One-two-three for Nissan on today's stage, Colin McRae claims his first Dakar stage victory... Nissan's first triple finish on the Dakar...The three Pickup cars set the best times, with victory going to Colin McRae ahead of Giniel de Villiers...
One-two-three for Nissan on today's stage, Colin McRae claims his first Dakar stage victory...
Nissan's first triple finish on the Dakar...The three Pickup cars set the best times, with victory going to Colin McRae ahead of Giniel de Villiers and Ari Vatanen. Three fine Champions who have helped lift the team's morale after a few difficult moments.
Today's special stage, which took place on a sandy track, appeared to suit the 'drivers'... But the navigation played an important role, as there were so many parallel tracks. It was on this terrain, which rather suited the Nissan Pickup vehicles, that Colin McRae claimed his first Dakar victory. The first, maybe, but certainly not the last, as this seems to prove that the Scottish driver has definitely caught the 'Rally Raid' bug... The Nissan trio clocked in at each CP in the lead, showing an uncontested supremacy over the whole timed sector.
For Gilles Martineau, this fine triple result rewards the work of the whole team : "I am very happy this evening. Happy, because this result is excellent for the team's morale. I would especially like to underline the work accomplished by the mechanics. Without them, Colin and Ari would never have reached Bobo Dioulasso in the allotted time. They did the work of titans out on the trail, in extreme conditions. This victory is theirs as well. Colin proved, not only that he has a place in Rally Raids, but also a place at the front. As soon as we have regained some reliability, we will be able to give our rivals something to worry about. This is encouraging for the future. Over fast terrain like today, the car was perfect; we just have to improve our performance over soft sand, dunes and camel grass. We are gradually climbing the steps to get to the very top, and today, we went up another step..."
Colin McRae savoured his delight very humbly this evening : "Today's special stage was the first time when I was really able to drive. We had a few minor vibration worries, and we fought a bit with our inflating-deflating system. Nothing too serious. The trail was quite narrow between the trees, and we lost a front wing and a bit of our rear wing. We felt that we were driving well, and that we were catching up with the others. I am pleased to be the first British driver to have won a special stage since Andrew Cowan, who won 6 Dakar stages ... I would have been a bit disappointed to head home without managing to claim a win. Tomorrow, it will be important to set the right pace, as it is a marathon stage. We will have to take care of the car, because we will not have any assistance at Tidjikja bivouac. There are still quite a few difficult sections to get through before arriving in Dakar, but we will try to win another stage before then... "
Giniel was second, just behind Colin, only 7 minutes from his team-mate : "It was a real special stage today, not like yesterday. We stopped twice, because we had radiator problems. Then we got lost twice. There were quite a few parallel paths, which made navigation more difficult. I am very happy for Colin, because this win is good for all the team."
Ari Vatanen completed the trio. As soon as he arrived in the bivouac, he came to congratulate Colin on his performance, adding : "I let you win today ... now you only have to get another 49 wins to catch me up !!!" But Ari remained clear-headed: "It was a real rally-drivers stage today... at the start, we were driving calmly, keeping an eye on the car. Towards the end, we began to push, but we were stuck in Servia's dust for 60 km. We got lost twice, like many others. This win, and the three top places, are very important for morale. When times are hard, you need some sunshine, which we had today. Tomorrow, we will try to do it again. I am very happy that Colin has been able to prove himself. This victory is his first, and there will certainly be others. Rally drivers do quite well on the Dakar, as I have proved, and Juha Kankkunen as well. I asked Colin if, according to a Finnish proverb, he had done two Dakars this year, the first and the last. And, well, he quite simply answered : NO !!!"
Yoshio Ikemachi, who is currently 3rd in the Production category, should not be forgotten when talking of this excellent team-work. As well as running his race, he is ensuring the role of 'rapid assistance' for the Pickup cars.
Tomorrow, the competitors will undertake the second Marathon stage, which will take them to Tidjikja. A stage of 552 km, announced as being the most beautiful sand stage of the Rally... the highpoint of the day will be the crossing of the gigantic dunes which line the Taskant cliff, 200 metres high. It is the only way to climb this cliff, in order to get to the finish line, along a fast, 130 km track. Fine times in store...