Tony O'Kane | Jan 18, 2012

MINI has clinched both first and second place in the car category at this year's Dakar rally, arguably the toughest, most gruelling off-road race in the world.

Piloted by Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel and co-driven by his compatriot Jean-Paul Cottret, the Monster Energy X-Raid MINI ALL4 Racing beat all other car entrants with a time of 14 hours, 54 minutes and 46 seconds.

The second MINI fielded by the X-Raid team, driven by Spaniard Nani Roma and Frenchman Michel Perin, came runner-up with its time of 15:36:32, and was over an hour and 13 minutes ahead of the third place-getting Toyota Hilux of South African Giniel De Villiers.

MINI was the biggest winner overall, with half of the top ten finishers in the car class being MINI ALL4 Racing entrants.

However, don't expect your garden-variety Countryman to achieve the same level of competition success.

While the MINI ALL4 Racing shares the Countryman's bodywork, beneath it lies a bespoke chassis and a longitudinally mounted 235kW turbodiesel engine from a BMW X3 rally car.

The 260kW, V8-engined Toyota Hilux of De Villiers is also quite far removed from the production model. However Toyota achieved even greater success in the T2 production class, where seven of the top eight cars were Toyotas.

The Dakar rally traces a route over 8300km long between Mar Del Plata in Argentina, and Lima, Peru.

There are around 4200km of special stages along the way, and roughly 4100km of transport stages.

Renowned for the variety of climates encountered along the way - along with extreme altitude variations as the route crosses the Andes - the Dakar rally is regarded as one of the toughest, most punishing rallies on the plantet.

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