Prodrive is ready to conquer Dakar with the BRX Hunter

No such thing as too prepared when it comes to this grueling race
by Ollie Marriage | Aug 1, 2021
PHOTO: Prodrive

Prodrive has remodeled its BRX Hunter machine for the Dakar Rally. Better, no? More visually satisfying. No longer looks like the body is too big for the wheels. Twin headlights give it a less baleful glare, too.

This is not about more pleasing aesthetics, though. Instead, it’s about politics and behind-the-scenes dealings. Next year, Audi enters the event with the RS Q e-tron. In creating it, the German brand persuaded the Dakar Rally regulators that its car, although 4WD, should be built around the same, more lenient technical rules as the 2WD buggies.

Naturally, this had the other 4WD firms (Prodrive and Toyota) up in arms. The 2WD cars have had a host of advantages, from larger fuel tanks and bigger tires, to more suspension travel and wider track widths. Originally introduced to attract more entrants and lower costs, the buggies have become dominant in the last few years.

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Closing the technical gap has been on the cards for a while, and now Prodrive’s protests have borne fruit. The Hunter, which first competed at Dakar this year, was originally designed to be adapted if the rules changed, and now they have.

The new car, the T1+, is 300mm wider (now 2.3 meters), and uses 37-inch tires on 17-inch wheels instead of 32s on 16s. Suspension travel is up by 70mm at 350mm. This has necessitated redesigned suspension with longer wishbones, bigger brakes, and reconfigured dampers, while the heavier wheels and tires have increased loads, meaning modified driveshafts, propshaft, and differentials. Ian Callum, the ex-Jaguar design chief, has had to redesign over 50% of the bodywork.

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The engine is still the same 3.5-liter V6 Ford Ecoboost, mounted under the (new, larger) windshield and developing about 400hp. There’s also new lighter, stronger built-in electric jacks, but the one advantage the Dakar organizers haven’t given to Prodrive, but have to Audi, is allowing them to use built-in tire inflation, deflation systems.

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Dakar 2022 is shaping up nicely. In Prodrive’s corner are nine-time WRC champion Seb Loeb and two-time Dakar winner Nani Roma, while Audi’s lineup includes Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz—who between them have won the legendary long-distance endurance rally 18 times. The race kicks off next January in Saudi Arabia.

NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor edits have been made.

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PHOTO: Prodrive
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