Joan Nani Roma
Joan Nani Roma is a Spanish rally driver with two Dakar Rally victories in his CV. His first victory was in 2004 when he was riding the motorcycle for the Repsol KTM team. After that, he switched to cars and he was among the front-runners until he won the event in 2014, driving the Mini All4 Racing for X-Raid Team. It was one of the most controversial wins in the history of Dakar Rally.
The football goalkeeper became the motorcycle racer
Joan 'Nani' Roma Cararach was born on February 17, 1972, in Folgueroles near Barcelona. As a teenager, he was a football goalkeeper but he decided to leave football and to start a racing career with motorcycles in the cross country rallies. For his first competition, he falsified a license from his friend because he was too young. Good results started to come in 1991 when he became the Spanish Enduro Junior champion in the Class 125cc.
Year by year, he was progressing in the competition, collecting national and European enduro trophies. In 1993, he finished third in the International Six Days Enduro race, the biggest and oldest off-road event of the FIM calendar, which took place in Assen, Netherlands. A year later, Roma became the European Cross Country Rally champion and he won the Six Days event in Tulsa, USA.
Debut at Paris - Dakar Rally in 1996
He was ready for the greatest adventure, the Paris – Dakar Rally, in 1996, participating for the first time in the world's toughest race with KTM bike. Despite his lack of experience in that event, he scored two stage wins but didn't finish the race.
He recorded three more consecutive DNFs with KTM from 1997 to 1999. He reached the finish line for the first time in 2000, finishing 17th. He won four stages that year and he was a solid leader until his bike broke. In the next couple of years, he was among the fastest riders but falls, accidents and other misfortunes forced him to retire from the race three more times from 2001 to 2003, In that period, he was winning in the rally-raid races all around the world but Dakar Rally was still his main goal.
2004 - Roma finally has won at Dakar Rally
And then, in 2004, in his ninth appearance at the greatest rally race, he finally climbed to the top podium spot. On January 18, 2004, after seventeen stages, he became the first Spaniard in a history of Dakar Rally who won the event, by beating two Frenchmen Richard Sainct and Cyril Despres.
After achieving his goal, Roma was thinking about returning to Dakar Rally to achieve more, but at the same time, he wanted to try the four-wheel competition. After he tried a top-class Mitsubishi Pajero, the decision was made and he switched to the car category. It was a dominant car, with eight wins at Dakar Rally, including four consecutive wins between 2000 and 2004.
2006 - first Dakar podium in a car category with Mitsubishi Pajero
Nani Roma joined Mitsubishi factory team, partnering seven-time winner Stephane Peterhansel, two-time Dakar winner Hiroshi Masuoka and skiing star Luc Alphand. Roma's navigator was Andorran Henri Magne. Peterhansel became the winner one more time, Roma finished sixth overall in his debut participation with a car.
In 2006, Roma reached the podium, finishing third behind his teammate Luc Alphand and Volkswagen's Giniel de Villiers. In 2007, Peterhansel and Alphand scored a 1-2 victory for Mitsubishi, Roma finished 13th, for the first time with his Spanish co-driver Lucas Cruz. In 2008, Dakar Rally was canceled and then transferred to South America in 2009. It was Roma's last event with Mitsubishi. He was the only factory driver who reached the finish. He finished in 10th place.
Nani Roma joined X-Raid team in 2010
For the 2010 season, Roma joined German X-Raid Team, that was running BMW X3 cars in the rally-raids, including Dakar Rally. Two participations with BMW were disappointing for Roma because he didn't finish two races in a row.
For the 2012 Dakar Rally, the all-new Mini All4 Racing came and immediately became the victorious car. Stephane Peterhansel scored his tenth victory, Nani Roma and Michel Perrin finished in second place.
Team orders managed Roma's victory in 2014
In 2013, Peterhansel was the winner again, Roma finished fourth. And then the controversial 2014 Dakar Rally came. The X-Raid teammates Peterhansel and Roma were fighting for the victory, with Roma being the fastest in two stages whilst Peterhansel took four stage wins. After eleven stages, Roma was in the lead for more than five minutes.
The team ordered its drivers to stop fighting, guaranteeing the victory for Roma. Despite that, Peterhansel won the 12th (penultimate) stage and took the lead but on the last stage he slowed down and handed a victory to his Spanish teammate. Roma became the third driver in the history of Dakar Rally to score a victory both in a motorcycle and car category.
Switch to Toyota in 2017, returning to Mini in 2018
Roma stayed with X-Raid Team for two more years, failing to finish in 2015 and finishing in 6th place in 2016. After Peterhansel left the team, Roma was a leading driver, but his 2015 participation began disastrously with a breakdown in the opening stage. A year later, he finished sixth overall and third among Mini drivers (Nasser Al-Attiyah was 2nd, Mikko Hirvonen 4th).
For the 2017 edition of Dakar Rally, he changed a manufacturer and joined Toyota. His navigator in the Overdrive's #305 Toyota Hilux was Alex Haro Bravo. Roma finished 4th in the overall standings, the best behind three factory-entered Peugeot 3008s.
In 2018, Roma rejoined X-Raid Team to drive the #302 Mini John Cooper Works Rally but he retired early after suffering injuries in a crash.