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
This is the testing base for X-Raid, a privately owned off-road racing outfit. They've won the Dakar for the past two years running, both victories taken by a legend named Stéphane Peterhansel. He's won Dakar eleven times, six on a bike and five in a car. In my book, that makes him just about the toughest racing driver to have ever lived. He's here, looking grizzled and dusty-eyed, just back from a 38km test ‘lap'. That, apparently, was the short lap. The long one's 200km.
He's 95 per cent happy with where the car is now, but less per cent happy that I'm being allowed to drive it. I find out later, from a friendly chap called Sven, that Stéphane is very particular about his car, "It must be like this [steady hands]. Not a little to the side, no way. The problem is he drives a little way, he knows if anything isn't right, and this is a big pressure because every night the car must be 100 per cent." So no, I'm not allowed to move his seat. I am allowed to tighten the seatbelts.