A bad day for Nissan, Colin McRae forced to retire. Problems for Ari Vatanen Some days, things go well. Some days they don't. After yesterday's excellent result for the Nissan Rally Raid Team, today saw a total change. Having led since the start...
A bad day for Nissan,
Colin McRae forced to retire. Problems for Ari Vatanen
Some days, things go well. Some days they don't. After yesterday's excellent result for the Nissan Rally Raid Team, today saw a total change. Having led since the start of this morning's stage between Smara and Zouerat, Colin McRae had a heavy crash at the 410 km point. Badly damaged, the Nissan Pickup driven by the Scottish driver could not continue and was forced to retire. Despite being shaken by the impact, the team was unhurt. Ari Vatanen, stopped after 155 km, had to wait for the rapid assistance truck. The Pickup has not yet restarted.
According to the drivers, this special stage between Smara and Zouérat was very fast, perhaps too fast for the day before a marathon stage. Leading from CP1 onwards, Colin McRae was to learn the hard way. Due to a strong, sand-filled wind, visibility of the ground ahead was severely reduced. Just before the third checkpoint, 410 km into this 492 km timed sector, he went over a bump, identical to dozens he had jumped over earlier in the day, according to Colin. However, it proved to be 'worse' than expected, and after taking off, the Pickup rolled. A heavy crash, but both the driver and co-driver emerged unhurt. Colin just suffered some problems with his sight, due to the intensity of the crash (a normal reaction after this sort of accident). His navigator, Tina Thörner, is suffering from pain in the lumbar region, but nothing serious.
Brought to the medical centre at the Zouérat biviouac by the television helicopter, a few minutes after the accident, Colin had a check-up before heading to his hotel for the night. He should return to Scotland tomorrow. His only comment, a sign of his great disappointment : " Bad luck ! "
A bad day, as Ari Vatanen also had problems. Stopped 155 km into the stage, the Finnish driver was forced to wait for the team's T4 assistance truck to arrive. The Pickup is being repaired, but at the time of writing, Ari had not yet got going again.
The only good news of the day was that Giniel de Villiers and Jean Marie Lurquin finished the special stage in 11th position, after another puncture : "This special stage was really very fast, almost dangerous due to the poor visibility and the number of successive jumps. We had a puncture after CP2 and lost nearly ten minutes at that point. The car did not have any problems at all, it was really good. Quite voluntarily, we did not push. Tomorrow, there is a marathon stage through to Tichit and the assistance trucks will arrive very late this evening. The mechanics won't have much time to work on the cars tonight. It was therefore sensible to take care of the vehicle today. I am really sorry about what happened to Colin, he was having a great race. That is the Dakar, you are never sure about anything..."
The Dakar is one of a kind, a race where anything can happen at any time. There are no rules, no miracle recipes. An awful day can be followed by a perfect one - and vice versa. Giniel De Villiers is now the leading car in the Nissan clan.
Tomorrow will see the first of two marathon stages, between Zouerat and Tichit : a real piece of bravery. The 660 km special stage is largely new. The navigators will have to work hard, most particularly towards the end of the stage, when they will have to find a pass which is the only access point through to the Tichit oasis. When they arrive, after refuelling, the cars will be placed in Parc Fermé.