Mini to tackle Dakar in rear-drive JCW Buggy

Can the JCW Buggy and Rally propel Mini back into the winner's circle?
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Mini has unveiled the cars it will be taking to the 2018 Dakar Rally, showcasing two very different approaches to desert-destroying performance.

Along with the all-wheel drive John Cooper Works Rally, the company will be lining up with the rear-driven John Cooper Works Buggy. The company, which has a long-running partnership with X-raid, won the race overall in 2012, '13, '14 and '15, but could only manage outright sixth in the most recent running of the famous rally.

The new buggy is designed to propel the team back to the top of the standings, by taking advantage of the unique rules governing Dakar entrants. Rear-wheel drive cars are allowed to run with greater ground clearance and bigger wheels, and there are weight savings attached to losing the front driveshafts as well.

Along with its higher ride and bigger wheels, the Buggy has a tubular steel frame wrapped in carbon-fibre-reinforced plastic and Kevlar body panels. Power comes from a 3.9-litre inline-six diesel engine, making use of BMW TwinPower turbocharging tech to deliver 250kW of power and 800Nm of torque.

Based on those numbers, it should be seriously rapid. Then again, straight-line speed isn't kind at the Dakar – reliability is.

According to Sven Quandt, team manager, "the buggy never had to stop once due to a technical problem" during testing in Morocco and Hungary, something he described as "really quite remarkable".

Although they certainly wouldn't use the phrase 'hedging our bets', that's essentially what Mini and X-raid are doing with the more conventional all-wheel drive JCW Rally.

With a new chassis and better suspension travel than the current car, along with its greater traction, the Rally – which looks like a Countryman after a serious steroid program – isn't to be written off, either.

The refreshed Mini armada (an armada of Minis, that is, not a really tiny army) will take on the Dakar Rally, which kicks off on January 6, 2018. They'll be up against stiff competition from a number of rivals, not least Peugeot, over the 5500km route through Peru, Bolivia and Argentina.