry Sabine got lost on his motorbike in the Libyan desert during the Abidjan-Nice rally and returned to France with a new route), but rather races through Argentina, Bolivia and Chile.

    It also boasts the second largest motorsport audience in the world after Formula One. So it’s, y’know, quite a big deal.

    Which is why this Peugeot 2008 DKR is actually quite big. It runs on 37in tyres and will be piloted by Carlos Sainz - the man who drove a 420bhp, RWD SMG buggy at this year’s race. It’s also mad.

    Which got us thinking: there have, though the years, been more than a few interesting entrants in the Dakar. Check out our picks in the gallery and, if you think we’ve missed any, give us a shout in the space below.

  2. Rolls Royce

    This slice of magnificence is the work of Thierry de Montcorgé, who made a bet with friends that he could race a Rolls Royce in the Paris Dakar. We suspect his friends may have guffawed at the suggestion, but Thierry had the last laugh: he actually finished the rally in a coupe version of the very same car that gave James sterling service in India.

    It was a little lighter than James’ car, mind. The body weighed 80kg (it’s a polyester moulding of the original), there’s a bespoke spaceframe under the skin, Land Cruiser 4x4 system and a 5.7-litre Chevrolet V8.

    Despite being disqualified after repairs took too long to complete, the Roller finished the race.

  3. Mercedes SLC

    Browsing a Mercedes showroom circa 1984, you’d be forgiven for choosing a G-wagon if you wanted to choose a Dakar mule. Jochen Mass and Albert Pfuhl didn’t. They both entered fiendishly low-slung 4.5-litre V8 SLCs.

    Needless to say, attempting to fit a square, SLC peg into a round, deserty hole didn’t go well. Mass finished in 62nd place and Pfuhl managed 44th.

  4. Citroen DS

    French driver, Bertrand Roncin, didn’t make an entirely foolish decision with the DS he used for the 1981 Dakar. Citroen’s rugged hydropneumatic suspension can absorb a ploughed field with alacrity, so why not the African desert?

    Roncin’s hunch was absolutely right. The modified DS made it to the finish line, despite being built in a shed. Its success was partly thanks to Roncin’s modifications - the suspension was jacked up, and normal hydraulic fluids replaced with engine oil.

  5. Porsche 959

    Marrying supercars and sand is usually faintly horrific, as demonstrated by this Ferrari Enzo. But Porsche decided to take its blistering 959 supercar racing, to develop four-wheel drive tech for the road car.

    It wasn’t a terribly good plan. At first. Porsche entered three development 959s in 1985 but, instead of the twin-turbo engine, fitted them the 911 Carrera’s 3.2-litre 230bhp lump. All three cars retired through mechanical problems.

    The following year Porsche returned with three cars that that were close to production spec - they took first, second and fifth place. Much better. It also looked excellent.

  6. Renault 4

    This little fella was entered by brothers Claude and Bernard Marreau, who clearly displayed a generous level of ingenuity and brilliance by insisting on taking a Renault 4 to the desert.

    In the 1979 rally, the 4 ended up taking second place. Which, frankly, is astonishing. Also, just look at its cute lil’ face!

  7. BMW 1-Series

    Nope, this isn’t an early X1 development mule, but rather the work of a man called Pascal Boutet, and an entrant in the 2008 Dakar Rally.

    Unsurprisingly, it’s not actually a 1-Series - under the fibreglass shell, there’s some clever four-wheel drive system and a 3.0-litre BMW six-pot diesel.

    Top speed? 114mph on sand. We would like this, please.

  8. Peugeot 405 T16

    See? Peugeot has form at the Dakar (it took four straight wins between 1987 and 1990), including victory with what is possibly the coolest ever 405 we’ve seen.

    This mid-engined loon took a double victory at the rally, but its real success was a starring role in what’s possibly The Best YouTube Video… In The World. Climb Dance. Now stop what you’re doing and watch it.

  9. Jules Proto 6x4 racer

    This thing’s a meeting point for lots of weirdness. It was sponsored by the eponymous Jules fragrance from Christian Dior (just like the off-road Rolls Royce), had six wheels, a Chevy 350 V8, Porsche gearbox, four-wheel drive and six wheels.

    It raced in the 1984 event but retired after the chassis snapped. Unlucky.

  10. Jaguar XJ6

    Here we present a wobbly old Jaguar XJ6 with a Rover V8 and a Range Rover chassis.

    It was entered in the 2002 rally by Dutch team, Amtra Concepts. And we salute them.

  11. Peugeot 2008 DKR

    This is based on a Peugeot 2008, in the same way Top Gear’s dress sense is based on the Milan fashion week. In other words, not at all.

    No, Peugeot has entrusted those sensible types at Peugeot Sport - the same people who built Loeb’s 208 T16 - to build a Dakar entry for 2015. And it looks positively mad. A good mad.

    It’s a rear-wheel-drive monster that will be driven by Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres in the hope of gaining outright victory at next year’s race, and we give much respect to any man named Cyril who drives a Peugeot.

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