Nine victories at the Rally Dakar are on Stéphane Peterhansel's impressive score card for the most challenging rally in the world. As ambitious as the 45 year old Frenchman is while in action, privately he is a laid-back, sometimes even shy person in his hometown Montana, Switzerland. But as the Dakar 2012 approaches he becomes increasingly focussed again. Before Peterhansel and the X-raid Team are on their way to South America shortly after the holiday season, the winningest Dakar driver spoke about the upcoming tasks at hand:
Stéphane, this year you are looking for your tenth overall victory at the Dakar. Does that make the 2012 Dakar a special event for you?
Stéphane Peterhansel: To be honest, this is not a particularly unusual situation for me. Today, a couple of weeks before the start, everything is as it always is. I am very motivated and desperate for the next win. It doesn't really matter whether it is the seventh, eighth or tenth victory.
The route has seen sweeping changes and a third country has been added to the Dakar, in the form of Peru. Will this be the most difficult Dakar ever?
Stéphane: No, not at all. It might be the toughest in South America. However, 15 or 20 years ago the Dakar lasted three weeks and the stages were much longer. That will always remain the benchmark.
What are you most looking forward to, and what are you not looking forward to?
Stéphane: Firstly, it is a new Dakar. We are driving from one point to another, and no longer in a big loop around Buenos Aires. Secondly, I am really looking forward to the new country, Peru. The Dakar is not just about competing against one another, but also about discovering new landscapes. I am looking forward to that, as I have never been to Peru. I can't think of anything bad about the rally.
The MINI ALL4 Racing has performed well all year. What makes it so perfect for the Dakar?
Stéphane: The team has done a very good job all year. The MINI's handling is very good, and it is fun to drive. I think it is ready to win. The MINI is easy to drive, and yet also quick, particularly in corners. I also like the look of the car. It is actually the best looking car I have ever driven at the Dakar.
Who is your biggest rival at the 2012 Dakar?
Stéphane: Besides my team-mates, who are very strong this year, I see Nasser Al Attiyah as a big rival. We always knew that the Hummer is quick, even with Robby Gordon at the wheel. Nasser has taken it to another level. However, the list also includes Giniel de Villiers. He is very quick, and the car is very good. There are certainly five or six drivers who could win the Dakar.
How would you describe your team-mates in the X-raid team?
Stéphane: Nani is an extremely open character, who gets on well with everyone. He laughs a lot and enjoys being in contact with people. I have only known Krzysztof for about a year. He is very fair and has a good attitude. It is good to have someone like him in the team. From a driving point of view he is very good, and capable of pushing a car to the limit. I have known Leonid for two or three years and he is always in a good mood. Like Krzysztof, he is very fair and has a good approach. Ricardo is just a funny guy. He always thinks positively and is always happy to be able to compete in a rally. All in all, we have a great team.
The X-raid team is out to extend its winning run at the Baja Poland. Khalifa Al Mutaiwei is aiming to extend his lead in the World Cup. Krzysztof Holowczyc is confident ahead of his home event.
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The X-raid team is taking its next step towards the 2013 Rally Dakar at the Baja Spain. The event is also Stéphane Peterhansel's first start since his Dakar victory in January.
Ultimate cornering, breathtaking acceleration.
A good five weeks after the X-raid team's one-two at the Rally Dakar, the victorious MINI ALL4 Racing cars have finally returned to the team's headquarters. This is the signal for the big homecoming party to begin.
A car built for victory. The MINI John Cooper Works Challenge races across the track at 240 km/h.
Experience MINI John Cooper Works.