Here’s a slightly remarkable statistic: among the thousands of drivers and riders who have taken part in the Dakar Rally since it started in 1979, just 54 of them have claimed victory across the four categories, representing 18 nationalities. Not one of them has been British. Not even a co-driver. A few have been in with a shout, but none have pulled it off.
That could change in 2016, though, when British rally driver Harry Hunt will contest the Dakar in an X-Raid-run Mini ALL4 Racing, the car and team that’s taken victory for the last four years running.
Hunt, 26, son of the founder of the Foxtons estate agency (who sold it for £400 million), has been rallying since he was a teenager. He made a bit of a splash in the junior ranks, running well in the British championship and being named World Rally Championship rookie of the year in 2011. But since then his career has gone a bit quiet. These days he’s probably best known as the man most likely to be the Stig-like, nameless, faceless driver in the notorious Tax The Rich videos on Youtube.
Hunt said: “This is an incredibly exciting year for me and I am honoured to be working with Mini. I know the challenge will be tough but to have the chance to drive a championship-winning machine at my age is a dream come true. I really hope I can pay back the faith Mini has shown to me with a good result at Dakar 2016.”
Mini UK describes Hunt as an ‘ambassador’, though it hasn’t said explicitly if it is providing him with financial backing for his Dakar bid (read what you will into the patriotic livery). X-Raid is not a factory team and barely has any official support, though it is owned by a member of the Quandt family, major shareholders in Mini parent company BMW. Instead, it rents out a car and support team to anyone suitably monied and qualified.
On that last point, Hunt has some training to do before reaching the start-line for the Dakar and tackling over 6,000 miles of rallying across South America. He has already contested the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge, finishing on the podium, but lack of experience will count against him. A top ten finish could well be on the cards, though.
By Only Motors