Dakar: Nissan final report

Colin McRae wins the final special stage, Yoshio Ikemachi and his Nissan Patrol are victorious in the Production category Colin McRae claims his second Dakar success by winning the final special stage of this 26th edition. Yoshio Ikemachi, ...

Colin McRae wins the final special stage, Yoshio Ikemachi and his Nissan Patrol are victorious in the Production category

Colin McRae claims his second Dakar success by winning the final special stage of this 26th edition. Yoshio Ikemachi, partnered by Thierry Delli Zotti, with a Patrol, gives Nissan the overall victory in the Production category. Giniel de Villiers finishes 7th in the overall classification.

For the final time this year, the Dakar survivors took a final loop round the Rose Lake. A 27-km special stage, won by Colin McRae in his Nissan Pickup. A victory which seals his first Dakar experience, that the Scottish driver appears to have enjoyed : "It has been a fine experience, quite close to what I expected as far as the level of difficulty was concerned.

Unfortunately, we had quite a few problems with the car. If we could have maintained the sort of results we had at the start of the event, we could have aimed for a podium finish. On this sort of event, you have to have a car which is at least 100% reliable in order to get a good result. The team did not anticipate the level of difficulties on this rally. According to the regulars, it was the hardest for the past ten or eleven years. It is far from straight-forward to start an edition of this level with a new car. The Pickup is a good basis on which to work, just like the team, in which there are some very positive things. Having taken part in this Dakar, we will be able to prepare the car better for next year. I won two special stages, and I am pleased about that. I think I would have been a bit disappointed if I had gone home without winning a stage. As far as the rally-raid experience is concerned, I really liked the atmosphere, and sleeping under a tent is not that bad..."

Giniel de Villiers, who finished the rally in 7th position in the overall classification, has learnt a lot : "This edition was difficult, more difficult than last year's. During this Dakar, we learnt a tremendous amount. The car is much faster, but we still have some reliability problems to solve. They are not major worries, but we have to work on it. To be honest, no one in the team expected that this 26th Dakar would be quite as demanding, compared to that of 2003. But on the other side, everyone was able to see an 'extreme' version of the Dakar, which will definitely allow us to prepare better for the future. We will have a lot of work to do when we get home, to analyse and understand what went wrong, and not only where the car is concerned.

But no matter what, I have learnt so much this year. Most notably, I discovered various terrains over which I had not previously driven, such as camel grass. To draw up an overall report, I think that the experience has been very positive, and will allow us to come back even stronger next year..."

For Yoshio Ikemachi and Thierry Delli Zotti, a fine win in the Production category crowned an extremely consistent race : "It was a tiring rally, but I would like to thank everyone in the team. The mechanics, and Thierry, gave so much so that we could have this result today. I am very proud to belong to this team and to be able to give everyone this victory."

Thierry Delli Zotti has taken the mission with which he was entrusted to the very end : " Our first aim was to get to Dakar, so that Yoshi could accumulate as much experience as possible. Our second objective was to finish in the top five in Production. Having driven in Spain and in Dubai, we knew that the car was very reliable, but the Dakar is always a trip into the unknown. We had decided not to look at the classification until we reached Tan Tan, because, for us, that is where the Dakar really starts. We had to get through all the difficulties and worries that we could have at the start of the race, like the snow in Clermont-Ferrand. The idea was therefore to start in Tan Tan with a 'fresh' car. I might have been a rather hard professor for Yoshi, but that is how you learn and how you achieve something worthwhile. I did not want to miss anything out.

Between Tidjikja and Nema, it was not easy not to go over any rocks was not easy, but that continual rigour paid off. We could not risk damaging the car, mainly for timing reasons, because the assistance trucks had a very difficult rally. We also played a support role for the Pickups during the marathon stages, and there was the matter of the Strugo, the car that was leading the category and which we helped to reach Tidjikja. That's the Dakar spirit, and the philosophy of the category. Even if he was a direct rival, there was not the slightest hesitation about helping him. It's true that we have to defend the colours of Nissan, but the reasons to help out your direct rival are the very essence of this sport, and this must remain so. The victory must be worthy, you need both the art and the manner. For Colin and Giniel, to manage to get the two Pickup vehicles to Dakar is a sort of victory. Nothing was certain, but they did not give up. The first victory is to reach Dakar ...Yoshi is getting better and better, and it all clicked into place during the rest day. He made progress in his driving and gained confidence. He has climbed up another step. He has learnt to manage 'winning'."

A fine conclusion after a magnificent rally. An event where the Nissan Rally Raid Team claimed four special stage successes : two for Colin McRae, one for Ari Vatanen and one for Giniel de Villiers. The team went through some difficult times, such as the premature retirement of Yves Loubet or the terrible special stage between Tidjikja and Nema. Half of the Dakar caravan nearly gave up during that one stage. Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen spent nearly three days in that trap. But there were also some moments of intense joy, such as when the three Pickup vehicles set the first one-two-three in their history, during the 13th stage between Bamako and Ayoûn el Atrous. An immense satisfaction as well, when the Nissan Patrol of Yoshio Ikemachi won the Production category.

Now there will be a short break before the World Cup for Cross Country Rallies will get underway again. The Nissan Rally Raid Team will announce its schedule in a few weeks' time.

Finally, having won the Motorbike category, Nani Roma, Catalan KTM rider, will be given the opportunity to test a 2004 Nissan Pickup during an official test session. The date and place of this event will be given later.

-nissan-

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Series DAKAR