Did you ever look at Sébastien Loeb’s Prodrive BRX Hunter T1+ competition machine and think that it would be just the thing for popping to the shops, if only it was road-legal and had 50% more power and a few more inches of suspension travel? Us neither. Be that as it may, you’re looking at the Prodrive Hunter Hypercar; the ‘road-going’ iteration of Prodrive’s T1+ Dakar monster that we drove at our Performance Car of the Year 2021. Yep, you can now legitimately use Sébastien Loeb’s Dakar Rally company car to do groceries…as long as you have roughly £1.5 million (P103 million), and your local shopping center is across some massive dunes. The car you see in the pictures is the very first iteration, produced for Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain, and it’s… pretty serious.
You get quite a bit more than the ‘standard’ Dakar base car here. It’s got the same Byzantine tubular spaceframe structure as the race cars, itself wrapped in structural carbon fiber, the same front-mid-mounted, Ford-sourced 3.6-liter bi-turbo V6 (the same basic block as the F-150 Raptor and Ford GT supercar), the same eight sets of high-end bypass shocks and 37-inch tires on 17-inch rims. The bodywork is essentially the same—although customers can opt for changes if they wish, like the rear wing delete vs full aero package—and there’s a full 2.3-meters width of it. Although the road-going version is slightly lower than the Dakar, knocking one of these around Kensington will be an effort. A reversing camera also comes as standard.
The big news is that because the Hypercar doesn’t have to tie itself into the Dakar’s competition restrictions, the motor will pump out more like 600hp to the rally car’s 400, and the shocks can offer far more travel if preferred. The road car is the race car unleashed, rather than the other way around. This isn’t some gelded, road-biased facsimile of the competition machine. It’s more like a thin skein of civility draped over the top. It’s a pitbull with a diamanté collar.
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There are some nods to civility, mind. Instead of twin spare wheels mounted in pods on the side of the car, there are now intakes in their place, with a single spare tucked up under the rear hatch. The massive 500-ish-liter fuel bladder can be shrunk to make room for a bit of luggage space, there’s sound-deadening throughout, and an actual interior.
And it looks pretty good. With less aggressive seating than the race version, it’s immediately more comfortable to sit in, and with a proper center console—instead of the race car’s intimidating banks of switches, communications, and fire suppression—there’s more connection to a road-biased car. Although this isn’t really road-biased with very much conviction—the transmission, differentials, suspension and motor are all exactly as you’d find in the racer. In fact, the only real change is the single paddleshifter (back for up, push forward for down) instead of the racing car’s gearlever. It even retains the hydraulic, and intensely amusing, handbrake lever.
Is it too much? David Lapworth (Research and Development Director at Prodrive and general rally legend, having engineered cars for the likes of McRae, Burns, and Solberg), says that they’ll learn a lot about what customers would prefer from the early cars. Although that’s mainly around the comfort and road behavior characteristics rather than the hardware; if the best rally outfit in the world has designed the car, and shakedown, set-up and durability testing has been done by Sébastien Loeb, you’re probably in the best place possible from the outset. And let’s be fair, if you’re buying a T1+ as a toy, you’re probably expecting something at least a little fierce.
There’s also the point that Prodrive expects to sell the sub-20 car production run to wealthy folks who live where they can use it properly - and that means places with dunes, and lots of them. To buy a Dakar car that then failed to perform in the desert would be a no-no, hence the fact that the Hypercar will absolutely destroy any terrain that allows it to go full steam. With 600hp, permanent AWD, the suspension travel and structure and the Prodrive/Loeb dream team behind it, it’s the kind of thing you could spend a happy few days pounding the dunes going faster than the actual Dakar cars. And that sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.
2022 Prodrive Hunter Hypercar
NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.