Dakar: Nissan stage 16 report

Giniel de Villiers finished the penultimate special stage in 6th place. Colin McRae, who arrived late yesterday evening, returned to the race this morning and completed the 192-km timed sector in 15th position. Yoshio Ikemachi retains the lead of...

Giniel de Villiers finished the penultimate special stage in 6th place. Colin McRae, who arrived late yesterday evening, returned to the race this morning and completed the 192-km timed sector in 15th position. Yoshio Ikemachi retains the lead of the Production classification with his Nissan Patrol.

Today's special stage took the competitors from Nouakchott to Dakar. A final frontier to cross for the 167 survivors of the 26th edition of the event, between Mauritania and Senegal. The day before reaching the finish line, there are only 67 bikes, 61 cars and 39 trucks still in the race. Despite everything, today's stage was no picnic. Bumps, camel grass, holes …rather delicate terrain to cross, where the slightest mistake could be extremely costly.

Giniel de Villiers, who set the 6th fastest time, confirmed this : "It was the sort of stage where it was quite easy to break the car and lose everything. A very tricky route, full of potential traps, very hard. I am not at all disappointed to have got through without any problems. We are in Dakar today, but there is still tomorrow's stage. We will have finished when we are on the podium, and not before…"

Colin McRae was less lucky than Giniel today. Having had a difficult day yesterday, the Scottish driver still had some transmission problems today. But he also hit a tree, which altered the aerodynamics of his Pickup… Just a few more kilometres to go, and tomorrow, Colin should finish his first Dakar.

A thunder of applause from the Nissan clan greeted the Patrol of Yoshio Ikemachi and Thierry Delli Zotti, when they came to a halt in the service area. The Franco-Japanese duo is close to claiming victory in the Production category. Careful on today's special stage, they managed their comfortable lead over their nearest rival in the overall classification, Isabelle Patissier (Team Nissan France Dessoude) with a Nissan Pathfinder. If the results remain the same tomorrow, this will be a fine one-two for Nissan in the Production class.

It should be noted that Thierry Delli Zotti received the fair-play trophy, awarded by Total, yesterday, for his 'Dakar spirit' and his solidarity towards others : "You cannot be as content, as happy as I am in the Dakar, if you do not go through the race in a spirit of mutual aid, of solidarity, of surpassing yourself. More than on any other event, on this race, which is unlike any other, the risks are such that if you want to go it … alone, you are ignoring the most important part !".

The finish of this 26th edition will break with tradition, as although the final special stage will take place, as usual, around the Rose Lake, the start will not take place on the beach, as usual.

The competitors will start in inverse order, one by one, from the edge of the Lake, and will finish on the beach. After that, there will just be one liaison section to reach the podium, set up in the grounds of the Meridian hotel, where the Prize-giving will also take place. Total distance to be covered : 106 km…

Beyond the race news, the Nissan Rally Raid Team decided this morning to invite the winner of the motorbike category of the 26th Telefonica Dakar, to try the official factory Nissan Pickup during a series of test sessions, which will take place during 2004. In this way, Nissan wished to give a top-level motorbike rider the opportunity to try another category within the same area of the sport.

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Series Dakar
Drivers Colin McRae , Giniel de Villiers , Isabelle Patissier