Dakar: Nissan stage 1 report

One-two for Nissan in the prologue but Yves Loubet is forced to retire Just like in 2003, a Nissan set the best time in the Dakar Prologue. And just like in the 25th edition, it was Kenjiro Shinozuka who proved to be the fastest. Giniel De ...

One-two for Nissan in the prologue but Yves Loubet is forced to retire

Just like in 2003, a Nissan set the best time in the Dakar Prologue. And just like in the 25th edition, it was Kenjiro Shinozuka who proved to be the fastest. Giniel De Villiers, at the wheel of his officially entered Pickup, set the second-best time. But Yves Loubet is forced to retire.

On this first day of 2004, the Dakar began in Clermont-Ferrand, in extremely wintry, snowy conditions. Despite that, the spectators (35 000 people) flocked to see the caravan get underway. No fewer than 141 competitors in the car category, 195 motorbikes and 63 trucks, took the start of the most beautiful of the trans-Sahara races.

Within the Nissan Rally Raid Team, the instructions given by Team Manager Gilles Martineau, were simple : "The race really starts in Africa, and not in Clermont-Ferrand, so no heroics !". These orders were followed by the teams ... nevertheless, Giniel de Villiers set a fine second-fastest time, but without pushing himself.

Colin McRae, Yves Loubet and Ari Vatanen followed the advice given by their boss, and did not take any rash risks in the snow; it would be a shame to spoil their hopes during a 1.5 km section. As Scandinavian driver Ari Vatanen explained : "I come from a cold country, but I have not lived there for a number of years ... and actually I don't like these conditions at all. I'll be glad to get to Africa !" Unfortunately, in atrocious weather conditions on the liaison section between Clermont-Ferrand and Narbonne, the Nissan Pickup driven by Yves Loubet suffered electrical problems. The wiring loom went up in smoke. Having reached Narbonne with the help of his assistance team, the judgement was unfortunately final. The dashboard was too badly damaged, and too many parts had been destroyed to be able to continue. Retirement was inevitable. This was a great disappointment for the Corsican driver, who saw his hopes reduced to nothing.

After his victory, Kenjiro Shinozuka, Team Nissan France Dessoude, was happy to find himself back at the top. The terrible accident in which he was involved last year has left a few questions open. Still in the process of recovering, this result proves that his motivation and his talent are fully intact. As far as the Japanese rookies are concerned, Yoshio Ikemachi and Jun Mitsuhashi also came through the traditional prologue having shown plenty of wisdom.

The first special stage, the only one to be held in France, will take place tomorrow morning in the Narbonne region. After this 25-km loop, the competitors will move into Spain, heading for Castellon, the end point of this second stage. A total distance of 563 km...

-nissan-

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Series Dakar
Drivers Colin McRae , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Kenjiro Shinozuka , Yves Loubet , Ikemachi Yoshio , Jun Mitsuhashi