Little car, big race: Fiat's PanDAKAR

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Fiat's little Panda miniwagon is taking on the Dakar Rally. A pair of race-prepped Pandas will compete in the 8,100 kilometer event. Our sister site, AutoblogGreen, reports that the PanDAKARs, as they're called, will be equipped with 42-gallon fuel tanks. That should give the cars, which are powered by 1.3L Miltijet turbodiesels, unbelievable range.

As you'd expect, the panelized Pandas will also be stocked with water reserves, tools to help them extract themselves when stuck in the sand, and 3 spare wheels. The support machinery consists of a Fiat Sedici (a.k.a. Suzuki SX4) service vehicle, which we'd love to see in its Dakar trim, as well as a trio of Iveco trucks.

We're looking forward to seeing how the cuddly 'lil Pandas do in the challenging race. Follow the jump for Fiat's full press release, and make sure you check out our PanDAKAR Photo Gallery.

[Source: Fiat via AutoblogGreen]


The Fiat Panda Cross at the "Dakar 2007"

The "Dakar 2007", that most classic of all rallies with its thrilling succession of stages and special trials, was presented today in Paris. It will start from Lisbon on 6th January and close on the 21st in the Senegal capital after covering 8,696 kilometres, 5,100 of them in the form of timed specials. It will cross Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Mali and Senegal. An extraordinary adventure that will see Fiat in the thick of it with two Panda Cross's driven by Miki Biasion, teamed with Tiziano Siviero, and by one of the Fiat squad's official drivers.

Entered in the T2 category, the closest to production vehicles, the two Panda Cross's are fitted with a 1.3 Multijet turbodiesel combined with a six-speed manual gearbox that delivers about 105 bhp at 4500 rpm and has a peak torque of 17 kgm at 2500 rpm. Apart from their small dimensions, the two cars stand out for their automatically selectable all-wheel drive with viscous joint and locking differential, the system that provides more grip on the terrain thanks to the optimal split of motive force to the wheels.

The Fiat Panda Cross is proving to be an extraordinary "explorer", completely at ease on rough, gruelling terrain. Credit for this also goes to the tried and tested, specifically set suspension layout: in front McPherson independent wheels, at the rear independent wheels with longitudinal tie rods. Not to mention the shock absorbers, adjustable 4 ways at the front and 3 at the rear.

The two cars competing in the Dakar 2007 have been fitted out specifically for this rally: so room has been found inside for accessories like the aluminium platforms to get the vehicle out of sand, two shovels, three spare wheels, water reserves for the crew (minimum 10 litres) and other pieces of equipment useful for the occasion. Among other things, the Fiat expedition to Dakar will include a Fiat Sedici as service back-up and three Iveco trucks to transport spares and mechanics.

Winner of two world rally championships with Lancia and two world Truck titles with Iveco in 1998 and 1999, Miki Biasion will be relying on the great manoeuvrability and personality of the Panda Cross. It should also not be forgotten that during its development stage the Panda 4x4, from which the Cross version is derived, was tested in every corner of the Earth for sturdiness, character and road performance, especially in road situations and climate conditions that were often at the limit: in the North, on the ice-bound tracks of freezing Lapland where the temperature drops to 40 below; in the South, in the torrid conditions of South Africa where the Atlantic meets up with the Indian Ocean; in the West, on the rugged slopes of the Sierra Nevada, in Spain; and in the East, in the foothills of the majestic, eternal Mount Everest. In all, the Panda 4x4 covered more than one million kilometres before going into production.

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