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Monster Engery X-Raid Mini Cooper - Dakar Dominator - Masterpiece In Metal

Posted in Features on June 9, 2014
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Photographers: Boyd Jaynes

After spending almost a month in South America following the race, we can easily say the Dakar rally is the toughest on the planet. For 2014, it spanned 5,625 miles, racing through Argentina and Chile. Stretched over 13 stages with one rest day, many would say it was one of the hardest Dakars ever. Long stages, extreme heat, and tough terrain led to half of the 432 entrants dropping out.

While most teams hope to just finish, one has become adept at winning. With three victories in the last three years, the Monster Energy X-raid MINI team has absolutely dominated Dakar. Not only have they taken three consecutive wins, X-raid’s unique MINI racers have populated most of the top spots of the rally as well. The 2014 running of the Dakar was no different: Nani Roma won the epic marathon rally. Following him were the MINIs of Stephane Peterhansel in second and Nasser Al-Attiyah in third. In fact, seven of the top 10 spots were filled by MINIs, making yet another extremely strong showing by the Monster Energy X-raid team.

Some mistakenly consider the Monster Energy X-raid MINI team to be new, but that is not 100-percent accurate. While the MINI Dakar racer itself is fairly new—introduced in 2010—the rest of the team has been around since 2002, when it was founded by Sven Quandt. Many of its members even predate its formation and were originally part of Mitsubishi’s factory Dakar efforts. X-raid didn’t simply show up and start winning races, but rather, its success is the result of lots of experience and hard work.

One of the goals of building the X-raid MINI was to make it look like an actual MINI Countryman, and it does this beautifully through the use of a custom body completely made of carbon fiber. In this latest evolution of the MINI racer, the carbon-fiber side pods running along the bottom of the body come off, exposing two spare tires. Originally, three spares were located in the back of the car behind the hatch, but moving them lower in the MINI’s chassis improves its center of gravity.

All of that experience has been put into Nani Roma’s Dakar winning Monster Energy X-raid MINI seen here. An evolution of the BMW X3s the team used to race, the MINIs are an improvement in every area of performance. They are faster, handle better, stop quicker, and are more capable in every way. Three years of Dakar wins have proven that.

While speed and performance are always virtues all forms of motorsports strive for, perhaps the most underrated is reliability. For a race of extreme length like the Dakar, it is an absolute must. With no chase vehicles or pit support allowed, it is even more important. Demonstrating that X-raid’s MINI is indeed a well-designed, sorted, and extremely reliable platform is that all 11 of the MINIs entered in this year’s Dakar finished, with seven of those in the top 10. All told, the Monster Energy X-raid MINI team had zero terminal mechanical failures in almost 62,000 race miles at this year’s Dakar, an unheard of feat in any form of motorsport.

We were lucky enough to be able to roll Nani Roma’s Dakar-winning MINI into our studio during a rare visit stateside. Although there is plenty we weren’t allowed to photograph, let’s take a look at what we were able to in a very special Masterpiece in Metal.

This is the view of Roma’s navigator, Michel Perin, when his head isn’t buried in a route book. Secured in a Recaro seat with Sparco belts, Perin has two rally computers in front of him to aid navigation. Unlike desert racing in the United States, GPS navigation systems are not allowed, and Perin must find his way using a route book. The two empty mounts house ASO-supplied GPS units, but they only turn on when the vehicle is within 50 meters of a waypoint to log that the vehicle has passed by. Once through it, they shut off and Perin is back to work trying to get the MINI to the next one. It is not uncommon to see vehicles coming from different directions and circling out in the desert in an effort to find a waypoint. The small display on the upper right of the dash is an ERTF Speedocap, which helps to keep the MINI from speeding on liaison sections. Not visible are the vents located at the top of the cockpit that actually blow air conditioning to keep the occupants cool. Sitting in the driver’s seat, Nani controls an exotic Sadev six-speed sequential transmission with the white shifter. The black shifter in the middle controls the turning brakes, while the other locks the center differential.

2014 Monster Energy X-raid Mini
Wheelbase: 114 inches
Overall Length: 170.5 inches
Overall Height: 77.4 inches
Track Width: 68.3 inches
Overall Weight: 4,188 lbs.

Engine: 3.0L Mini Diesel
Builder: X-Raid Mini
Max horsepower: 307 horsepower at 3,250 rpm
Max torque: 516 lb-ft at 2,100 rpm
Modifications: Classified
Induction: Classified
Transmission: Sadev six-speed sequential transmission

Front: X-raid dual A-arms with 9.8 inches of wheel travel, dual Reiger Suspension coilovers
Rear: X-raid dual A-arms with 9.8 inches of wheel travel, dual Reiger Suspension coilovers
Cooling: X-raid
Wiring: X-raid

Front: AP Racing six-piston calipers and 12.6-inch rotors
Rear: Liquid-cooled AP Racing six-piston calipers and 12.6-inch rotors

Wheels: X-raid 16x8
Tires: 245/80R16 Michelin Latitude

Body: Custom carbon-fiber Mini Countryman body
Paint: Natural carbon fiber and graphics
Interior: Recaro seats, Sparco harnesses, Motec digital dash, GEMS LDS4 OLED display, carbon-fiber dash, Sparco steering wheel, air conditioning

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