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Dakar 2014 preview: Mini on charge

2014-01-02 12:44

DAKAR DOMINANCE FOR MINI: Dakar Champion Stephane Peterhansel (inset) has a good chance of clinching another Dakar win in 2014 with Mini dominating the field with 12 cars. Image: AFP

With 12 cars at the start, including the Minis of Stephane Peterhansel and Nasser al-Attiyah, X-Raid has lined up as the team to beat in the 2014 Dakar Rally.

However, there are rapidly developing buggies who will pose a threat as well as Toyota's SA challenger Giniel De Villiers.

X-Raid has 12 entries in the Dakar, 11 of them Minis, i.e. the car that has shown its superiority in the last two editions of the rally.


Five drivers have already been in the elite top 5 of the Dakar - Orlando Terranova (5th 2013); Krzysztof Holowczyc (5th 2009 and 2011); Joan ‘Nani' Roma, winner on bikes 10 years ago and second in cars in 2012; and, above all, two previous winners of the race - Nasser al-Attiyah in 2011 at the wheel of a VW , 11-times winner Stephane Peterhansel with six titles on a bike and the last two in the team led by Sven Quandt.

The 2014 duel promises will likely be between Peterhansel and  al-Attiyah, who has fallen for the charms of the Mini following his buggy experience in 2013. Nevertheless, the temperament of the three other competitors in the group will mean a fierce battle.


Rivals who already showed their teeth in 2013 will not necessarily have to depend on problems experienced by the Minis to have a go at the podium. Toyota claims that the developments made on its Hilux have made it even more competitive. As if that were not enough, South African Giniel de Villiers, winner of the first Dakar in South America, finished third and then second in the 6previous two races.

De Villiers has certainly earned his stripes and is up there in the front row to take on Peterhansel.

Another competitor is Carlos Sousa, leader of the team of official Chinese manufacturer Haval. His ambitions are probably focused on the medium term, as is the case of Ford with Lucio Álvarez from Argentina.


Another style, but with the same level of conviction... there are more and more buggies, driven with panache and a certain kind of efficiency to give X-raid pause for concern.

Philippe Gache, who had two of his buggies into the top 10 in 2013, is aiming even higher in 2014 and has perhaps given himself the means to achieve it by attracting 2010 winner Carlos Sainz to his team.

The options are also wider with two-wheel drive vehicles as shown by Eric Vigouroux's development of a vehicle designed for 2013 by Damen Jefferies - it had already won four stages in its initial version with al-Attiyah and Sainz at the wheel.

Now, with better reliability, his two ‘Colorado' prototypes will be driven by BJ Baldwin, an American off-road star, and Guerlain Chicherit, recruited at the last minute by the Franco-American team.

Finally, Robby Gordon has reduced the volume of the Hummer he will line up with in Rosario, but without losing an iota of motivation to try to upset the hierarchy.

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