Vatanen and McRae in the top ten The first special stage of the rally, a 25 km loop around Narbonne, was an eventful one for the Nissan Rally Raid Team. Starting behind Kenjiro Shinozuka, Giniel de Villiers gave himself a scare by rolling his ...
Vatanen and McRae in the top ten
The first special stage of the rally, a 25 km loop around Narbonne, was an eventful one for the Nissan Rally Raid Team. Starting behind Kenjiro Shinozuka, Giniel de Villiers gave himself a scare by rolling his vehicle. Fortunately undamaged, he was able to reach the end without problems. Ari Vatanen and Colin McRae both opted for a more careful passage through the stage, and finished 8th and 9th respectively.
After a difficult evening, which saw the far too premature retirement of Yves Loubet, the Nissan Rally Raid Team was to go through some more emotional moments this morning. Over a particularly difficult terrain, covered in mud and with an extremely winding route, Giniel de Villiers came to grief, luckily without serious consequences. "The special stage was particularly difficult. It was very winding, and it was not easy to turn in the tight hairpins. On the 6th kilometre, in one of those hairpins, the car most probably hit a rock. Losing our balance, we rolled very gently. There were a lot of spectators in this section, and they helped us to get the Pickup back on its wheels. The windscreen was broken, and the door and front right wing were bent, but we were able to finish the special stage without losing too much time. The car is OK, and that is the main thing. It was a stupid incident, but we were able to limit the damage, and lost the least time possible." Despite this incident, Giniel still set the 16th fastest time.
Colin McRae, who set the 9th time overall, is still very calm. He has understood that it would be a mistake to take any risks on this sort of section: "I just took care to get to the end of this stage. The ground was very greasy, and the track very winding. Moreover, this sort of stage is not representative of the event as a whole. There is no point in taking risks that could have serious consequences for the remainder of the event."
It was Ari Vatanen who set the best time for the team, finishing just ahead of Colin in 8th position : "I am satisfied with this result, considering the conditions. A lot of mud, and poor visibility. As I have already said, the Dakar is not won in France, it's only in Africa that the serious work will begin."
These bad conditions meant that the organisers stopped the special stage after only 47 cars had completed the course. The 48th competitor to take to the track came to a halt, blocking the road and all those behind him. Yoshio Ikemachi, as well as all the other cars, will be given a fixed time, calculated by taking the average of the last five competitors to set a time. The stage was cancelled for the trucks.
Yves Loubet came to support his team-mates this morning. After retiring yesterday evening, he was rather fatalistic this morning. "I am very disappointed, which I think is quite legitimate. It's just not fair to have to retire after just one stage. I had been counting on this Dakar. It is incredibly important for a driver to have an official seat. Of course, it is not the end of the world, and you have to keep things in perspective, but it is hard. I will continue to follow the race from home with some regrets. I hope everything will go well for my team-mates, and that they will reach Dakar on January 18th..."
This evening, the competitors will reach Castellon, in Spain. Tomorrow morning, they will take part in a short, 9 km, special stage, with the finish line being set up on the beach. They will then face 800 km of liaison before boarding the ship at Algesiras, which will take them to Tangier. Tomorrow evening, the Dakar caravan will finally be in Africa.