Dakar: Nissan preview

The 2005 Dakar will be Nissan's third year of participation as a factory team. Three top-level crews have been chosen to drive the almost completely renewed Pickup to the finish of this major African event. The Dakar has worldwide appeal and is a...

The 2005 Dakar will be Nissan's third year of participation as a factory team. Three top-level crews have been chosen to drive the almost completely renewed Pickup to the finish of this major African event. The Dakar has worldwide appeal and is a prestigious challenge, closely contended, with significant media coverage.


On the outside, the Pickup 2005 does not look significantly different from its predecessor. The rear wing has gone, and the spare wheels under the rear bonnet are positioned closer to the vehicle centre. However, with 80% of this Pickup changed from 2004, it has already demonstrated its potential with a debut victory at the Baja Portalegre in October.

The development process started just after the Dakar 2004, with a thorough analysis of problems encountered with the previous model. The first testing took place on June 30th. Fifteen days later, a true test session took place in Tunisia. In September, the team headed for Morocco, for both an endurance test as well as to validate certain parts. The most recent real test before January's Dakar event was the Baja Portalegre, which saw Colin McRae claim his first win with the new Pickup.

The first new feature is the engine: the 3.5 litre engine has been replaced by a new V6 4-litre engine, with higher torque and better response characteristics. The engine has also been re-positioned for ease of maintenance and to adapt it to the new six-speed gearbox with sequential controls.

Another major upgrade is the new suspension system. With new geometry, the supports, pivots and the bearing joints have been redesigned. Finally, the transmission has also been modified. The complete drive train has been made more reliable and new front and rear differentials have also been incorporated.


The Nissan Rally Raid Team will enter three cars in the Superproduction category of the Dakar 2005. With drivers and co-drivers of six different nationalities in the three cars, this is a truly international team.

The four-time Dakar winner, Ari Vatanen will be behind the wheel of the Nissan Pickup for the third consecutive year. The absolute record-holder for the number of stage wins, he celebrated his 50th win this year, between Tangier and Er Rachidia . The " Flying Finn ", whose motivation remains firmly intact, is as ready as ever to set off for the African trails. An enthusiastic Ari admitted that he had really enjoyed the tests with his new car. His co-driver will be, for the first time, Tiziano Siviero, former co-driver for another World Rally Champion, Miki Biasion. This will be Tiziano's third Dakar.

Colin McRAE (GB) - Tina THORNER (SWE)
Having recently won the Baja Portalegre, his first cross-country rally win, Colin McRae will be facing his second Dakar in 2005. The revelation of the previous edition, the Scottish driver fully intends to confirm his promising 2004 results, when he claimed two stage wins. During recent months, Colin has been much involved in the development of the new Pickup and took part in the UAE Desert Challenge in Dubai last October in order to gain more experience over dunes. He will team up with Tina Thörner for the fourth time. A fine combination of speed and charm.

Consistent and talented, the South African driver could well be described as a 'sure thing'. During the last two Dakar events, he reached the finish line, placing his Pickup at the front of the official cars. And took his first stage win this year. Giniel could be named in the next weeks as the South African Cross-Country Rally Champion for the second time. This year he will have a top-class navigator beside him: Jean-Marie Lurquin, twice World Vice Champion. Jean-Marie is an extremely experienced co-driver, and is also extremely intuitive. As an 'old desert fox', he should be able to guide Giniel faultlessly towards the beach in Dakar. A duo in perfect osmosis, which could create a surprise...


Early this year, the team has moved to a new base in the South of France, near Aix-en-Provence. All the technical and logistical means are now concentrated in one place, meaning greater reactivity and cohesion for the Team. The whole logistical fleet, trucks and assistance cars, are now located next to the workshop, facilitating easy preparation for events.

With 23 permanent staff in the Venelles workshops, the Nissan Rally Raid Team is carefully preparing the three Pickup vehicles, which will set off from Barcelona on December 31st. The staff numbers will be doubled during the Dakar, with two T4 trucks, five T5 trucks and six Patrol assistance vehicles joining the three race vehicles to make up the total fleet for this new team.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Colin McRae , Miki Biasion , Tiziano Siviero , Ari Vatanen , Tina Thorner , Jean-Marie Lurquin