Giniel de Villiers gains four places in the overall classification, Ari Vatanen has a few problems Giniel de Villiers had a good day, setting the third-fastest time in today's special stage. The South African driver, with his Nissan Pickup,...
Giniel de Villiers gains four places in the overall classification, Ari Vatanen has a few problems
Giniel de Villiers had a good day, setting the third-fastest time in today's special stage. The South African driver, with his Nissan Pickup, gained four places in the overall classification, and is now lying in 5th place. Colin McRae, who set the 6th time today, received a time penalty of 7 min 30 for having broken the 15 km/h speed limit on arriving in Er Rachidia yesterday evening. Vatanen had three punctures, and lost nearly 40 minutes on today's trail...
The appearance of the sand has seen the first edisturbances' in the rally, and the gaps are beginning to widen. The Nissan Rally Raid Team is still maintaining its position towards the front, despite a few small problems for Ari Vatanen. This 337-km special stage included all the various difficulties which a competitor in a rally raid event can expect : extremely fast over the first section, then rocky, winding tracks followed by the famous Chebbib erg, with its sand-dunes.
Over this variety of terrains, Giniel de Villiers set the third-fastest time : " We were bothered by the dust for quite a distance. We even had to stop at one point, because it we couldn't see anything at all. I am satisfied with our time considering that we lost a few minutes after getting lost. But everything is going well.."
François Jordaan, his navigator, is taking part in the event for the first time, and is proving to be very diligent : " We had a good day. Giniel drove very carefully. I made a small navigational error in a village which resulted in us losing about two minutes. But everything is still very positive, and I am extremely pleased to be here. "
This was Colin McRae's first day in the sand, and he emerged with flying colours, having set the sixth-fastest time : "Except for our puncture, everything went well today. The car is perfect. Every day, I am learning more about how to work with Tina. Her advice is extremely valuable to me, and her experience really helps me to anticipate matters and to understand this sort of event. I think that we make a good team. "
In the overall classification, he is currently lying in 8th position, having received a time penalty of 7:30 for having broken the authorised speed limit when entering Er Rachidia yesterday evening. He has therefore lost two places.
Tina Thörner also gave us her comments on the day : " It was the first real Dakar stage for Colin. We had a good look at all the various terrains that we are likely to encounter. This was an excellent exercise for Colin, and he coped very well. The car had no problems at all. We did lose a bit of time with a puncture, but apart from that, we had no worries. It is really very pleasant to be Colin's navigator. He pays close attention to my instructions. We are a real team, and every day he realises more and more that the role of a co-driver on a rally raid event is very different to that in the WRC. We have a good feeling and the atmosphere in the car is very relaxed."
As for Ari Vatanen, he had a few problems today. After yesterday's wonderful win, for which he received a fax of congratulations from President Jacques Chirac, he lost nearly 40 minutes today after three punctures disturbed his run. " After 10 kilometres of the timed section, we noticed that two of our tyres had gone down. I thought that we must have driven over stones to have two punctures at the same time. But ten kilometres later, the front left tyre went again. It turned out that the tyre inflating system was switching on automatically. To avoid any further problems, as we did not have any spare tyres after just 20 km of the stage, I had to slow down. This annoyed me greatly at the time, but we still have plenty of time to catch up. The words of congratulations from President Jacques Chirac both surprised and touched me, because even if I know him, I am not close to him. I've never received anything like this from the President of Finland... "
Juha Repo is taking part in his first Dakar, alongside this great champion : "I don't think we lost too much time today. There is still a long way to go before reaching Dakar. The car was great. Changing the wheel was an opportunity for some physical exercise, although I nearly lost two fingers in the battle ! But nothing serious ... that's the co-driver's job ! I am really beginning to enjoy the Dakar. Ari is going very well, and it's great that he enjoys driving as much as ever. "
Yoshio Ikemachi reached the bivouac this evening having had a few small difficulties in getting over the dunes. But everything is going well and he is currently lying 9th in the Production category.
Tomorrow, between Ouarzazate and Tan Tan, the competitors will face a relatively tricky special stage ontrails which favour driving skills. The smallest mistake could be very costly...