Dakar: Nissan spotlights their No. 428 Truck

The N°428 Truck.... As well as the Pickups, the Nissan Rally Raid Team has two other vehicles entered in the race. These are two T4 trucks, entered in the competition in order to ensure quick help for the cars. The drivers of one of these...

The N°428 Truck....

As well as the Pickups, the Nissan Rally Raid Team has two other vehicles entered in the race. These are two T4 trucks, entered in the competition in order to ensure quick help for the cars. The drivers of one of these trucks are well worth a closer look...

The driver of this Renault Kerax is none other than the South African Champion in the Off Road class (4 wins out of 8 events) with a ... Nissan Pickup ...Hannes Grobler. Hannes is a charming person, a real personality in South Africa. The sort of person you come across once in your life and that you never forget. Really passionate about what he does, and an incomparable driver. He accepted the challenge of taking part in the Dakar for the first time at the wheel of a truck. A real challenge ... " It is not easy to take part in such an event in a truck. We often arrive late, and it's not much fun out on the trails after dark. At the start of the race, we were at the back, then slowly we climbed up. After Shino's accident, we dropped back down the classification, and took up a slightly staggered rhythm compared to the cars. I am above all a car driver, and this experience at the wheel of a truck is fascinating. I am quite amazed to see what you can achieve with a truck. The braking can be quite delicate, but the driving is extraordinary with such a machine. I never forget that this is my first Dakar and that I need to learn. So far, we have had no problems with the Kerax, and I hope that will continue... Of course, I would have preferred to be at the wheel of a car for my first Dakar, especially when I see how well Giniel is doing in the classification ... I know my level, and I am sure that I could have fought at the front, just like he is doing. Next year I would really like to line up for the Dakar in a competitive car, budget problems notwithstanding. I have been driving Nissan cars competitively for 25 years, and if I had the opportunity of taking part, I would not hesitate for a second.

Joseph Petit, Pierre Barbier and Andrew Jones.
Photo by Nissan Europe.

The Dakar is living up to my expectations. I knew that it would be a difficult race. The most difficult thing is to keep up the rhythm over such a long period. It did not take long to get used to driving a truck instead of a car. When driving is your career, I think you have to be able to adapt to all sorts of machines. The first two days were a bit difficult, but as the race has gone on, we have been going quicker and quicker. I keep on reminding myself that I am not here to take part in the truck race, but to make sure the team has a quick assistance vehicle available, so I cannot really let myself go. The first dunes disappointed me slightly, as I thought they would be more difficult. We have dunes in South Africa, but nothing like these. You have to learn to "read" the dunes, as you never really know what you will find behind them. It's quite worrying to cross the dunes at night, especially where the navigation is concerned. My best memory of the Dakar so far, has to be the night after Shino's accident, in the dunes. We were driving with four other trucks, and one of them could not manage to get over a dune, and got stuck in the stand. We could not find another way round. We had to explore the area, losing around 4 hours before finding any sort of possibility. In the middle of the night, it was becoming quite scary. We didn't know where we were, and no-one else knew where we were either. Terry suggested that we should stop and sleep for a while, and wait for day to break. But I took my torch and did two or three kilometres on foot in the dunes, trying to find a way through. Finally I followed by footsteps back, got into the truck and followed the trail I had left. We got to the bivouac at about 6 o'clock in the morning.... For me, it was a beautiful memory. I can say that so far, I am a happy man..."

Hannes' co-driver is none other than Terry Harryman, a well-known personality in the world of rallying. Most notably Ari Vatenen's co-driver in the World Rally Championship, he is today the oldest of the truck competitors. At the age of 64, Terry is taking part in a rally raid for the first time : "People think that I stopped competing years ago. But actually I took part in three rallies last year, most notably in the Middle East. I always wanted to take part in the Dakar, but not as a navigator for one of the top cars, as I find that too dangerous. Until now, I had never had the opportunity to make my dream come true. So, when Nissan contacted me to navigate for Hannes in the truck, I accepted ... and on top of that, I'm being paid ... I had never taken part in a truck race, and I was slightly perplex, but Hannes drives wonderfully and I must admit that as the days go by, I am appreciating it more and more. Taking part in the Dakar at the wheel of a truck is not easy. Even if we are in a T4, we are not there to really take part in the race. Our role is to assist the team's cars, and the truck, loaded down with all the spares, is heavy. When we see the Kamaz or Tatras pass us, it is really impressive. We cannot match their performance. I am not really frustrated by that. When I accepted to come on the Dakar, I knew exactly what our role would be. The sensations between a car and the truck are totally different. In a truck, you feel as if you are going ten times quicker than in a car, but you are actually going much slower. It is quite incredible. Before the Dakar, I had not sat in a truck for more than 5 minutes ... but when you see what Hannes is capable of achieving, I am really impressed. There are three of us in the cabin, and that is also new for me. During the stages, I am really concentrated in order to guide Hannes, that I don't think about it. Aaron, our mechanic, was a bit scared at the beginning, but he is enjoying his role more and more. This is an extraordinary experience for him...

The atmosphere on rally-raid events is quite pleasant, and I have met plenty of people from rallying. Some of whom I had not seen for years, such as mechanics who were with Peugeot when I was Ari's navigator. That was really great." And if you ask Terry if he is about to start a new career in this area of the sport, his answer was quick : "At 64 ? I don't think so ! But I could some back for next year's Dakar, you never know. I'd be 65 then !"

Aaron Rabogale, the third member of this team, is a young South African mechanic, who has left his country for the first time. Every moment is full of discovery and wonder for him. Aaron was quite scared at the start of the race, but has gradually got used to it, and is enjoying his adventure, even if the late arrival of the truck often means he cannot take part in the evening mechanic sessions.

A great team that we will enjoy seeing at Sharm el Sheikh...


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Joseph Petit , Pierre Barbier , Andrew Jones