Dakar: Nissan stage five report

Kenjiro Shinozuka shows his determination. In the extreme south of Tunisia, around 800 km to the south of Tunis, in the large East Sahara erg, El Borma was the end point of the first " real " Dakar stage... It also claimed the rally's first ...

Kenjiro Shinozuka shows his determination.

In the extreme south of Tunisia, around 800 km to the south of Tunis, in the large East Sahara erg, El Borma was the end point of the first " real " Dakar stage... It also claimed the rally's first victims. The word 'borma' means 'razor teeth', a poetic description of the sharp, angular dunes.

Kenjiro Shinozuka and Thierry Delli-Zotti.
Photo by Nissan Europe.

At the start of the special stage, the track was fast, with alternating sections of stones and sand. Then, as the kilometres went by, the first dunes appeared, with some fast, winding sections. Then, the tracks became more rolling and rocky, but also quicker, with undulations and jumps. The navigation was more difficult, as there were few landmarks to distinguish between the numerous parallel tracks. During this special stage, which was almost 300 km long, Thierry de Lavergne (who is still trying to reach the bivouac at this moment) went off the track, bringing his Nissan Pickup to a standstill. Two other cars suffered a similar fate at the same place.

The best placed among today among the Nissan Rally Raid Team drivers is the indefatigable Kenjiro Shinozuka. Third in the special stage and 3rd overall, he put in one of the best performances of the day, behind Masuoka and Peterhansel : " Before the start of the special stage, our handbrake was jammed, but Thierry solved the problem... as we started in 15th place, we had to overtake quite a number of cars, especially the buggies, which got back past us in the dunes, then Sousa and Ari. We had no particular problems with the tyre inflating and deflating system. We are still a long way behind Masuoka, but when the Pickup will be on the top of its form, I think it will be just as efficient."

Ari Vatanen had his first problems today, with 3 punctures. He finished 13th, placing him 11th overall : " The first hundred kilometres were magnificent, we pushed hard and even caught Schlesser. Because of a bad interpretation concerning the use of our tyre inflating/deflating system, we had three punctures. After the third blow-out, we understood our mistake. We were able to limit the damage and even if we lost a few places, the race is far from over. The car behaved very well, and everything is going very well with Tina."

Tina Thorner confirmed this opinion: " The first real African stage ... the navigation was a bit easier than we had thought, and despite the few worries concerning the tyre inflating system, we are doing OK... I am not particularly disappointed as our stage was good, but that's racing... "

Giniel de Villiers , 9th today, was the second Pickup classified:" Today's special stage was very fast, we had no fuel pressure at the start, followed by a puncture... we were unlucky. I was very impressed by Masuoka and Peterhansel, but, after all, we are here to learn. This evening, we are 6th overall, which isn't too bad !"

Pascal Maimon, Giniel's co-driver, gave a few more comments: " Not the best of days ... this morning the engine refused to start and Thierry de Lavergne gave us a tow. During the whole special stage we were suffering from a lack of power, then we had a puncture 240 km into the stage. Fontenay overtook us, then had a puncture as well. But Giniel is adapting well to the terrain, and is proving himself to be rather hard-working."

Khalifa Al Mutaiwei continues to confirm his daily progress in the overall classification, and appears confident : " A lot of rocks today, so we tried to be careful, no problems with the car, no punctures, and we are 13th in the overall classification this evening. No matter what, I am still very careful. Tomorrow's special stage should suit me as there is plenty of sand. With Philippe, everything is going well ... we get on very well, and are both rather relaxed, but that does not mean that we are not alert. "

Philippe Monnet confirmed this 'strategic' approach to the race : " Khalifa is very pleasant in the car. We voluntarily decided to take a slightly slower rhythm than the leading cars. This is his first Dakar, and his main aim is to finish. Of course, we are driving fast, but just one step down. He is managing the Pickup perfectly, without pushing the engine or the gearbox, everything is going smoothly... We communicate in English as far as the notes are concerned, and it's a case of getting used to things. We are always careful and listening out for the car. A very studious start to the Dakar... "

In the Production class, Yves Loubet lost the lead in the category to Jean-Pierre Strugo : " The start went very well, but then we came across Bourgin on his roof. Of course, we stopped to help him. We lost three or four minutes, and then, having lost our concentration a bit, we made a mistake when interpreting the road book. We were slightly hampered by some other competitors, and finally we lost the class lead. The race is still long, but I am still rather disappointed." Paul Belmondo (34th overall), also in the Production category, seemed rather satisfied with his day : "I took things easy at the start of the rally, went a bit quicker yesterday and today I took care at the start of the special (my shock absorbers were not set up in the best possible way). Over the next 120 km I accelerated. This was the first real "rally raid" type special stage, because up until now, then had been more like stages from the World Rally Championship. Tomorrow will be the first real Dakar special stage... "

Tomorrow, the competitors will face a 278-kilometre stage, including 228 km of special stage and series of dunes. There could be a lot of problems in store...

-nissan-

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Series DAKAR