The new Land Rover Defender is joining the infamous Dakar Rally in 2021, but not in the way you might be expecting. Instead of taking on the rugged terrain as a competitor, the Defender will be acting as a support vehicle to one of the teams, carrying supplies, equipment and crew the length of the 4,751-mile race.
Two new five-door Defender 110 models have been drafted in to support the Prodrive-backed Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) team. BRX’s driver lineup includes nine-time World Rally Champion, Sébastien Loeb, from France and Spain’s two-time Dakar Rally winner, Nani Roma.
For the 2021 event, the team will have two petrol-powered Defenders acting as transport, accommodation and kitchens. The cars will support the team across 12 gruelling rally stages in the Saudi Arabian desert.
Described as “showroom-standard”, the vehicles are painted in Indus Silver and feature the BRX branding. They also come with the Explorer Pack, which includes an Expedition roof rack, raised air intake and wheel arch protection, as well as an external side-mounted pannier. A roof ladder is also fitted, offering easy access to a roof box for extra storage.
The vehicles are powered by Jaguar Land Rover’s latest straight-six mild-hybrid petrol engine, dubbed P400. With 394 bhp directed to all four wheels, the car will get from 0-62 mph in 6.1 seconds, while the mild-hybrid tech allows it to return around 25 mpg.
“Land Rover has a unique Dakar pedigree having won the inaugural event in 1979, and the rally remains the ultimate all-terrain endurance test,” said Finbar McFall, Jaguar Land Rover’s customer experience director. “While the Defenders won’t be competing, they will have a vital role in supporting the team as they navigate their way across thousands of miles of punishing desert terrain. The fact these vehicles are unmodified is testimony to the intrinsic capability and durability of our legendary 4x4, which has undergone the most demanding engineering test and development programme in our history.”
Meanwhile BRX Team Principal Paul Howorth said the Defenders had the skill set to support the team through the 13-day rally that starts in Jeddah on January 3.
“The crew need to know our support vehicles will be able to carry all of the necessary kit and be relied upon to get to the next service location, whatever the conditions,” he said. “The new Defender provides a unique combination of all-terrain performance, rugged practicality and comfort – a crucial combination for the unpredictable Dakar conditions and after long days behind the wheel.”