Giniel de Villiers, with the Nissan Pickup N-05, gives the Nissan Rally Raid Team a magnificent 4th place in the overall classification The final special stage, and the last timed sector around the Rose Lake. Ari Vatanen and Giniel de Villiers set the third and fourth fastest times. Overall, Giniel de Villiers and Jean-Marie Lurquin finish in 4th place after a magnificent race.
A symbol of liberation after two intense weeks of racing, the traditional special stage on the shores of the Rose Lake took place just before the podium ceremony, in front of hundreds of VIPs, who had come to celebrate the performances of these exceptional champions. Ari Vatanen would dearly have liked to have claimed his 52nd stage win, but a puncture after 20 km made this impossible. Despite running for 10 kilometres with a damaged tyre, the Finnish driver set the third-fastest time, ahead of his team-mate Giniel de Villiers... after overtaking 14 cars !
Looking at the lessons learnt by the Nissan Rally Raid Team during this 27th edition of the Dakar, the overall report is quite positive. As far as the technical side is concerned, the car is off to a good start. There are some areas which can be improved, but the basis is competitive and endures well. Nissan was able to find the reliability it was lacking. The Nissan Rally Raid Team included some talented drivers who shared the best performances. Two stage wins for Colin McRae, two for Giniel de Villiers and one for Ari Vatanen. In total, there were five stage wins for Nissan, five for Mitsubishi and four for Volkswagen. Nissan has found its place among the best, taking into consideration that the level of competition this year was particularly high. They might not have finished on the podium, but did manage a fine fourth place finish.
Fourth in the final overall classification of the 2005 Dakar, Giniel de Villiers and Jean-Marie Lurquin have given Nissan its best result to date on this event, which bodes well for the future... The South African, pleased to have finished his third Dakar, drew up his first report of these 15 days of racing : "I feel rather good. It is a real reward for all the hard work during the recent months. The car has really progressed. Unfortunately, we lost a bit of time in the dunes, but we will get back to work right away to make more progress in terms of crossing the dunes, as we are still slightly weak in that area. But the car was very good in all other areas. Very reliable too, we had no major technical problems. I am very satisfied with this 2005 Dakar. I am also very proud of my two previous results on this race, when I already finished twice in the top ten. We are very happy to have finished in this position, largely thanks to the reliability of the Pickup, which is very encouraging for the future. The competition was very tough this year; there were a lot of manufacturers taking part, with major budgets. We concentrated on our own race, without worrying too much about the pace the others were setting. The main thing for us was to make sure that the car was in a good condition at the end of each stage, and in order to achieve that, it was important not to make too many mistakes. As I have already said, there are a few small improvements to make to the car, but that which we have achieved this year, with a new car and a young team, is very encouraging."
Jean-Marie Lurquin shared the cockpit of the nr 314 Pickup with Giniel de Villiers . There was a real alchemy between the two men, and the result is truly something of which both can be proud : "We put in some excellent performances, especially at the end of the race. Unfortunately, we had some difficulties in the dune stages; there are some improvements to be made on the car in that area. However, on the faster tracks, Giniel drove incredibly well, I think I didn' t make any navigational mistakes, and the car showed its potential. The whole team worked very well. The car is young, we had some worries concerning the reliability, but we were quickly reassured about that. We were not always very kind to the vehicle, but it got us here, and in excellent condition. If I had been told that I would finish so close to the podium considering the competition, I would not have believed them. I think that the Pickup N-05 is the most reliable car of them all. And definitely not the least competitive by any means."
At the age of 52, Ari Vatanen showed that he still had the fire and spirit of a twenty-year-old. But the Finnish driver was badly shaken by the death of Fabrizio Meoni : "Compared to all the dramas which took place during this Dakar, the sporting exploits must unfortunately be relegated to the background. It is always sad when people die while practicing their profession, or whilst living their passion, as every competitor comes here with so many hopes and dreams. As far as my performances were concerned, for a car that was built in less than nine months, the Pickup proved that it has enormous potential. It is necessary to have similar means to the competition in order to make further progress. I think that the car can improve slightly in all areas. But the potential is there, our number of stages wins is ample proof of that. The team will have plenty of time to prepare for the next Dakar. That should bear fruit."
Professionnal until the very end, Tiziano Siviero, Ari' s navigator, will not forget this Dakar : "As usual, this Dakar was an unforgettable experience. Especially for me. I had to learn to work with a new driver, and I learnt a lot. I think that the Nissan Rally Raid Team will be a force to be reckoned with in years to come. The team is very united, very motivated, close to the very top level, and which has everything it needs in order to reach the summit. There is still a bit of work to be done, but quite frankly, we are not far behind them..."
Gilles Martineau, the Team Manager of the Nissan Rally Raid Team, also drew up his conclusions : "With this very good result, the team fulfilled its contract. Unfortunately, we did not achieve the objective which Carlos Ghosn set us, namely the podium. I think we finished in the right place, considering the relative youth of the team and the car. We will have to wait for his decision. He has the choice to either stop the programme, or to recognise the efforts put in by the whole team and continue the adventure. We are up against teams who have been in the elite of this sport for many years, and to beat them, we need both the means and the time. There is still work to be done, of course. The car has proven its reliability. We only did maintenance work on Giniel' s Pickup, while the other teams had to change major parts. As for Giniel, he has been quite simply excellent : he is the ideal driver. He has the calibre of a Peterhansel, without a doubt."
The 27th Dakar has therefore come to an end. A Dakar quite unlike any other...