This Ain’t No Countryman! Dive Into The 2021 Dakar-Winning X-Raid MINI JCW Buggy

Stephane Peterhansel piloted the 2021 X-Raid MINI John Cooper Works Buggy to Dakar victory this year. (Images: Mini)

Taking a look inside the rally machine that won this year’s Dakar race

Over the coming days and weeks, you’ll undoubtedly hear stories about how difficult it was for competitors at the 2021 Dakar to keep up with Stephane Peterhansel in his X-Raid MINI John Cooper Works Buggy. Why? Because it is ridiculously fast and efficient. It’s not exactly what you would think of as an actual MINI Cooper either.

Many of the technical bits were inherited from the BMW X3 racer, and it’s no street MINI. Don’t expect a “homologation special” in dealerships. It’s a little beast with a turbodiesel engine that makes about 350 horsepower and approximately 568 lb-ft of torque. An Xtrac six-speed with integrated differential feeds the rear wheels. That’s right, its rear-wheel drive, and it absolutely destroyed the Dakar – twice.

Dry, the 2021 Dakar Rally Winning MINI X-Raid John Cooper Works Buggy weighs about 3,500 pounds.

2WD beat out 4WD? The X-Raid MINI is rear-wheel drive.

Buggies have a long history of being fast at Rally Raid competitions around the world. Their lightweight and speed can overwhelm heavier, more complex 4×4 competitors. Judging by MINI’s domination of the Dakar, they work quite well in this racing environment. On desert sands, dirt roads and fast sections – buggies are devastating. On the other hand, if you add boulders, water crossings and low-traction situations, 4x4s have the advantage.

Here are all the winners of the 2021 Dakar race in each class.

Part of it is the environment, and part of it is the driver.

Teammates Stephane Peterhanse and last year’s winner Carlos Sainz are tough to beat. Former winner, Nasser Al-Attiyah was competitive in his Factory Toyota Hilux racer, but the speed and consistency of the X-Raid MINI was too much at the end. The MINIs have been so dominant, speed limiting was implemented this year – and more may be instituted next year.

X-Raid Mini JCW Buggy specs:

Performance261kw (350 hp) @ 3,500 rpm
Torqueapprox. 770 Nm (568 lb-ft) @ 2,150 rpm
Displacement2,993 cc (3.0-liter)
Top speed190 km/h (118 mph)
Drive typeRear-wheel drive
GearboxXtrac 6 speed shift with integrated differential
ClutchAP Racing Clutch
BrakesBrembo Disc Brakes (355 mm x 32 mm)
Measures and weight
Length/Width/Height4,332 / 2,200 / 1,935 mm
Wheel base3,100 mm
Track width1,855 mm
Wheel travel400 mm
Weight (empty)1,585 kg
Fuel capacityaprox. 325 liters (86 gallons)
BodyCarbon fiber – Kevlar body
TiresBF Goodrich 37×12.5 R17
Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. Brought up in the California car culture and educated in theater, childhood education, film, journalism and history, Nathan now lives with his family in Denver, CO. His words, good humor and video are enjoyed worldwide.