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
Filipe is no longer calm. I've left the track. I was in midair at the time, so didn't have much say in the matter. I took off an innocuous lump a bit skew-whiff, the rear jacked up, leaving the front suspension to catch a considerable nosedive into hard-baked earth. Filipe and I have a ‘chat'. It's not all bad - apparently I know what I'm doing - but I don't know the car: "You have to be the boss," he tells me, "actually drive it, don't let it drive you".
We (OK, he) decide to leave the faster tracks for a while to go in search of dunes and tighter, rockier stuff. And now, when I man up to the Mini, start jabbing at the steering and pedals, let the tail swing wide, use the fabulous brakes, keep my right foot in constant contact with the throttle, punch the gear changes and really focus, it all starts to come together. Still feels tall, and terrain feedback is jarring my neck, but right now, physical degradation is taking a back seat to thrills.