2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
4x4, dakar rally, Motoring News, motorsport, off-road racing

New Dakar Mini: ‘A giant in cross-country rallying’

  • Meet Mini’s giant – all set for Dakar
  • All new to take on South African Toyotas
  • Aerospace steel, carbon fibre everywhere else
2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
2017 DAKAR MINI:  Pretty palms make the Dakar look pretty but the race will reach 3000m and cross South America. Images: Mini / Newspress

CARMAN’S CORNER recently published a feature on Toyota SA’s two Hilux bakkies kitted out and ready, with two famous driving teams, for the 2017 Dakar rally scheduled to start on January 2.

Now Mini has sent us information and images of what could prove to be one of the SA crews’ biggest challengers, an all-new and rather hot-looking John Cooper Works Rally.

January’s two-week, trans-South America, Dakar will be the first serious event for both vehicles – The Corner is looking forward to seeing them in action but meanwhile here’s the lowdown on the world’s most rugged Mini yet…

2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
2017 DAKAR MINI: Two spare wheels in the car and a third slung under the chassis. Images: Mini / Newspress

Mini says the introduction of the Mini Rally underlines the automaker’s long-term commitment to motorsport, especially rally-raids and the International Automobile Federation’s World Cup, the legendary Dakar Rally and the latest long-distance endurance challenge of the Silk Way Rally.


The 2017 JCW Rally is seen by Mini as an exciting new development destined to continue its racing success. The car is based on the all-new Mini Countryman – but definitely not as you know it…

“Its sporting dynamics,” Mini told The Corner, “readily provided a platform for the JCW Rally as a specialised cross-country rally car able to tackle and survive the rigours of cross-country rallying. It was designed and constructed to achieve and exceed the level of success of the previous car through an exacting development programme.”

Technical feedback, the automaker added, will further benefit the reliability and performance of all the brand’s production cars.

READ MORE about Toyota SA’s challenge for the Dakar

MINI John Cooper Works Rally is a new racing car and the result of an extensive development through racing experience of the existing MINI ALL4 Racing. Based on the new MINI Countryman; the car has been adapted to suit the necessary safety requirements and the current race regulations as laid out by motorsport’s governing body Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA).

LONG WAY TO GO: The route of the 2018 Dakar Rally through South America.
LONG WAY TO GO: The route of the 2018 Dakar Rally through and across South America. Image: Dakar Rally

Many key areas of the previous cross-country rally car
were scrutinised and extensively reworked with priority given to aerodynamics, heat management, weight distribution and centre of gravity, frame chassis design and engine-mapping.


The changes, Mini reports, delivered a very positive outcome – especially regarding stability, traction and agility.

“When faced with all manner of terrain and driving conditions – rain and snow and arid conditions, soft sand and deep wet mud, 3000m altitude, mountain tracks and river beds – improvements in chassis and engine are hugely beneficial.”

The cars’ shell, Mini reports, received special attention from X-raid technicians with many hours spent in the BMW Group wind tunnel. In-house motorsport specialists have produced aerodynamics to reduce drag considerably.

The Mini’s weight, dimensions and engine power are determined by rally rules; only aerodynamics therefore can improve speed and stability. They also have a great effect on fuel consumption and cooling.

READ MORE Carman’s Corner features on Mini Countryman

Carbon fibre and Kevlar have been used for the cars’ outer shell; a honeycomb of the same materials for the underside for strength while still cutting weight. The panels can easily be replaced during the race.

The Rally will carry three spare tyre/wheel combinations (two in previous cars) and two built-in hydraulic jacks can be operated from the cabin. The third wheel is slung under the car to keep the centre of gravity as low as possible.

2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
2017 DAKAR MINI: Don’t worry about the low flying – the suspension can handle way higher than this with 25cm of travel. The tyres are BF Goodrich 245/80 16″ radials. Images: Mini / Newspress

The chassis of the JCW Rally has been fabricated with aerospace-standards tubular steel and designed “to exacting standards specifically for cross-country racing”.

A main chassis carries the covering bodywork and driveline components but a subframe carries the front-mounted engine. The subframe is removable, making it possible to replace the front of the car and the engne in a little more than an hour.


Each axle rides on four adjustable suspension units (two per wheel) to give the maximum-allowed 250mm of wheel travel. Six-piston calipers on 320mm vented steel discs are under each wheel – the rears air and water-cooled.

And so to the really important stuff…

2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
2017 DAKAR MINI: Apart from the metal, pretty much everything else is carbon fibre. The who front end of the car, including the engine, can be replaced in less than an hour. Images: Mini / Newspress

Under the bonnet is a three-litre, six-cylinder, turbocharged, BMW TwinPower diesel engine capable of 255kW at 3250rpm and, for a small car, a whopping 800Nm of torque at only 1850rpm with the regulation 38mm air-restrictor in place.

“It is,” Mini says, “the powerful and torque-laden engine that has captured many major victories for us. Its peak torque delivery at such low rpm contributes to its renowned reliability for all terrain – gradients, rocky trails, wide-open World Rally-like stone-covered tracks.

“Its tractability is also an advantage on desert sand and the low fuel consumption of a race-tuned diesel was an important consideration.”

The 2017 Dakar Rally will take in Bolivian mountain sections 3000m above sea level. Reduced oxygen in the atmosphere at such height not only dramatically affects the way a body and mind works, but also the way an engine breathes.

2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
2017 DAKAR MINI: The carbon-fibre facia is divided into three information sections – on the left for the driver, the right for the navigator and the centre for both. Images: Mini / Newspress

It’s hoped that clever engine mapping will overcome this complication.

The cabin interior has been renewed with a carbon-fibre facia in three sections: driver, central and co-driver each displaying essential info. The driver has a gear-choice display and diode readouts for engine reves and shift alerts. Speed, oil and other fluid temperatures, and electronic functions are shown on the middle section for both crew.

All navigation aids are in front of the driver (engine specs beneath image).

2017 DAKAR MINI: Text. Images: Mini / Newspress
2017 DAKAR MINI: Extra cooling for the shock-absorbers – and the steel tubing throughout the car is of aerospace quality. Images: Mini / Newspress

Mini John Cooper Works Rally tech specs
Engine: BMW Group TwinPower Turbo Six-Cylinder Diesel
Output: 255kW at 3250rpm
Torque (approx.): 800Nm at 1850rpm
Capacity: 2993 cc
Air-restrictor: 38mm diameter
Top speed (approx): 184km/h
Transmission: Six-speed sequential
Braking: 4 x six-piston calipers, air-cooled front, air/water-cooled rear. Discs: 320×32 mm
Length / width / height: 4350 / 1999 / 2000mm
Wheelbase: 2900mm
Track width: 1736mm
Weight: 1952.5kg
Fuel tank: 385 litres
Chassis: Tubular steel under composite bodywork
Tyres: BF Goodrich 245/80R 16

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