Dakar Rally driver Nani Roma speaks exclusively to AOL Cars

MINI Dakar Rally

Dakar Rally title hopeful Nani Roma has given an exclusive interview to AOL Cars ahead of the 2015 event.

The MINI ALL4 Racing driver – who will compete with and his co-driver Michel Perin – will be tackling the grueling event in January as it crosses 9,000km of Argentina, Chile and Boliva.

At the launch of the car that they'll pilot for the arduous adventure, Roma sat down with AOL Cars to tell us exactly what he thinks it takes to compete in the toughest motorsport event of them all.

"You need to love these types of places," he said. "You need to have a passion for being in the middle of nowhere.

"These days it's slightly different to before, but when I started in Africa you were alone in the middle of nowhere, you didn't have any supporters there and it's a special type of sport to drive like that.

"You need to love deserts to drive in the hard conditions. The hours and hours inside the car, or the bike when I used to race on a motorcycle, for me these were what I feared. But in the beginning you need to be strong."

Dakar Rally competitors spend hours behind the wheel of their cars crossing punishing terrain. However, Roma is well accustomed to that. He's won the event three times and took the title with MINI in 2014.

Dakar Rally - Nani Roma

Dakar Rally - Nani Roma

Currently Roma is preparing for the rally in the gym, but is starting to wind down a little as the start date approaches and is beginning to prepare for the 65 degree C heat he'll experience in the car.
"I'm trying to train a little less than I was before," he says. "I need to stop a little bit before the race to let my body recover. Now I am doing more specific training for the high altitude. I'm trying to reproduce the feeling I'll have during the race by working in hot conditions."

Roma and his teammate Perin have already completed nearly 7,000km of testing so far this year including races in Dubai, Spain and Peru, but Roma is under no illusion as to the importance MINI is playing in his success.

"Without the good team around it's kind of weak," said Roma. "The Dakar Rally is a really hard race, not only for the pilots and co-pilots, but also for the mechanics. The conditions are really hard, the guys work in the night and during the day they drive the cars and wait for us to arrive at the next camp.

"Without these guys we cannot win the race and one of the things that makes a team successful is having good people around."

AOL Cars will be reporting live from the Dakar Rally in January, and you could be there with us too. Follow this link to find out how.

Additional reporting by Rebecca Chaplin