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The X-Raid team, which normally campaigns the BMW X3, has unveiled their machine for next year’s Dakar Rally, and it’s a MINI Countryman! The MINI All4 Racing will take part in what’s known as the “World’s Toughest Race” from New Year’s Day till January 16, 2011. If you haven’t already known, the Dakar Rally no longer ends in Dakar, but will be staged in South America, its home since 2009.

To be driven by Frenchman Guerlain Chicherit and co-driver Michel Perin, the All4 was discussed in the summer of 2009 but building work only started 90 days ago. X-raid team director Sven Quandt received the green light from BMW in June while Magna Steyr gave their OK in September, hence the rush. The MINI will be put through a series of tests in France next week before being flown to South America for final preparations and scrutineering in Buenos Aires at the end of the month.

The MINI will be powered by a variable twin-turbo diesel engine as per the 2011-spec BMW X3 CC and built in Steyr. Power is in the region of 315 hp and 710 Nm of torque, an increase over the 2010 BMW X3 CCs that placed fourth and fifth in this year’s Dakar.

The MINI is 10 cm shorter, 3 cm lower, and has a 10 cm reduced rear overhang over the X3 CC. “Compared to the BMW X3CC, the MINI will be characterised by improved handling as the overall length is shorter and it is lower. We have also been able to improve on many other smaller details, such as the relocation of smaller components to lower the centre of gravity,” Quandt said, adding that visibility, entry and exit is more difficult however.

The new car, which uses all the know how from developing the X3 CC over five years, fully complies with 2010 regulations and should be competitive from the outset.