Dakar: Nissan stage 15 report

Camel grass … awful, and terribly destructive for the cars, over many kilometres. A special stage described by the leaders as being very difficult. The day before arriving in Dakar, the organisers had planned a hard day, with a stage packed full...

Camel grass … awful, and terribly destructive for the cars, over many kilometres. A special stage described by the leaders as being very difficult. The day before arriving in Dakar, the organisers had planned a hard day, with a stage packed full of potential traps. Although Giniel de Villiers set a superb 3rd-fastest time, Colin McRae has transmission problems which delayed him significantly. As for Yoshio Ikemachi and his « professor » Thierry Delli Zotti, they took the lead of the Production category this evening, with their Nissan Patrol… The day started rather badly for Colin McRae. When the time came to start the car this morning - nothing happened. It took the mechanics some time to find the source of the problem. Installed the day before, the on-board camera appeared to be the cause. This meant that Colin set off on the stage with a delay of twelve minutes. After 138 km, the problems got worse. The transmission of the nr 202 car was out of action. Forced to wait for his race assistance truck, Colin lost many hours. Finally, he managed to rejoin the race, and reached the bivouac at around 0:30. A black day for the Scottish driver.

For Giniel, the Tidjikja-Nouakchott stage was a exercise in driving style: "We had a very difficult stage ! The first 290 kilometres were really terrible. There were plenty of stones hidden under the sand. You had to drive relatively slowly to get through and avoid punctures. After that, we hit the camel grass… This is undoubtedly the sort of terrain I hate the most. This was the first time I had driven over it for so long, but I would not like to repeat the experience too often ! The sensations are really disagreeable. The car gets really hard, and your body suffers over this sort of surface. The second part of the stage was much better as far as driving was concerned. Long, fast bends, on which I feel really at ease. The only little problem we had was some smoke in the cockpit in the middle of the stage. We stopped, but we couldn't find anything, and we started up again. We had no punctures, but we were very careful over the camel grass, because it is so easy to break the car over that terrain. We speeded u p a bit at the end. The stage was much more difficult htat that of yesterday. I am happy to finish in 3rd place. My aim now is to reach Dakar tomorrow…"

These comments were confirmed by his co-driver François Jordaan, who was smiling broadly : "We had a superb day, even if it was exhausting… for me, it was the most demanding stage as far as navigation was concerned. Luckily, I didn't make any mistakes ! To keep on the right track, you have to trust your instruments, but also your instinct. I am getting more and more confident with using the GPS, but the navigation is still quite complex. When you give a heading to the driver, you still have take any obstacles ahead into account, and the right way to get through is not always that clear. Giniel drove incredibly well. We have had no problems with the car. Everything went really well, and we set the 3rd fastest time, just behind the rally leaders, and we are very pleased with that …"

The best surprise of the day came from the Ikemachi-Delli Zotti team; after putting in a faultless performance with their Nissan Patrol since leaving Clermont-Ferrand, the Franco-Japanese tandem claimed the first place in the Production category this evening. A fine result which is suitable reward for their exemplary regularity. Our Japanese rookie has learnt well the lessons taught by his ‘professor', Thierry, and everyone hopes that this result will remain unchanged until they arrive in Dakar in two days time. Well done !

Tomorrow's stage is 648 km long, taking them to Dakar. Pleasure and driving skills should be to the fore, over this partially new stage, fast and winding over sandy tracks, which will take the competitors over successive chains of sand-dunes, up to the Mauritanian frontier. After that, the liaison road to Dakar will be more like a huge parade, where thousands of Senegalese inhabitants will give the survivors of this 26th edition of the Dakar a fine welcome.

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Series Dakar
Drivers Colin McRae , Ikemachi Yoshio