Last January, the Mini All4 Racing crossed the Dakar’s finish podium as winner for the fourth consecutive time and this streak of success is supposed to be continued in 2016. With less than two months to go to the most important race of the season, the Dakar Rally in South America, 12 Mini All4 Racing vehicles, the biggest number ever fielded by the team, will cross the start podium of the 2016 Dakar in Buenos Aires. The 24 drivers and co-drivers, among them five Dakar winners, represent 13 different nations, with the line-up featuring a mix of experienced drivers and Dakar rookies.
The reigning champions, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Mathieu Baumel, are going to once again contest the legendary event with a Mini All4 Racing. The pairing can look back on an extremely successful season: after having won the 2015 Dakar – the second Dakar win for Nasser Al-Attiyah who celebrated his first triumph in 2010 – the pairing also prevailed in the battle for the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup title. “The Mini All4 Racing is a very competitive racing car, packed with all the experience of Team X-raid,” said the 44-year old. “And it goes without saying that I also want to win the 2016 Dakar.”
In 2014, Spain’s Nani Roma won for X-raid the Dakar hat trick. For Roma himself it was the second Dakar title as he already won the event’s motorbike ranking back in 2004. In 2016, he will contest the Dakar with a new co-driver – his compatriot Alex Haro. In the run-up to the season highlight, the two Spaniards already won their home event, the Baja Aragon. “I practiced a lot to be as well prepared as possible for the Dakar,” revealed Roma. “Following all the bad luck we had to cope with last year I now want to again battle it out for the win.”
For Orlando Terranova and Bernardo “Ronnie” Graue, the 2016 Dakar will be nearly completely a home rally. The Dakar leaves Argentina for just three days and in these three days, the field will have to fight in the Bolivian heights. “With the Mini you can be very fast in many terrains,” underlined Terranova, for dunes, open terrain or twisting tracks. “In addition, the car’s stability is just incredible. The coming Dakar will be mainly contested in Argentina. This means a lot of pressure for me but I definitely want to be a factor in the battle for the win.”
Mikko Hirvonendo does not yet think about fighting for the win this year. After all, he is going to make his Dakar debut! With Michel Périn, the four-time World Rally Vive Champion was teamed up with an extremely experienced co-driver. In the Baja Aragon in Spain his first race at the wheel of the Mini All4 Racing, Hirvonen secured the very fine third place. And in his first desert rally, the Rally du Maroc in Morocco, he finished fifth. His goals for the 2016 Dakar aren’t quite as ambitious as the ones of his aforementioned team-mates: “For me, making it to the finish – if possible without getting stuck – is the top priority,” says the Finn. ”Other than many other drivers I just lack the necessary experience.”
Drivers to debut with mini all4 racing
In addition, several other drivers also will make their Mini All4 Racing debut, in January: Adam Malysz, for instance, switched to the racer from Trebur in the early stages of the season. The former ski jumper will contest the event with co-driver Xavier Panseri who finished third with Krzysztof Holowczyc in the 2015 Dakar. Also new in the Mini All4 Racing camp are the Argentinean Nazareno Lopez and his co-driver Sergio Lafuente from Uruguay. Lopez made his Dakar debut in 2015 and finished 48th.
Poland’s Jakub Przygonski was racing on a motorbike, to date, and is going to contest the Dakar for the first time on four wheels. His co-driver will be Belorussian Andrei Rudnitski. Meanwhile, Briton Harry Hunt will enter virgin soil: he is going to contest his first Dakar ever. But the 27-year old can rely on the support of a very experienced co-driver: two-time Dakar winner Andreas Schulz. While it will be the Dakar debut for both China’s Guo Meiling and her co-driver and compatriot Min Liao.
Boris Garafulic and Filipe Palmeiro, however, already have got quite a lot of Dakar experience with the Mini All4 Racing under their belts. And the same applies to the German pairing Stephan Schott and Holm Schmidt. To date, the two Germans finished every Dakar in South America and are one of just two pairings who succeeded in doing so. For the Dutch pairing Erik van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar, the 2015 Dakar was extremely successful. By finishing fourth, they secured the best result ever a Dutchman could celebrate in the car category.
The 2016 Dakar will be contested in Argentina and Bolivia only. The start podium in Buenos Aires will take place on January 2 and on the following day the competitors will start into the first stage. On day five, the field will cross the Bolivian border to return to Argentina three days later. After a day of rest at Salta, the second week of the Dakar will take the competitors to the finish in Rosario.