It’s done – two weeks Rally Dakar across Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, in torrential rain, mud, heat and in enormous altitude!
The debut appearance of the new MINI John Cooper Works Rally was a positive one. The three rally vehicles covered the covered the gruelling route from Paraguay via Bolivia to Argentina without encountering any major technical problems. Meanwhile, the conditions and circumstances made a major impact on the result. Among these circumstances definitely was the enormous altitude in Bolivia.
Furthermore, the weather prevented the pairings from making up for the lost ground. Several times, special stages had to be shortened or even cancelled. 1400 of the scheduled 4093 special-stage kilometres weren’t contested – that’s more than a third! The ninth stage in particular would have offered the MINI John Cooper Works Rally pairings the chance of pushing. At the end of the day, this Dakar Rally once again demonstrated that the advantage the buggies enjoy over the all-wheel driven cars due to the technical regulations is massive.
Hirvonen held a top-five position nearly throughout the rally but he and his co-driver Michel Périn struggled with the extremely demanding navigation – and stage 10 destroyed their hopes for making it to the podium. Problems with the navigation and a collision with a truck cost the Finn more than three hours.
“My second Dakar definitely was more challenging and difficult than my first. And although we didn’t achieve what we ha hoped for, in the end, our pace was really good nearly throughout the event,” said the Finn who finished 13th. But then, there was this day with all these problems – but that also is a part of the game. And it may sound crazy but even this stage had its positive factors, for me. There are so many stories I can tell now. And when an event is over, you even can enjoy looking back at such moments. Altogether, I had fun and the Dakar proved to be the adventure I had hoped for. The new MINI delivered in great style and I think we would have made it to the podium.”
The extreme weather made navigating even more difficult. Enormous heat in Paraguay and Argentina as well as torrential rain, mud and coldness in Bolivia took the team to its very limits. But the mechanics succeeded in keeping the concentration level high and did a perfect job when it came to preparing the eight MINI vehicles for the next day evening by evening.
“It was a gruelling Dakar – and this does not only apply to the sport,” said Team Manager Sven Quandt. “This year, the conditions were extremely difficult for everybody. The heat in the early stages with temperatures of more than 40° C, then the Bolivian heights with an altitude of up to 4000 metres above sea level – and in addition, all the rain and the cold. This was physically and mentally extremly demanding. Nonetheless, our mechanics did a fantastic job and displayed a lot of staying power. If you are lying below a car in the rain, with mud everywhere and the water running down your collar… that’s anything but funny. Our MINI racers once again demonstrated their reliability, this year. But unfortunately, the regulation factors with their impact we can’t change prevented us from securing better results. For instance, the diesel powered all-wheel driven cars are clearly penalised by the regulations. All the fast, bumpy sections we had to contest this year were extremely demanding for our MINI and we had no chance against the buggies. Therefore, we will focus even more on the two-wheel drive, in the future.”
Dakar 2017 Result SS12:
1. S. Loeb (FRA) / D. Elena (MNC) Peugeot – 28m 55s
2. S. Peterhansel (FRA) / J.-P. Cottret Peugeot – 29m 14s
3. De Villiers (RSA) / D. Von Zitzewitz (GER) Toyota – 29m 25s
4. C. Despres (FRA) / D. Castera (FRA) Peugeot – 29m 48s
5. C. Rautenbach (ZWE) / Howie Robert (RSA) Toyota – 29m 55s
9. M. Hirvonen (FIN) / M. Périn (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works Rally – 20m 28s
Dakar 2017 Overall standing after SS12:
1. S. Peterhansel (FRA) / J.-P. Cottret Peugeot – 28h 49m 30s
2. S. Loeb (FRA) / D. Elena (MNC) Peugeot – 28h 54m 43s
3. C. Despres (FRA) / D. Castera (FRA) Peugeot – 29h 22m 58s
4. N. Roma (ESP) / A. Haro (ESP) Toyota – 30h 06m 13s
5. De Villiers (RSA) / D. Von Zitzewitz (GER) Toyota – 30h 39m 18s
6. O. Terranova (ARG) / A. Schulz (GER) MINI John Cooper Works Rally – 30h 42m 01s
7. J. Przygonski (POL) / T. Colsoul (BEL) MINI ALL4 Racing – 33h 04m 17s
13. M. Hirvonen (FIN) / M. Périn (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works Rally – 34h 45m 30s