Interview with Carlos Sousa and BenoÃ®t Rousselot... The traditional rest day is a good opportunity to look back over the race so far, to relax, and to spend time with the guests, who have come to absorb the Dakar atmosphere for a few ...
Interview with Carlos Sousa and Benoît Rousselot...
The traditional rest day is a good opportunity to look back over the race so far, to relax, and to spend time with the guests, who have come to absorb the Dakar atmosphere for a few hours.
Lying fourth in the Dakar just before the Atar rest day, Carlos Sousa, with his 2003 version Pickup prepared by Dessoude, is the best Nissan representative. Something to make the Portuguese driver a happy man.
"This is my ninth Dakar, but I cannot remember a stage as difficult as that between Zouerat and Tichit. There was not a single moment when we could relax. The camel grass was a lot worse than mentioned in the road-book. I almost wonder whether the organizers went through the same place that we did !
At the starting of this Dakar, we knew that our car was not capable of winning, as the factory teams are much better prepared and have incredible means at their disposal. We therefore chose a pace that the car could cope with. On the Tichit stage, we started off with a very heavy fuel load, and at the start, I did not take any risks; I drove calmly. On such a long stage, over 600 km, you start quickly if you want to win, but that was not our objective. We started off with the intention of getting into the top five, which is already quite an exploit for us. And everything went as we planned. The tactics worked.
As far as the navigation is concerned, we took a few small detours, but never anything unnecessary. Sometimes, it is better to go slower in order to find the right trajectory, to find the right pass. As drivers, we sometimes have the tendency to push all the time, which puts the navigator in an uncomfortable position. It is better to give him the time to find the right way. I've done my nine Dakars with eight different co-drivers ! It's going very well with Thierry.
He is good company, he has a lot of experience and does not make mistakes. I am fitting in well with Team Dessoude; I feel good in this team. Everything happened at the last moment. I had not planned to do the Dakar, but my sponsors pushed me to take part, as I did not do it last year, and the Dakar is an important race for a driver who wants to stay at the top. I had to leave Mitsubishi after eleven years ; it was difficult, but I really landed on my feet with Dessoude.
At the start of the race, the Pickup was totally new for me, but now I am completely at ease. We made some major mechanical changes, to get going again with a much better car. Until then, we had just had to manage the situation as best we could. In a factory team, you do not have to wait for something to break before changing it. When you are a private driver, it is a totally different situation. Now, the mechanical side of things will determine our final classification.
My aim for the Dakar ? I know that I cannot win stages but I also know that I am quite capable of not losing time.
The aim is to increase the pace every day, but always keeping a safety margin in order to prevent damaging the car. At the start, I thought we could finish in the top ten, and quite honestly, considering the number of factory cars, we could not hope for better. Our aim was to finish ahead of as many official cars as possible. Therefore, we are currently exceeding our expectations. I am pleased, and slightly surprised by my current position. I hope it lasts ! "
The first Dakar for Benoît Rousselot has also meant the first problems, but it takes a lot more than that to discourage the popular driver from Nancy... Between Zouérat and Tichit, like many more experienced drivers, Benoît had a number of problems. But remaining optimistic, he knows he is in the middle of his apprenticeship.
"We were going very well at the start of the stage. We only got stuck in the sand twice, and lost around ten minutes. Nothing too serious. Philippe's navigation was perfect, he has a good attitude towards the race, and his evaluation of the terrain has helped me to avoid some potential traps. We lost the route once or twice, and had to use the bearings. This was beneficial in some cases, as the sand carries you better. Around CP2, I realized that our fuel consumption was going to be a problem, and there were another 300 km to cover... I drove in order to conserve fuel, staying under 3000 revs. Then at around 600 km, towards 21:30 ... we ran out of fuel. Quite simply !
The long wait started. We used the time to check the air filter, the levels... At that point, I didn't think we would be stuck there for hours. Our first night in the desert. I only slept one or two hours in my seat, as did Philippe outside. Guerlain Chicherit stopped quite close to us, with a broken transmission. Finally, we transferred the fuel he had left into the Pathfinder, as if it were the most precious liquid, 50 cc by 50 cc. Then we got going again, pulling Guerlain. A few kilometres from the end, we ran out again. We then met some Mauritanian soldiers, who gave us enough to reach the end. We got to Tichit the next day, at 14:30, leaving almost immediately for Tidjikja, where we arrived at around 21 :00.
The Dakar is exceptional ; it is really an incredible race. I feel good with the philosophy of this event. I enjoy the atmosphere, and physically I feel at ease. Philippe is doing well too, it's great. It is certain that I am accumulating very valuable experience for the upcoming races, like Tunisia and Morocco. Every day, I am accumulating information. I am also making mistakes, but that helps too. Over the past few days, I have shoveled quite a few kilos of sand. The job is going in ... until you've actually been through it, you don't know it, and you can't really appreciate it. Sometimes, the Dakar can push you to the limits, I know. Thank God, we are not at that point yet... My aim is to get to Dakar, but I am keen not to take any short cuts." Tomorrow, the Atar-Atar loop looks like being redoubtable. There could be plenty of changes to the classification...