Scrutineering for the grueling Dakar Rally is on now before teams set off on Jan. 2. With it each year comes some incredible machinery, including not only the insane Kamazes that are as big as a house, but also James May’s small car of choice: a Fiat Panda.
Fiat started entering its Panda Cross in the Dakar Rally 10 years ago, according to Red Bull. Its maiden 2007 outing was less than successful, with neither car finishing the race. Regardless, Team PanDAKAR keeps coming back to the Dakar Rally, this year with another try at Panda domination.
This year, driver Giulio Verzeletti and codriver Antonio Cabini will pilot the Panda this year in Class T1.2 for modified 4x4 all-terrain diesel production vehicles. It will be Verzeletti’s fifteenth Dakar and his third run in the Panda.
Of course, driving something this adorable and unusual for Dakar isn’t easy. Verzeletti explained on the Dakar website that the car’s relatively tiny wheels caused them to slip up last year:
Last time we broke due to the tires that didn’t fit. The PanDAKAR, in fact, respects the original size of a Panda Cross and the 16" tires for competition don’t fit. We were obliged to use the standard 15" tires, but this year we have finally found a good product with the BF Goodrich, always with 15" tires.
He also explained that sometimes they don’t sleep for 65 hours during the rally itself. It’s all worth it, though, if they finally get to bring this completely adorable little thing across the finish line. Look at it! It’s so cute.