Hatchback, Motorsports, News

Special JCW MINI Countryman begins Dakar Rally assault

MINI is competing in the gruelling 2017 Dakar Rally, entering a beefed up John Cooper Works Rally variant of its Countryman.

The MINI/X-Raid Team set off yesterday (2 Jan) on the 9000 km Rally across varied terrain, during the 39th edition of the international event. The starting point this year was Asunción, the capital of Paraguay. As the 12 stages of the 2017 Dakar Rally unfolds; the competitors will cross into Bolivia before finishing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 14th January.

A large ‘MINI Family’ consists of seven cars with selected international crews, which will all take part under the wing of experienced MINI motorsport partner X-raid.

During the MINI John Cooper Works Rally design, many key areas were ‘extensively reworked’ when compared to the former cross-country rally car. The car’s aerodynamics, thermal management, weight distribution, (a lower) centre of gravity, new engine mapping and a modified chassis frame design were all marked as ‘priority subjects’ by MINI.

When faced with all manner of terrain and driving conditions – from rain to snow to arid dry conditions, from soft sand to deep wet mud – improvements in chassis and engine detail is naturally described as ‘hugely beneficial’.

The exterior replicates the MINI Countryman and is also one of the areas of the car that has received special attention from X-raid technicians. Many hours were spent in the BMW Group Wind Tunnel, resulting in aerodynamic detailing which 'considerably' reduced drag. Engine performance and overall car weight is, as in previous years, determined by FIA regulations.

The BMW TwinPower Turbo Six-Cylinder Diesel outputs 340 bhp, enough for an approximate top speed of 115mph. The engine sends its power to the all four wheels via an AP Racing clutch combined with a six-speed SADEV sequential gearbox. The improved top speed on flat, open trail sections and the required stability at speed, have been increased while reduced fuel consumption and better subsystem cooling all come as a result of the aerodynamic improvements.

The original design of the new Countryman was transferred into MINI John Cooper Works Rally by emphasising the main features. The team were designing to ‘form follows function’, by purposefully changing the original. The expressive flared arches ‘are stressing the crease-lines’ according to MINI, characteristic on the new Countryman.

New colours and styling cues are being introduced in keeping with the sporting stance of the John Cooper Works road car range. It will feature the exclusive MINI John Cooper Works body colour Rebel Green with the exclusive MINI JCW contrast roof colour Chili Red, as well as new designed Sport stripes.

Further MINI body colours for the X-raid competitor cars are Chili Red, White Silver and Light White. The exterior design has been developed in close collaboration with the MINI Design team. Thus, the original exterior design of the new MINI Countryman was transferred to the competition cars, such as bumpers, grille, bonnet, side and tail geometries, lights, roof rails and side scuttles. A new style of racing alloy wheel is also to feature at key times during events and is derived from the John Cooper Works accessory wheel collection.

The next Stage (2) starts in Resistencia, Argentina, ending in San Miguel de Tucumán - 803 km later.