Giniel de Villiers finishes 3rd in the Super Special.Vatanen and McRae in the top ten... After a number of days waiting impatiently in Catalonia, all those taking part in the 27th edition of the Dakar finally set off for two weeks of intense ...
Giniel de Villiers finishes 3rd in the Super Special.Vatanen and McRae in the top ten...
After a number of days waiting impatiently in Catalonia, all those taking part in the 27th edition of the Dakar finally set off for two weeks of intense racing, with the 6-km Super Special on the Barcelona beach. De Villiers took the 3rd position, while Vatanen and McRae were classified 7th and 8th respectively.
For all those with the Nissan Rally Raid Team, who has been in Barcelona since the start of the week, the festivities started on Tuesday with a superb media day held at the Nissan Motor Iberica factory, where the brandnew Pathfinder will soon begin production. No fewer than 2000 people, including 400 Nissan employees, came to meet the drivers and the team personnel. A special moment, much appreciated by all concerned. Over the next days, autograph sessions were held in the centre of Barcelona, to the delight of the crowds. Ari Vatenen had good memories of previous starts in Barcelona and he was not disappointed by the intensity and warmth shown by the public.
However, the serious business got underway today... Tens of thousands of people gathered at the Castelldefels beach, to watch the first stage. As usual, the Spanish crowds, real motorsport connoisseurs, welcomed them warmly. Over the 6-km route drawn up in the sand, with a few bumps, the favourites were all able to avoid the potential traps. Robby Gordon set the fastest time ahead of Hiroshi Masuoka, while Giniel de Villiers, with his Nissan Pickup, set the third-fastest time.
Giniel seemed quite satisfied with this first stage : "This special stage seemed like quite a normal beach ... with lots of soft sand and a few jumps, where you had to be careful. Everything went well. It was short, but it was good to put on a helmet and actually take the start. Now we' re underway - that is what we have all been waiting for. It was incredible to see so many people alongside the route. For a driver, it is great to be watched by such enthusiastic crowds."
Ari Vatanen, who set the seventh time, also seemed satisfied : "As it turned out, the stage was not too bad. We were rather worried that there would be some really tricky sections, but it turned out to be OK. The bumps were a bit 'strange' , but we got through with no problems. I took care ... I definitely preferred it to last year' s prologue.
The sand was quite soft, but you could easily go through in 3rd or 4th gear. The Pickup was really nice to drive. "Very calm, Colin McRae finished just behind the Finnish driver. Over the last few days, he has been rather impatient and keen to get underway : "I was very careful. There were a number of tricky jumps, but I think I did what was necessary in order to avoid any problems. It would be too silly to make a mistake right at the start of a race like this one. We will have fun in Morocco..."
The Nissan Rally Raid teams all took care, as they are all very much aware that while you cannot win the Dakar on the first 6-km stage, you can easily lose everything in those few minutes.
Tomorrow, the competitors will leave Barcelona in the late morning to head for Grenada, with over 900 km of liaison on the schedule. A very long day...