Dakar: Nissan stage seven report

A crazy leg... Giniel de Villiers finishes 9th with his Nissan Pickup A diabolical marathon stage in hellish conditions.... The Nissan Pickup driven by Giniel de Villiers finishes the special stage in 9th position. Ari Vatanen, who reached the...

A crazy leg...
Giniel de Villiers finishes 9th with his Nissan Pickup

A diabolical marathon stage in hellish conditions.... The Nissan Pickup driven by Giniel de Villiers finishes the special stage in 9th position. Ari Vatanen, who reached the Zouérat bivouac at 11 pm last night, got underway AGAIN this morning. The Finnish driver has currently passed CP2, but has not yet reached the bivouac, where only 9 cars have arrived so far.

A more than difficult day for the survivors of this 27th edition of the Dakar, who, as soon as they arrived in Tichit, had to put their cars in Parc Fermé, all maintenance being forbidden. The first car, driven by Stéphane Peterhansel, only arrived in the Tichit bivouac in the early evening. Many competitors will arrive late in the night, or even tomorrow morning. A sandstorm made life extremely difficult for the competitors throughout the stage, with hazardous and extremely difficult conditions. Giniel de Villiers lost over an hour this morning, while Ari Vatanen, who started well back in the field after his late arrival, had problems before CP1. "Red Flag for the Dakar," as Etienne Lavigne, the race director, said. Considering the horrendous problems on the route, and the low number of competitors who had reached the finish, the length of tomorrow's special stage between Tichit and Tidjikja will be reduced. The first 130 kilometres will be timed, and the rest of the stage will take place as liaison. This year, the competitors will have to miss the Nega pass, another legendary Dakar feature. The cars will start at 12:30 tomorrow. No fewer than seven of the safety helicopters will be spending the night in the dunes, just like many of the competitors...

The first section of today's stage, between the start and CP1, cause most of the retirements. The end of the stage, made up mostly of camel grass, also gave a number of problems. And we are only half-way through the race... Colin McRae and Tina Thörner, who had a serious crash yesterday, came back to the bivouac today for an impromtu press conference. Very reassuring for the many fans of the 1995 World Rally Champion. Extremely disappointed by this painful misadventure, Colin confirmed the circumstances surrounding his violent off : " We were driving well, at the correct pace, when, at the 410 km point, we must have gone over a bump. It did not seem any worse than any of the others we had been going over all day. The Pickup took off, and was catapulted through the air. We landed nose first, and started to roll. The central cell of the Pickup protected us remarkably well, it is completely intact. My nose hit the steering wheel, and I am bruised. I also think I have a slight problem with my retina. I will have a complete check-up when I get back to Scotland. Of course, I am very disappointed to finish the Dakar in these conditions, for Tina and myself, but also for the team, who had done an excellent job."

Tina Thörner was also bruised, but still managed to smile : "My back hurts, but that is normal after the crash we had. It is really hard to go out of the Dakar like this, because Colin and I were really on the pace. It's a shame that the adventure has had to end."

After Colin's crash, the whole Nissan Rally Raid Team was rather downcast. Moreover, Ari Vatanen had not been heard of for a number of hours, having been joined by the T4 assistance truck in order to carry out repairs. Finally, to the relief of all concerned, the nr 311 Pickup arrived at the Zouérat bivouac at 23:00. Like always, and despite the fatigue after such a hard day, Ari managed to joke : "I thought that 35 working hours referred to a week, not a day !" Due to his late arrival, the Finnish driver took the start of today's stage at 12:41... a significant handicap. Forced to stop before CP1 (apparently due to a problem with a wheel), the Finnish driver got going again and reached CP2 very late. At this time (21:30), when only 9 cars had crossed the finish line, we hope that the Vatanen-Siviero duo will reach the end of this stage without any further problems.

The fine performance of Carlos Sousa and Thierry Delli Zotti should be mentioned ; driving a 2003 Pickup entered by Team Nissan France Dessoude, they finished 6th in the special stage, and have jumped up to 5th in the overall classification.

Tomorrow's special stage, which will take the competitors to Tidjikja, will only be 130 km long instead of 520. There will be time to see the final result of this crazy day between Zouérat and Tichit.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Carlos Sousa , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Tina Thorner