Nani Roma isn’t someone who shies away from a challenge.
At 46 years old, the Barcelona native has entered the grueling Dakar Rally 23 times, and boasts the enviable accolade of being one of only a few people to win the legendary event on two- and four-wheels. What’s more, the list of manufacturers past and present that have backed Roma in his pursuit of off-road racing glory reads like a who’s who of factory teams. You’d have been forgiven then for picking Nani as a favorite for the podium, as the Dakar’s 40th edition rolled into frame on the 6th January earlier this year. In spite of a huge swansong challenge from rival team Peugeot, Roma and co-driver Alex Haro looked ready and able to use their X-Raid prepared Mini All4 to full effect.
Despite a strong start however, their hopes of a Dakar podium were dashed by stage three. Hitting a sandbank sideways at over 120km/h the duo rolled their Mini a single kilometer before the finish of the day's 296km timed special stage. After a year of hard training, preparation, and planning it was a heartbreaking moment.
While co-driver Haro escaped relatively unhurt, Roma was airlifted to hospital in Lima with suspected injuries to his head and neck. Thankfully no lasting damage was done, and now just over three months on, Nani is back in fighting form. Better still, a packed 2018 race calendar awaits, culminating in another assault on the legendary Dakar. Just before flying out to begin testing for 2018 in earnest, we caught up with Nani in Barcelona to get his thoughts on the year ahead, and the prospect of his 24th Dakar…