June 17, 2014
Okay, so this race was in January 2014.
Which makes this is bit of a late update.
But here is the short version: MINI dominated the 2014 Dakar Rally, winning its third title in three years.
I'd be willing to wager that when the MINI crossover was born and christened a few years ago, it thought the Countryman name meant things like hiking, biking, rafting or just being near the woods.
But now: Countryman has become "What Country Are We In?" via the long-range Dakar rally in South America starting January 5th, 2014.
This is not solely a marketing exercise: the All4 Racing team dethroned the Touareg VW team's victory run in 2012, snagging the top spot with these hardy little racers.
Versus the Kamaz 4911 that dominates the T4 Dakar truck class, the MINI All4 Racing crew runs in the largest and most popular "car" class - with stiff competition. This is the class won four times by the Peugeot 205 and 405 T16, and the Porsche 959SC before that.
There is flexibility in the rule-book of Dakar, allowing serious prototype engineering mules to be 'stickered up' and sent out. These are not factory machines, or even silhouette racers like a stock car series. As evidenced by the Touareg VW's: winning sometimes means adding factory SUV nameplate as the last style accessory.
In short, the VW entrants were clearly nothing even close to a Touareg. The new (competing) entry from the Red Bull Desert Wings team is branded a Toyota Hilux, but you can decide for yourself...
MINI All4 Racing is just as hardcore in terms of the tech under those carbon-fiber fender flares, but really did a better job connecting the race cars with the street cars.
A final bonus? It looks like the MINI All4 has really got "the hops" out there in the dunes. This car can jump!!
If the Chicago Bulls Three-Peat is anything to go by, the drivers will be doing their best Michael Jordan tongue-out look as they take flight.
But hang on fellas, biting your own tongue off in remote Peru or Chile would not be a fun experience.
Everything else about the All4 Racing program is a total joy, however.
Enjoy these galleries, with the special edition All4 study shown as well as the race cars.