Top Gear drives the Dakar-winning Mini
Before it conquered South America, we took the 311bhp X-Raid Mini Countryman for a shakedown
Posted: 26 Feb 2014
So naturally does Peterhansel drive, with such economy of movement, you get the sense he's as familiar with it as with his own wife and kids. Familiar with its foibles and characteristics if nothing else, because if I take anything away from this experience, it's how - much to my surprise - the Mini behaves more like a WRC car than an endurance racer. So why does it need to be such hard work. Why does it have to be so bruising?
Turns out there's an easy answer: regulations. Oddly to my mind, the Dakar organisers come down hard on 4WD cars. They have to use smaller engine restrictors (100bhp down), smaller fuel tanks (400 litres vs 700 litres), shorter wheelbases, smaller tyres, they have a minimum weight some half a tonne heavier and - here's the killer - they're only allowed 25cm of wheel travel. A WRC car has more. Hell, some road cars have more. And when I tell you that the minimum weight of an X-Raid Mini is 1,925kg, plus drivers, plus fuel, you're looking at two and a half tonnes landing from several metres in the air onto just 25cm of absorb and control. That's not just unfair, that's inhuman.