Dakar’s two real win­ners

An elec­tric car and small Fiat im­pressed most in the race

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - ALWYN VILJOEN

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.

PHOTO: REDBULL.COM

Spain’s Ac­ciona proved it­self to be the most pow­er­ful elec­tric car in the world by fin­ish­ing the 2017 Dakar.

PHOTO: AC­CIONA

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.

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