2018 Dakar: X-raid launches second drive concept
· Now with two-wheel drive too: MINI John Cooper Works Buggy
· MINI John Cooper Works Rally improved
In the 2018 Dakar Rally, X-raid makes a significant move into a new era by presenting the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy! During the last 15 years, the Trebur (GER) based team fully focused on four-wheel drive vehicles, but in the 2018 Dakar which starts in early January at Lima, Peru, the team will enter with a premiere: a X-raid designed two-wheel drive desert racer. “We are absolutely delighted with having the opportunity to present our buggy today. During the last months our entire team worked really hard on this vehicle,” said X-raid Team Principal Sven Quandt. “This development is unique in the X-raid history. Never before have been so many engineers involved in the development of a X-raid car.” Although investing a lot of time in the development of the buggy, the MINI John Cooper Works Rally was also improved in many areas and drastically redesigned whilst keeping its proven reliability.
MINI John Cooper Works Buggy
“Due to the regulation advantages, we came up with the idea of building a buggy for quite a while,” Quandt revealed. In late 2016 the idea began to take shape. The work on the project started then in February 2017. All in all, more than 45 engineers of X-raid and numerous partners worked together on the new buggy. “The aero package was of major importance and was enhanced together with KLK Motorsport in many simulations and the final looks of the vehicle were created in cooperation with MINI design.”, said Quandt. BMW Steyr designed – within the framework of the regulations – a completely new engine, based on the well-known BMW six-cylinder power unit. And it goes without saying that long-term partners, such as BMW Motorsport, Magna, Heggemann, CP Autosport and Faster, also took their part in the development. “It was the very first buggy designed and built by us but we were able to profit from our long-term cross-country experience”
Bringing together on site all involved engineers would not only have resulted in high costs but also would have been impossible time-wise. So, it was decided to hold Webex conferences. “These conferences dictated our lives for four months,” adds Sven Quandt. ”But they offered us the opportunity to not only discuss small details quickly and in-depth but also take a close look at those details and adapt them.”
In early September, the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy covered its first kilometers during the roll-out at the X-raid headquarters in Trebur. Just a few days later it went out for its first off-road test in Hungary. “Prior to this test we were really excited,” reveals Sven Quandt, “But happily everything went well and the buggy completed the tests without encountering any major problems.” Consequently, the team was able to send it off to difficult terrain in Morocco, where the buggy was put through its paces for three weeks. “Of course we detected several things that remain open for improvement, but throughout the entire three weeks of testing the buggy never was stopped by a technical problem – which is very remarkable. The biggest challenge was to manage this project without losing track of any detail.”
In further tests, the team continued with the preparations of the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy for the big challenge represented by the Dakar Rally. “We are well aware of the fact that contesting in an event with an all new vehicle can be risky,” admits Sven Quandt. “But we and the buggy are prepared for challenges and strains in South America as well as possible for the time which has been available.”
Enhancement of the MINI John Cooper Works Rally
At the same time, the MINI John Cooper Works Rally was also refined in many areas. “Despite all the euphoria you should not forget the 4x4,” underlined Sven Quandt. “There are routes and terrains where the all-wheel drive definitely represents an advantage. Furthermore, our car is extremely reliable and in the past it was the car’s reliability that helped us claiming numerous successes.” Not only the new technical regulations but also the new engine especially designed for the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy allowed us a significant improvement of the four-wheel drive MINI John Cooper Works Rally. The main improvements resulting from the new regulations are the increased spring travel (from 250 to 280mm) and the reduction of the total minimum weight from 1952 to 1850kg.
“We succeeded in achieving the new minimum weight,” added Sven Quandt. “We looked at absolutely every component.” As a result, the thickness of the carbon-fibre body and the weight of the frame were reduced. „We also checked all screws what helped us to save another three to four kilograms. This demonstrates that reducing the car’s weight really was an in-depth effort.”
“It’s our goal to make it onto the podium,” concluded Sven Quandt. “No matter if the MINI John Cooper Works Buggy or the MINI John Cooper Works Rally makes it. There are many variables we can’t control, such as the routing, the weather and – of course – a little dose of luck, which is something you definitely need if you want to succeed in the Dakar.”
Miko Hirvonen, driver John Cooper Works Buggy
How does it feel to drive the new MINI John Cooper Works Buggy?
“Getting behind the wheel of an all new car is always exciting. We covered a lot of kilometers with it and driving it feels extremely good. What impressed me the most was its handling on bumpy terrain. The buggy is a lightweight vehicle and features a bigger spring travel than any car I have driven until now. Therefore, it offers what it takes to also cope with these sections without problems. And, in addition it is also physically less demanding. Of course, there are still lots of things to be learned but we are heading in the right direction.”
Could you please describe how it felt to switch from 4x4 to the buggy?
“There are a lot of things you have to accustom to. On nearly every terrain, the buggy must be driven in a different way than the 4x4. On bumpy roads we can drive much faster and it will take some time for us to find the limit. The speed you can drive over bumps is just incredible. In winding sections that resemble WRC stages, however, the buggy is somewhat less precise than the 4x4. In addition, the rear wheel drive makes you slide more. But I think that we have found a good balance. In the dunes the difference is big and at the beginning I found driving over the big dunes more difficult. That could be a special challenge in the Dakar.”
What is your goal for the 2018 Dakar?
“Despite the new vehicle and although it looks as if we will spend more time in the dunes, this year, I want to fight for a podium finish at least. Andi and I are a good pairing and he is extremely experienced.”
Orlando Terranova, driver MINI John Cooper Works Rally
How do you assess the enhanced MINI John Cooper Works Rally?
“I am really delighted about the enhanced MINI as we made a real step forward. When I drove the car with the bigger spring travel and the lower weight for the first time it was a good feeling right away. The reliability is still there but the handling and the brake performance have been improved. The new suspension allows us to go faster on bumpy terrain and it also improves the ride comfort. A true advantage if you are getting a good shake while sitting in the car for many hours.”
What is your goal for the 2018 Dakar?
We want to fight for a podium. To achieve this goal we have to be absolutely focused throughout the event and must avoid making any mistakes. This applies to both the driving and the navigation. Making it to the top three is my goal and my dream but we will have to fight hard to make this dream come true.
Crews Dakar Rally 2018
MINI John Cooper Works Buggy
Mikko Hirvonen (FIN) / Andreas Schulz (GER)
Bryce Menzies (USA) / Pete Mortensen (USA)
Yazeed-Al Rajhi (KSA) / Timo Gottschalk (GER)
MINI John Cooper Works Rally
Orlando Terranova (ARG) / Ronnie Graue (ARG)
Nani Roma (ESP) / Alex Haro (ESP)
Jakub Przygonski (POL) / Tom Colsoul (BEL)
Boris Garafulic (CHI) / Filipe Palmeiro (POR)