Dakar’s two real winners
An electric car and small Fiat impressed most in the race
THE Dakar has come and gone, and as the dust settles, two manufacturers are studying the effect the endurance race had on the new Fiat Panda Climbing and the all-electric Acciona.
I have been a fan of Fiat’s superbly ergonomic but quite slow Panda Climbing ever since I took the little all-wheel-drive out for a spin in Pretoria on a Thursday afternoon and, somehow, ended up in Port St Johns on the Wild Coast after traversing the 2 587-metre high Naude’s Neck Pass. It’s that much fun in the rough. The 2017 Fiat Panda 4x4 Cross, Fiat South Africa was sad to tell me, is not coming to SA unless the rand does miraculous things against the Euro, which means we can only salivate at how this little climber made level ground of the Dakar route in the model dubbed the PanDakar.
Fitted with its standard 132 kW, 2.0 Multijet engine, with only a few changes made to enable the little utility vehicle to withstand the race’s extreme demands, the PanDakar was driven by the Orobica Raid team, formed in 2008 and led by Giulio Verzeletti, which specialises in 9 000-km long raids like the Dakar.
The PanDakar was the first utility car closely derived from a production vehicle to complete the race.
The car handled in its stride the shortage of oxygen due to the altitude, which never fell below 3 500 metres as they drove for 2 200 km over five days.
It stayed cool when the temperatures rose over 40° Celsius and over hill and dale it showed why it’s Europe’s bestselling small 4x4.
In South Africa, we only get the 4x2 Panda models, but there is a reason why it was Europe’s best-selling city car in 2016, with over 190 000 sold, so it is well worth a wheel kick at the local Fiat dealer.
ACCIONA SAYS HAIKONA TO FUEL
The second race car to have caught the eye in the Dakar was Spain’s all-electric “EcoPowered” Acciona. After failing to complete in the 2016 Dakar, the Acciona tram this year became the first zeroemissions electric vehicle to complete the Dakar Rally, now in its 39th year.
By meeting this sustainability challenge, Acciona, the Spanish infrastructure and renewable energy company, proved green cars are competitive even in the toughest race.
The vehicle, crewed by Ariel Jatón and Tito Rolón, completed the world’s most arduous motor event to reach the finish line in Buenos Aires — the only one of over 18 000 vehicles in the history of the Dakar Rally to complete the event without consuming a drop of fuel or emitting a single molecule of CO2.
They did so despite the 39th edition of the Dakar Rally on record as having the most extreme weather yet, causing over a quarter of the field to withdraw in the Cars class, including many of the favourites.
The car is the result of five years’ research and development led by Acciona’s R&D and Innovation Department.
Made entirely in Spain — in the Barcelona town of Vilanova del Vallés — EcoPowered is the most powerful electric car in the world thanks to its 250 kW synchronous electric motor, equivalent to 340 horsepower. The car has six ultrafast charging lithium battery modules as well as a 100 W solar panel on the roof.
Spain’s Acciona proved itself to be the most powerful electric car in the world by finishing the 2017 Dakar.
The Fiat PanDakar (Panda plus Dakar … get it?) showed why it’s Europe’s best selling small 4x4 in the 2017 edition of the 9 000 km-long Dakar Raid.