After the prologue, Nissan takes its first stage victory, Ari Vatanen Amakes the Nissan Rally Raid Team smile again.
Every day spent in Libya brings its share of strong emotions. This stage was no exception. Yesterday's anguish was replaced by smiles amongst the Nissan Rally Raid Team members. After an evening and night of deep anxiety, the news on the condition of Kenjiro Shinozuka was much more reassuring this morning. All the team members were relieved to hear that he had been declared to be out of danger by the head surgeon of the Tunis hospital to which he had been taken. This evening, the latest information from the medical update continues to be reassuring. The Japanese driver is no longer on a ventilator, and is regaining consciousness. His life is no longer in danger, but his injuries are still serious. A further bulletin will be published within 24 hours. Thierry Delli-Zotti was able to go home to the Parisian region this afternoon, suffering only from bruising.
Ari Vatanen claimed today's stage victory, which he dedicated very modestly to his friend Shino : "For me, the best news of the day was that Shino was getting better. Before leaving this morning, we learnt that his condition had improved overnight and that he was no longer in danger. It was a great relief. I kept on waking up during the night, and his face was haunting me. So, on hearing the good news, I rediscovered the joy of living, which I expressed in my own way ... We overtook a lot of cars today, and ate a lot of dust. Sometimes, we had to stop to find our way again, we didn't know where we were. A lot of fech-fech and wind. I am amazed by the result, and that's all the better. In all modesty, I would like to dedicate this win to my friend Shino..."
The day after the terrible accident that befell Kenjiro Shinozuka and Thierry Delli Zotti, for the first time, the Nissan Rally Raid Team claimed a stage win. Kenjiro had already won the prologue in Marseille at the start of the rally, but this only counted to set the starting order. An excellent piece of news, which helped to raise everyone's spirits.
However, Giniel de Villiers did not have the best of days, and he was very disappointed this evening. After an excellent start, he fell victim to a broken rod in the left rear suspension. Pascal Maimon told of their misadventures: "The day started well, Giniel was going strongly. Just before the CP2, we caught up with Gregoire (de Mevius), we were in his dust trail. We left the trail to go through the CP; we could have overtaken him, but we had a puncture. Then, we found ourselves behind him again, and just before the CP3, a pincer rod in the left rear suspension broke. This stopped us dead, and we had to fight hard to continue at 60 km/h, hoping not to damage the car any further. It's a real pity, as we were 4th overall and only 7 minutes behind Gregoire, so knowing that we had gained between 1' and 1'30, anything was possible, the Dakar is far from over. But now, with a delay of at least an hour, we will dive down the order. It's true that there is still a long way to go, but ..."
Over the first 300 kilometres of the special stage, the competitors crossed rolling plateaus, before reaching the volcanic plateau of Al Haruj. A maze of small tracks with changes of direction every 300 metres. Difficult for navigation, due to the lack of reliable landmarks.
Jacky Dubois, co-driver for Thierry de Lavergne, coped perfectly with the conditions, as Thierry confirmed : "150 kilometres of pleasant driving with rolling terrain, but afterwards, the hellish stony conditions, with fech-fech everywhere. We did not have any punctures, and we tried to find the right rhythm, while driving as quickly as possible. Jacky was perfect today. There was one trap, heading north and leaving the track we were on, but after 500 metres going the wrong way we got back on the right track. Then we caught up with De Villiers who had a problem with the rear of the car. A difficult day physically; I was very pleased to get to the finish... the brake pads are very hard on the car, and after 500 km, it gets very hard on the muscles. My back is not hurting any more, everything is find. Top form and perfect health ..."
Khalifa Al Mutaiwei retired yesterday evening, with his car imprisoned in the dunes, the engine broken. The talented driver from Dubai, who had good hopes of a fine finish, left the Dakar rather disappointed, but certain to return...
Tomorrow will see another 521 km special stage, and, to make things even more interesting, this stage will be the first to take place "GPS free". The co-drivers will have the starring role...