Ari Vatanen gives Nissan a 4th stage win...
For the final event in this 25th edition of the Dakar, 61 cars took the start this morning, for a 34 km loop around the Sharm el Sheikh region. To finish this long journey on a high-note, the four-time Dakar winner, Ari Vatanen gave Nissan its fourth stage win. This was his 49th stage win on the event over the years. As for Giniel de Villiers, he gave himself a big fright, and despite a broken camshaft, managed to finish the stage in 56th position. Thierry de Lavergne put in a good performance, coming in 6th.
After the special stage, the finish line and the podium... an immense deliverance after 19 days of intense effort. Plenty of supporters were waiting near the podium, to greet the survivors of this marathon event. An overflow of emotion as each team let loose with their celebrations. Giniel de Villiers, who finished his first-ever Dakar with a fifth place finish, was applauded by the whole Nissan Rally Raid Team, while a wave of grey and red broke over the podium. The leading Nissan line-up, the team members and guests, were soon joined by Ari Vatanen and Tina Thorner , to take part in a scene of jubilation, with the Nissan flag waving alongside that of South Africa.
Giniel said that he was delighted to have finished the race : " I was surprised by the difficulty and the intensity of the Dakar. I am aware that I have learnt a lot, and that this experience will serve me well in the future. Most especially, I learnt a lot about sand dunes, something relatively new for me. I will be back for the next Dakar, sharper and determined to claim stage wins... We had a big scare this morning, when the camshaft broke after 18 km. The car was going slowly, but we could not stop. To go through the checkpoint, Pascal got out and started to run alongside the car ... it was both funny and potentially tragic. But we are here, and our 5th place in the overall classification proves how consistent we have been. The car performed extremely well, and we have done a lot of work during the race. We will continue to develop it, to be really as the top. "
As always, Ari Vatanen finished the rally with all his habitual professionalism : " I won this morning, but I have not yet reached 50 stage wins ... so I will have to come back ! I am very pleased to have rediscovered the whole Dakar atmosphere. I've met up with some old friends, and made some new ones. In this sort of adventure, the human experience is just as important as the overall performance. The car went very well, and I thoroughly enjoyed driving it. We finished 7th overall, and after all our misadventures, that is not so bad. I am very proud to have finished better than Johnny Hallyday ! ! ! !(Laughs,,,). I am very relieved to know that Shino is getting better by the day. His accident affected me deeply, and he and Thierry are in my thoughts. In the joy we are sharing today, everyone is thinking of them."
Thierry Delli Zotti was at the foot of the podium...Coming to Sharm el Sheikh, he wanted to support his team-mates during the final stages, so as not to finish on a false note. Although he is still wearing a surgical collar, his condition is satisfactory.
For Thierry De Lavergne, this was an excellent morning ... he finished in 6th place on the special stage : " I am very pleased with this morning's results. If only the whole rally could have been like that ... Despite everything, I am satisfied that we managed to get to the end. We were 11th overall, and without all the problems we had, I am convinced that we could have been up with the two other surviving Pickup cars."
As far as the T4 trucks are concerned, there was great satisfaction as both trucks entered got to the finish line. Hannes Grobler and Joseph Petit perfectly fulfilled their contracts.
There was plenty of emotion for this brand-new official team, which finished its first Dakar, managing to get three cars to the finish line out of the 5 cars entered, with plenty of encouraging signs for the future. The rally raid program is planned over 4 years. Four years to learn how to win the Dakar.