Two factory-built Fiat Panda 4x4s have been prepared to contest the gruelling Dakar 2007 rally raid, which starts in Lisbon this Saturday (6 January).
Dakar 2007, with its thrilling succession of timed stages and special trials, finishes on 21 January in the Senegalese capital. It covers 8,696 kilometres, 5,100 of them in the form of special stages, after traversing Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal. It is always an extraordinary adventure, and this year Fiat will be in the thick of it.
Entered in the T2 category, the class which most closely represents production vehicles, the two Panda 4x4s, driven by Miki Biasion and former Dakar winner, Bruno Saby, respectively, are powered by Fiat Auto’s 1.3 litre MultiJet turbodiesel combined with a six-speed manual gearbox. The engines deliver 105 bhp at 4500 rpm and a peak torque of 123 lb.ft at 2500 rpm. Apart from their small dimensions, the two cars are particularly noteworthy for their automatic all-wheel drive system with viscous coupling and locking differential, a system that provides more grip and traction on rough and soft terrain thanks to the optimal split of drive to the wheels.
The two Pandas competing in Dakar 2007 have been equipped specifically for this rally: so room has been found inside for accessories like aluminium platforms to help extricate the vehicles from soft sand, shovels, spare wheels, water reserves for the crew, and other specialised equipment useful for the occasion. The Fiat expedition to Dakar will include a Fiat Sedici as service back-up, and three Iveco trucks to transport spares and technicians.
Winner of two World Rally Championships with Lancia in 1988 and 1989, and two world Truck titles with Iveco 10 years later, Miki Biasion will be relying on the manoeuvrability and durability of the Panda 4×4. During its development, Panda 4×4 was tested extensively in off-road situations and climate conditions that were often at the limit: in Lapland where the temperature drops to -40°C; in the west African desert; in the rugged Sierra Nevada; and in the Himalayas. In all, Panda 4×4 was subjected to more than one million kilometres of testing before going into production.
The original Panda 4×4 Dakar 2007 prototype can be seen at close quarters here later this month, alongside the Panda Evoluzione rally car and the new Panda 100HP road car, at the Autosport Show, Birmingham NEC, from 11-14 January 2007.