An upscale urban compact-car and extreme off-road racing might seem like a contrived paring, but Mini and race prep partner X-Raid have won the brutal Dakar Rally for the last three straight years, and have just committed to competing through 2017.

Whether or not winning the brand's excellent record at the rally translates to selling more compact cars seems hard to calculate, but the company's brass sound like they're all about it:

"The Dakar Rally is the ultimate challenge for all drivers and teams, making it one of the most enthralling events in the world of motorsport. MINI has taken on this unique challenge with great success in recent years. The Dakar gives the MINI brand a unique opportunity to connect with its fans worldwide, with Dakar enthusiasts and people who look beyond statistics and results to enjoy sports in such fascinating, exotic places. These strategic reasons and our constant desire to improve were behind the key decision to extend our Dakar engagement far beyond the 2015 Dakar Rally into 2016 and 2017, together with our strategic partner in motorsport, X-raid."

–Jochen Goller, Mini Senior VP

Of course, Dakar Rally Minis bear little resemblance to their showroom counterparts below the shell. X-Raid has been turning the little compacts into off-road monsters since 2010, entering the first Dakar MINI ALL4, based on a John Cooper Works Countryman, in the 2011 event.

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It took a season to get dialed in, but Mini won the following year and hasn't stopped since.

Mini's returning to Dakar next month for the 2015 race with ten ALL4 cars ready to rumble, and their defending champion driver Joan "Nani" Roma chomping at the bit to bring them another title.

Image via AP