2015 Dakar: Mini, Peugeot, Toyota, and the rest

After going unbeaten on the Dakar for three years, X-Raid’s Michelin-equipped Mini ALL4 Racings face opposition from an armada of Toyota Hiluxes, buggies, a Hummer and the new Peugeots during the 2015 event’s 9,000km loop through Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, beginning in Buenos Aires on January 4.

Inevitably, the new Peugeots 2008 DKRs will be the chief attraction of the seventh Dakar to take place in South America. The French cars were flown out to Buenos Aires before Christmas after one last test which appears to have gone very well.

Twenty-five years after the victory of the Peugeot 405 T16 (Vatanen/Berglund), Peugeot returns to the event with a brand new two-wheel drive T1 prototype powered by a three-litre, 340hp, bi-turbo V6 diesel engine.

To mark its comeback, the team has recruited three big names: 11-time winner Stéphane Peterhansel, one-time victor Carlos Sainz and Cyril Despres who has won five times on two wheels. All three have good knowledge of the South American terrain.

There will also be a strong contingent of Minis (four-wheel drive, three-litres, bi-turbo, 320hp, V6, diesel) looking to claim a fourth straight win and get closer to Mitsubishi’s record of six consecutive triumphs. Behind the wheel of the reliable machines will be former winners Nani Roma and Nasser Al-Attiyah, plus the flamboyant Orlando Terranova.

The Toyota Hiluxes (four-wheel drive, five-litres, 350hp, V8, petrol) are now reliable and promise to be competitive in the hands of experienced drivers like Giniel de Villiers, Lucio Alvarez, Christian Lavieille, Bernard Ten Brinke and Saudi rookie Yazeed Al-Rahji.

Toyota Dakar

After a tough debut appearance in 2014, there will only be one semi-factory Ford Ranger this time for Argentina’s Federico Villagra.

The Chinese make Great Wall will not be present, so Portugal’s Carlos Sousa has found refuge at Mitsubishi Petrobras alongside Guiherme Spinelli in the powerful Mitsubishi ASX Racing prototype (V8, petrol, 4.7-litre Aston Martin engine).

The main outsiders include X-Raid’s Guerlain Chicherit in an ex-Red Bull buggy, SMG boss Philippe Gache in one of his own buggies, the USA’s Robby Gordon who is back in his monstrous Hummer and Thierry Magnaldi (Dessoude buggy). Among the fleet of MD Rallye-tended buggies will be one for Dakar debutant Romain Dumas, a former Le Mans (2010) and Pikes Peak (2014) winner.

The 2015 rally features 13 days of competition, including a marathon leg straddling Chile and Bolivia. The opening 175km appetiser will be followed by the event’s longest test (518km) between San Juan and Chilecito. The menu will then switch to sand and dunes in Chile’s Atacama Desert before the rest day in Iquique. After that, there will be more sand to Calama before the fast but technically challenging final sprint back to Buenos Aires.