MINI continues to lead the way as the competitors enter the second part of the 2015 Dakar Rally. With eight stages down, Nasser Al-Attiyah/Mathieu Baumel (QT/FR), who have been in front since leg two, lead De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz by 8:27 minutes. The rest day in Iquique (CL) presented the drivers and teams with the opportunity to take a quick breather before tackling the second half of Dakar. While 61 out of the 137 cars started have already retired, all ten MINI ALL4 Racing cars are still in the race at the toughest challenge in motorsports.

It has been an impressive opening week for MINI: the MINI ALL4 Racing won seven of the eight stages as the rally would its way from Buenos Aires (AR), through Chilecito (AR) and Copiapo (CL), into the Andes and on to Uyuni (BO). Al-Attiyah/Baumel were the fastest pairing on three days, Orlando Terranova/Bernardo Graue (AR/AR) also won three stages, and Vladimir Vasilyev/Konstantin Zhiltsov (RU/RU) chipped in with one stage win.

Krzysztof Holowczyc/Xavier Panseri (PL/FR) and Erik van Loon/Wouter Rosegaar (NL/NL) are currently in a strong fourth and sixth position overall and have been showing a very strong pace throughout the event so far.

Joan “Nani” Roma/Michel Périn (ES/FR), the reigning Dakar champions, had technical problems on the first day of the Dakar falling way behind. However, they were able to recover and have also shown a great performance since then posting two stage podiums finishes and five top ten positions.

Terranova/Graue were the overall leaders after day one battling for position with Al-Attiyah/Baumel. However, they lost plenty of time after hitting a rock on stage four. Fortunately they were able to carry on, and win 2 more stages. 

The MINI ALL4 Racing, based on the MINI Countryman John Cooper Works, once again showed at the Dakar what an outstanding all-round vehicle it is. Competitors at the Dakar are faced with numerous challenges in a diverse range of terrains. These included navigating their way through high dunes, consisting of fine desert sand (the so-called “Fesh Fesh”), in temperatures of up to 50 degrees. Demanding gravel roads through areas with no clear route markings not only put the drivers and cars to the test, but also ensured that the co-drivers also had to be on the top of their game.

Then there was the extremely thin air at high altitude in the Andes. A number of the opening week’s stages reached altitudes of up to 4,000 metres above sea level. A challenge for the engine and driver alike. “You had a thumping headache, particularly when driving over moguls,” said overall leader Al-Attiyah. “That was really energy-sapping.”

A further four MINI ALL4 Racings are currently well placed, just outside the top ten. Boris Garafulic/Filipe Palmeiro (CL/PT) are eleventh overall, with Vasilyev/Zhiltsov just behind them in twelfth place. Aidyn Rakhimbayev/Anton Nikolaev (KZ/RU) and Zhou Yong/Andreas Schulz (CN/DE) follow in 13th and 14th.

The drivers set off on their next adventure at the 2015 Dakar Rally on Tuesday. From Iquique (CL) on the Pacific coast, the route takes them south and inland towards Calama (CL). The 451-kilometre stage sees the drivers return to the extremely dry Atacama Desert and the high dunes they did battle with during the first week of the rally. They then hit the heights again towards the end of the stage: gravel roads take the cars back to a height of about 3,500 metres above sea level.

Overall classification after leg 8 (Top 6).

01 Al-Attiyah/Baumel – MINI ALL4 Racing – 26:41:15h
02 De Villiers/Von Zitzewitz – 26:49:42h
03 Al Rajhi/Gottschalk – 26:59:55h
04 Holowczyc/Panseri – MINI ALL4 Racing – 27:35:53h

05 Ten Brinke/Colsoul – 28:04:07h
06 Van Loon/Rosegaar – MINI ALL4 Racing – 28:07:06h

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