Dakar: Nissan stage 15 report

Third stage win for Ari Vatanen and the Nissan Pickup... The second GPS-free stage of the 2003 Dakar ! Leaving Luxor this morning, the competitors drove through to Abu Rish, an immense desert area situated on a rocky plateau, between the ...

Third stage win for Ari Vatanen and the Nissan Pickup...

The second GPS-free stage of the 2003 Dakar ! Leaving Luxor this morning, the competitors drove through to Abu Rish, an immense desert area situated on a rocky plateau, between the Nile valley and the Suez Canal.

The special stage followed a well-marked trail, quite fast, with alternating sandy and rocky sections. There were plenty of changes of direction, and the main difficulty lay in choosing the best path. With plenty of emphasis on driving, with a definite advantage for those drivers with experience in traditional rallies, this stage saw Ari Vatanen take his third win, bringing his overall Dakar score to 48...

Jacky Bourgin and G?rard Ancement.
Photo by Nissan Europe.

Extremely disappointed with yesterday's performance, when he thought he could have won, Ari Vatenen lived up to his reputation as a great fighter today : " It was great ! But I still need two wins to get my score up to 50 stage victories ... I didn't have too much to do today, I was bored, so I pushed hard ... all day long. No punctures, I had great fun, and I got my reward after my disappointment yesterday. I really thought I could have won, but from a sporting point of view, I think that Luc Alphand's win was an excellent thing ! We are all taking turns ! Last night, my back was hurting so much that I was really questioning whether I could take the start. Would I be able to drive ? But as soon as I got up it was a lot better, and as we went along I felt that we were really on the pace. Another real special stage tomorrow, we will do our best..."

Calm and serene, Tina Thorner, Ari's co-driver, also appeared to enjoy the stage: " The day went well. No problems and no punctures ! We found our way without difficulties ... it was quite fast, and we soon realised that we were going well. The dust was one of the real problems today. "

Giniel de Villiers, 3rd in today's stage, was like yesterday slightly disappointed to be once more deprived of the win: " I am disappointed...Once more, we had two punctures, just like yesterday and the day before. The first happened before the first checkpoint, and the second before the CP3. But all in all, it was a good stage, with some good driving. We attacked from the start, but we lost quite a lot of time due to the punctures. The car behaved beautifully. I am slightly closer to Sousa, but I am afraid that it will not be enough. Another great stage tomorrow, and perhaps at last a chance at a stage win... "

Pascal Maimon, Giniel's co-driver, gave some further information : " We started out with the intention of pushing hard, like yesterday. 40 km into the stage we gave ourselves a big fright, the car took off on an uphill step (we had cut the track slightly to overtake a motorbike), we flew about 3 metres into the air, and the first part of the car to hit the ground was the left rear wing ... a bit like a fighter plane ... Then Giniel got the right rhythm going, but unfortunately we got a puncture 100 km into the stage. We overtook Jean-Pierre (Fontenay) who had two punctures, we overtook Luc (Alphand). Then we got a second puncture, at the left rear, in a long straight section. Biasion came past us, Jean-Pierre got back ahead, and we finished 3rd. Without those two punctures we would undoubtedly have finished second."

Thierry de Lavergne was full of smiles today, extremely pleased with his day, which saw him finish in 8th place on the stage : "Quite frankly, I am delighted today. The car went superbly, and we found the right set-up. It has taken some time ! In the dunes, it was not really possible to set the car up precisely. The sensations are not the same. When the terrain is broken, however, it is ideal to sort out the car. The engine is going well, just a few worries about the brakes. The stage was very fast, and a bit broken. Jacky (Dubois) was, as usual, excellent, unfortunately ! (he laughs). This time I followed his instructions word for word, even before he finished talking, I was already off ! After which, he asked me not to do too much !!! "

And what did Jacky Dubois have to say ? " Today, he listened to me ... two days ago, Thierry really annoyed me ... 6 km pointing him in a direction that he did not want to follow -- that can really get on your nerves ! Today's stage was quite 'cool' as far as the navigation goes. I looked carefully at the maps yesterday evening, so I knew that we were basically navigating down a big valley. It was a good stage, it was quite fun ! The car was great. My suggestion is that the rally should start tomorrow ! We forget everything and start again ... We will try to break into the top ten, but it will not be easy...

In the Production category, Jean-Pierre Strugo still has a good lead. Paul Belmondo, after an extremely consistent race, is currently in 3rd place in his category and 20th overall. Too far back to catch Strugo, his main wish is to get to Sharm el Sheikh.

As for Yves Loubet, whose fortunes had taken a turn for the better over the last few days, yesterday was another nightmare. Stuck at the 200 km mark, slightly over 70 km from the finish, Yves could only diagnose a third broken stub axle on his Terrano. He waited all night in the cold, with not a single assistance truck passing by .. Missing the start of today's special, he was forced to retire. Beaten, Yves has found his fate hard to accept. The 'Corsican' will soon be back on the tracks of Africa...

Tomorrow will be another 'real' day. No fewer than 828 km have to be covered, including a 365 km special stage, with, at the end...Sharm el Sheikh. The 413 km liaison stage will start tomorrow morning ... at 2 am...


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Luc Alphand , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Pascal Maimon , Tina Thorner , Jacky Dubois , Thierry de Lavergne , Yves Loubet , Paul Belmondo , Jacky Bourgin , Jean-Pierre Strugo