Exclusive interview with Dakar winner Nani Roma

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The Dakar legend Nani Roma will try to claim a hat-trick at the world’s toughest rally raid. The Spanish driver signed a contract with Bahrain Raid Xtreme (BRX) team and will try throw down the challenges to MINI and “Toyota” in the Dakar 2021 car class.

The 43rd edition of the Dakar Rally will take place in Saudi Arabia for the second time in the race history and N. Roma will attack Dakar the 25th time in his career, 7,900 km route in his customary attacking mode.

The Spanish has now won the event on two different continents, with two different manufactures, and has a total of 25 Dakar stages win to his name. The first title N. Roma grabbed in 2004 with KTM team where he was driving motorcycle. Meanwhile, the pilot won the second Dakar title after 10 years with MINI in the car class.

It also seems that he’s hungry to have at least one more crack at winning another Dakar Rally and ready to resume the epic four-way battle with Nasser Al-Attiyah, Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz in 2021.

We caught up with N. Roma in the United Kingdom where he finally will try a new BRX team’s car with which he will race in Dakar 2021. With RacingLife.news the Spaniard shared his thoughts about new team, challenges and differences between Africa, South America and Saudi Arabia.

Why did you decide to join BRX team?

Last year I’ve heard about this project and talked with Richard Taylor. And also the first Dakar day I met David Richards, in the bovouac. We had a small talk. After Dakar I’ve got a call and on March 11th I did intro drive. It’s a wonderful project with big possibilities and nice people.

“Prodrive” has a huge experience in motorsport. In Dakar rally you must work together and then you can create something really good. After that as you know Covid-19 spread in the world, but we were still talking even no one didn’t know how it will go. On June I’ve started working as the team’s consultant and now it’s the time when we must work very hard minimum for next two years.

“We must work very hard minimum for next two years”, nani roma.

What was the first impression of your new car?

Honestly, till now I can see it just from pictures. I’m now in quarantine for 14 days in the United Kingdom. But I work a lot with engineers and team. Everything what I see looks really nice and high-technology. Now we must drive this car and work hard. Because of Covid-19 whole preparation is a little bit late, but we have a capacity and good people in this team.

Most of the time new car in Dakar needs time – sometimes two or three years. Do you agree with that?

Sure. It’s not so easy discipline. You have many types of terrains to reach with the car. It’s the main difference between now and the past. I remember times when I was with “Mitsubishi”, we discovered many things. All the time we step with car’s evolution and technology. Now you can go to the market and find something really strong. You can buy one of the most sensible parts of the car – transmission. The main parts of the car today exist in the market and it’s really strong. The other thing is to build budget, sometimes it takes 6 years to win.

Do you think “Prodrive” could compete with MINI X-Raid team in Dakar 2021?

Sure. (laughs) To be honest, the main our goal is to build a strong and competitive car. In this Dakar this team will show that we can compete. To say that we can win, it would be pretty difficult because I haven’t even tried a car till this moment. But in the future I think we could compete with “Toyota” and Mini.

Nani Roma (photo credit by: shutterstock.com)

What are the main differences between “Borgward” and “Prodrive” cars?

In “Borgward” was old system like “Mitsubishi” in 2009. They are very different projects, because “Borgward” is an old car which was modified: there is different engine which we used in “Mitsubishi”. Now we really have factory project with engineers, new team and huge experience. It’s completely different from the last year. This project which we started now reminds me the time when I was driving “Mitsubishi”. 

Your team leader David Richards said: “I will be ‘disappointed’ if we are not seen as potential winners“. What do you think about it?

Me too and of course everyone who works near this project. To be honest it’s very difficult because thinking about this car takes hours, days and months. Nothing is impossible. And the first day when I tested the car, I said: “Wow, this isn’t good”. But everything what I see now, it’s really amazing the work which is done by engineers and mechanics. All technical side of the car is very good. We need to work to have a competitive car. In the beginning I was worried about car’s reliability. I can‘t be sure 100 percent that we will be competitive in Dakar. It’s only hard work and then we can fight.

How about your co-driver? Will you go to Dakar with Daniel Oliveras Carreras?

The plan is to go with Daniel. We are both from Catalonia, we talk in the same language. He is really very good mechanic and co-pilot. Because of Covid-19 we could not compete together so this is why everything became very difficult for us.

What is your plan after the quarantine time? Will you join the team and finally try your new car?

Yes, the plan is to start practicing. Because of the United Kingdom rules I must be in quarantine for two weeks and to do twice the Covid-19 test. So, I just follow the rules. And on 28th or 29th we will start testing the car here, in England.

What does Nani Roma expect from the Dakar 2021?

Our Spanish people mentality is to be winners. But we must be realistic. The main goal will be to show competitive car and in the beginning to fight. To say that we are going to win it’s too early. In my entire career the main thing was trying to win. I said: “try”, because I think it’s important in sports. But the most important thing is hard work and fighting. I think everyone in this team thinks the same.

Could we say that three teams will be the main competitors: MINI, “Toyota” and BRX in Dakar?

Yes, sure. MINI has a huge experience and I know them very well, because I worked for them 8 years. They have competitive cars and experienced drivers. “Toyota” is the same with N. Al-Attiyah. We are going to Dakar to fight with them.

Nani Roma and Nasser Al-Attiyah (photo credit by: shutterstock.com)

“our spanish people mentality is to be winners”, nani roma.

Many of your colleagues are talking about 2021 Dakar, that maybe it won’t happen because of the virus. What do you think about these rumors? Do you still believe that you will go to Saudi Arabia?

Yes, yes, yes! (laughs) But at this time we can’t say that it really will happen. Now we are in the difficult moment. We must be flexible and deal with that. But according to information which I have from Dakar’s rally director David Castera that we must follow the rules. Imagine, if it’s possible to organize “Tour de France” in Europe with many cyclists. The same organization is responsible for Dakar too. So, I think they learned everything from “Tour de France”. We will follow some kind of protocols in the bovouac, we will stay just in there and move when we start.

You were racing in all three continents in which were Dakar – Africa, South America and Saudi Arabia. Which do you prefer the most?

I know the Dakar rally for 25 years. I know Africa very well and it’s very wonderful place. I remember my first Dakar in 1996 with motorcycle. When I arrived there, I discovered amazing countries and people. Honestly, it was a very big challenge for us. It was in the middle of nowhere, where you didn’t see any people. It was a difficult moment, but I love this kind of challenges.

After that because of different reasons we went to the South America. It was different type of track, the race was more artificial. It didn’t have so big desserts as it was in Africa, but finally we found people. We came from Africa where there were no people and now we see thousands of them during the Dakar stage. It was very different. In the Saudi Arabia Dakar, we saw similar desserts which were in Africa. The dessert in Saudi Arabia was new and it reminded me Africa, because it was very empty. It was the impression of Dakar which I felt at first. Also Saudi Arabia has amazing people.

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