Forty-seven years after the world debut of the first Mini, the car that revolutionised
what the motor car has come to represent to thousands of people, this small but
sporting athlete from Britain has become a huge success in nearly 80 countries
the world over. And, on MINI Odyssey, MINI will spread its reputation to countries
that might never before have experienced the chic athletic durability of the brand.

“MINI has made automotive history by breaking the rules, achieving the
impossible and doing the unexpected. It’s part of our DNA. It’s what makes MINI a
car that looks, feels and drives like no other,” explains Diana Blake, General
Manager: MINI at BMW South Africa. “And here we go again — taking MINI,
literally, to the furthest extremes.”

Travelling from Johannesburg and on through Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania,
Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt, the MINI Odyssey convoy will cross over the
Mediterranean by ferry into Italy and through France before reaching its final
destination, the MINI Plant Oxford in England.

Here, on 25 April 2006, the convoy will be eagerly awaited by a large percentage
of the 4,500-strong MINI Plant workforce — each of which will have contributed, in
some small way, to the inherent MINI hardiness and durability that an adventure of
this nature will showcase.

“When we’re asked why we’re planning to drive three MINIs overland through
Africa to Oxford, our answer is always the same — why not?,” continues Blake.
“And it’s this same MINI ability to take on any challenge that MINI Odyssey will

The Team.

Led by 58-year old Roger Pearce, the four-man MINI Odyssey team is well-suited
to the challenges that Africa will dish up.

Pearce, who was also responsible for the preparation of the three MINI Cooper S
hatches that will take place in MINI Odyssey, is a veteran of several long-distance
rallies, including the London to Cape Town in 1990, the London to Sydney in
1993, the London to Mexico in 1995, the Shield of Africa in 1998, two Targa-
Tasmania events in 1996 and 1998 and a further London to Sydney event in
2000. However, he’s most well-known for a single-handed excursion from South
Africa to Silverstone, UK in 2004, along a route very similar to that which the
MINIs will undertake.

The other two MINIs will be ably piloted by Steve Mearns (25) and Matthew Nash
(25), both of whom have extensive rally and technical experience, while Sean
Simpson (36), an ex-Navy communications specialist and now succesful
television producer will act as back-up driver while ensuring the MINI Odyssey
team stays in touch with the outside world.

The Cars.

While MINI Odyssey is designed to draw attention to MINI’s thrill-seeking nature,
it will also highlight the robust durabilty and mechanical integrity of every MINI.

Obviously, the nature of the terrain to be found on the MINI Odyssey route —
particularly north of Kenya — has necessitated some small changes to the cars but
even team-leader Pearce was surprised at how little attention the three MINI
Cooper S vehicles have needed in order to complete the expedition.

“The over-riding characteristics that these three MINIs have displayed in the run-
up to this expedition has been mechanical and structural strength,” explains
Pearce, the owner of a workshop acclaimed for servicing, rebuilding and the
general maintenance of classic and race cars. “Apart from ensuring we’ve got
enough ground clearance and sufficient underbody protection, along with steel
rims and robust tyres, these cars are mechanically identical to the MINIs available
to customers.”

Preparation of the cars has taken an extraordinarily short amount of time — two
months to be exact. In this timeframe, the development of the suspension and Media

underbody modifications were carried out on one vehicle and later transferred, in
identical format, to the other two. This included a nose-to-tail skid-plate
underneath each car and shocks and springs, with strut braces for the
suspension turrets, that have raised the ground clearance to approximately 230
mm. Steel rims, 16-inches in diameter, along with 6-ply tyres are fitted in order to
handle the extreme surfaces the MINIs will traverse once they leave the smooth
tar of Zambia.

In addition, a fundamental requirement of MINI Odyssey is that each MINI Cooper
S is essentially self-sufficient along the entire journey. To this end, the rear seats
and interior cladding have been removed in order to accommodate the supplies
needed for the journey. These provisions include toolboxes (tools, hoses, tow
ropes, nuts & bolts, puncture kits and electrical maintenance equipment), jacks,
tyre levers, wheel spanners, jerry cans, fire-extinguishers, first aid kits, sand
spades & sand plates, jumper-cables and even a freezer in one of the cars.
Each car will also carry two spare wheels, as well as all food and sleeping
equipment required by the team, and is fitted with a Garmin Quest satelitte
navigation system.

The Website.

Significantly, the entire MINI Odyssey will be broadcast live to the world via the
MINI Odyssey website,

Apart from a daily journal, which will be updated every day, visitors to the site will
also be able to experience each day’s challenges by viewing video footage
recorded live on the event and beamed back to South Africa courtesy of a RB
Gan data satelite phone provided by Blue Sky Satellite Communications.


[ MINI Odyssey ]