Three MINIs, 10 Countries, One Giant Adventure
Three MINI Cooper S hatches completed the final leg of a 49-day, thrill-a-minute adventure yesterday. At the end of the 8,000-mile journey that took them from South Africa to England across 10 countries, they arrived at Plant Oxford, the home of MINI.
Having set off from Johannesburg on 8 March 2006, this overland voyage saw the trio of MINIs navigate the eastern side of Africa, travelling through Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. Decorated top-to-toe in South African flags, the MINIs were tested at every opportunity as they sped across Africa’s diverse terrain, conquering demanding mountain paths, vast expanses of desert land and gazelle-filled grassy plains.
MINI South Africa set the challenge. Diana Blake, General Manager for MINI South Africa, said: "MINI is a car that looks, feels and drives like no other. MINI’s classless appeal and myriad abilities inspired this journey during which we demonstrated that we can take our great little car, literally, to the furthest extremes."
The continent-conquering MINIs needed very few modifications. Aside from raising the ground clearance to approximately 230mm, changing the shock absorbers and adding steel rims and robust tyres, the cars were mechanically identical to the MINIs available to customers.
A further requirement for MINI Odyssey was that each MINI Cooper S be essentially self-sufficient for the entire journey. This involved the removal of the rear seats and interior cladding in order to accommodate the supplies needed. Each car carried two spare wheels, food and all sleeping equipment required by the team.
The drivers were led by Roger Pearce, Chairman of Motorsport South Africa and three-time winner of the South African Historic Championship. Steve Mearns, journalist and rally driver, took charge of the second MINI. Matthew Nash, a certified MINI mechanic and racecar builder, piloted the third.
Pearce said: "For this trip to succeed we needed a top quality car. North of Kenya the roads just deteriorate into stony desert tracks and when we reached Ethiopia and explained our journey to some interested locals, they laughed in disbelief. They were sceptical that we’d make it in anything smaller than a four-wheel drive truck, yet here we are! Our adventure is now complete and none of the MINIs suffered a single mechanical breakdown."
The team put the MINI trio through their final few paces as they crossed the Mediterranean by ferry into Italy. They then headed up through France and finally reached England.Published 28 April 2006