Not only do Dakar buggies look like some of the coolest vehicles on the planet, but the magic really starts once you peek underneath the carbonfibre body. It takes a lot to compete in the Dakar, the hardest rally in the world. Running over thousands of kilometres across every terrain imaginable, it’s a race where reliability and speed have to be in harmony. This is what’s top of mind for team MD Rallye, as they prepare the new Optimus Evo 4. Let’s take a look beneath the skin.
1: The body
The fourth evolution of the Optimus is most distinguishable by its all-new body. It’s a handcrafted, carbonfibre shell that is not only rugged but incredibly light. MD Rallye also paid a lot of attention to the aerodynamic shape to improve cooling.
2: The suspension
The suspension is probably the most important part of any rally raid vehicle and the Optimus is no exception. For this year’s Dakar, MD Rallye is running both a long-travel Reiger or Donerre set-up, both with external reservoirs.
3: The fuel tank
The Optimus 4 features a long-range fuel tank. To make it through daunting Dakar stages and liaison routes, the Dakar buggies are equipped with extra-large, 100-litre fuel tanks.
4: The air-jack
Yes, like endurance race cars this rally-raid buggy also features a built-in air-jack on both sides of the car to lift it off the ground (one side at a time) to make changing tyres easier and, crucially, faster.
5: Tyres and inflation system
Arguably a Dakar buggy’s biggest party piece is its integrated tyre inflation and deflation system. It consists of a tube running through the center of the wheel into the valve on the outside of the rim, which is connected to an on-board compressor that can be operated by the driver while on the go. This way they can reduce air pressure when they need more grip but easily inflate the tyres when less traction is demanded. The tyres themselves also deserve special mention. Two-wheel drive buggies are allowed to run huge 37-inch tyres. In this case MD Rallye trusts the reliable and sturdy BF Goodrich KDR+ tyres, of which the Optimus carries two spares.
6: The gearbox
The Dakar travels across 7,700 kilometers of Saudi Arabian landscape. That’s almost 1.5 times the distance of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This means the gearbox will have to do an incredible amount of work. For this duty MD Rallye chose the well-known French manufacturer Sadev, who provide the SL 924 six-speed sequential that powers the rear wheels. Yes, in Dakar the buggies are all rear-wheel drive.
7: The engine
The engine of the Optimus is a classic and a staple in reliability. It’s a Chevrolet LS3 small block V8. It’s a naturally aspirated 6.2-litre engine that’s used far and wide across all forms of motorsports, from Baja racing to drifting. In the Optimus the engine produces about 400bhp as its limited by an air restrictor imposed by ASO regulations. For the reliability and optimal performance MD Rally is trusting Motul 300V Le Mans engine oil. For maintenance, MD Rally uses the full range of Motul’s grease and its car care products.