Defending Dakar champion Carlos Sainz Snr is worried about the reliability of the still relatively new Mini buggies going into the 2019 edition.
Sainz, Stéphane Peterhansel, and Cyril Despres, have all come across to compete with the X-Raid Mini JCW Team after Peugeot closed its Dakar program.
The Mini buggies debuted in last year’s Dakar after a hasty development timeline, and Sainz has reservations about reliability 12 months on.
The Spaniard pointed to the experience which Toyota Gazoo Racing has with its Hilux, which is likely to be a contender through Nasser Al-Attiyah in particular.
“I’d say we have every chance,” said Sainz.
“Lucas (Cruz, co-driver) and I are happy since we joined forces and entered this new project to race the Mini buggy.
“Since the first test in Morocco in June until now the car’s evolution has been huge.
“But we have to keep in mind that it’s a car that’s very new to raids, as it made its debut in last year’s Dakar.
“That means that it doesn’t have years of development like the Toyota or the four-wheel drive Mini.
“That, whether you like it or not, is one of the things that worries me – reliability.
“Not because of a lack of work, but because of a lack of experience for the car itself in competition.”
Sainz also suggested that the 2019 Dakar Rally will be even more gruelling than the last despite comprising only 10 stages instead of the 14 of 2018.
Peru will be the sole host this year, the first time the event has been held within a single country, and the two-time World Rally Champion believes that the dominance of dune terrain will be a major challenge.
“I expect an intense, complicated Dakar,” noted Sainz.
“Even if it’s shorter, the percentage of dunes is very close to 100 percent, so a 300-kilometre stage will take us around five hours, with a trap every minute and huge stress in every stage.
“The stress this year is going to be higher and the amount of accidents too.
“Every day, every kilometre, things are going to happen. Until the final kilometre and until you are at the finish, you won’t be able to relax.
“If you have a 20-minute advantage on the final day and there’s dunes ahead, you can’t be relaxed.
“There could be many surprises. Last year we saw how hard Peru was over the first five days, when just two drivers were left in contention for the win.”
Competitive running begins on January 7 (local time).