Dakar: Nissan stage 7 report

The first day in hell... Colin McRae retains 3rd place in the overall classification A ruthless stage, which has decimated the ranks. The three Nissan Pickup vehicles reached Atar having gone through atrocious conditions. Colin McRae finished...

The first day in hell...
Colin McRae retains 3rd place in the overall classification

A ruthless stage, which has decimated the ranks. The three Nissan Pickup vehicles reached Atar having gone through atrocious conditions. Colin McRae finished 5th, Vatanen set the 7th fastest time - a real achievement, while Giniel de Villiers lost over two hours.

The Tan Tan - Atar stage, marking the passage between Morocco and Mauritania, kept all its promises. Having left Tan Tan in the middle of the night, the competitors covered 345 km of liaison sector before setting off on 701 km of special stage. A particularly difficult stage, the sort that only the Dakar can produce. A stage where endurance and courage were put to the test, and where the slightest mistake was severely punished. Moreover, the most difficult part of this route was at the end of the special stage, with the crossing of the Oumaghawaba Erg. Many competitors will spend the night there, before reaching Atar. As for assistance, it will be reduced to the basics this evening. The assistance itinerary is over 1000 km long, and none of the vehicles are expected before the early hours of the morning. This means that the mechanics will only have a very short time to intervene on the cars before they leave again, at around 09:45. Tomorrow evening, no assistance whatsoever will be allowed at Tidjika. The competitors will only catch up with their service vehicles at Nema... It goes without saying that some very extreme days lie ahead.

During this day in hell, everyone had their fair share of problems. The Nissan Pickup vehicles were no exception. Only Colin McRae managed to pull himself up among the leaders, finishing 5th in the stage and keeping his 3rd place in the overall classification, despite being stuck in the dunes for around twenty minutes. The Scottish Champion's apprenticeship is continuing...

"At the start of the special stage, everything was going perfectly. We were right behind the leading cars, and found ourselves up with Peterhansel, Masuoka and Schlesser in the sand-dunes. Unfortunately, at the end of this sector of very soft sand, we got stuck. We lost around 20 minutes before getting out of this trap. I am learning every day, especially over this sort of terrain, which is totally new for me. One thing really surprised me today, and that was Stephane's speed in the dunes. It was really incredible..."

Giniel de Villiers, who put in a magnificent performance at the start of the special stage, was lying in 3rd position at the CP3, but unfortunately, he ran into a problem shortly afterwards. "Everything started really well this morning, and we set a good pace. Then we got a puncture, but it was impossible to change the wheel. The bolts were stuck. We went into the dunes like that, but we were battling with the inflatingdeflating system to try and keep the right pressure. Inevitably, we got stuck. That is when we noticed that there was a hole in the radiator. We repaired it without too much difficulty. But our problems were not over... Most probably because of electrical problems, the engine then started cutting out. Then we had another puncture, 20 km from the end. I drove really slowly, to get home without too much damage. Up until the dunes, the stage was relatively fast, but then the sand was really soft... I can only hope that the assistance will not arrive too late."

The performance of the day has to be that of Ari Vatanen. Starting this morning in 90th position, he managed to bring the Nissan Pickup up to 7th place in the stage, having had a day full of ups and downs. Despite the fatigue, Ari remains inexhaustible, and was happy to explain : " We should start with the statistics ... we overtook 53 cars this morning. Then we found ourselves behind a truck. I have a small anecdote to tell about the driver of this particular truck. I had lunch alongside him in Clermont-Ferrand, and I asked him what he did. He said that he made pasta ... then he introduced himself ... I am Paolo Barilla. That's the Dakar, you meet so many different people every day. But I would never have imagined that the eemperor of pasta' would do the Dakar. Anyway, to get back to today's stage ... we had a puncture around km 400, but everything went well until then. Unfortunately, around 50 kilometres from the finish line, I felt through the steering wheel that something was wrong. I quickly understood that the wheel bearing had a problem, and shortly afterwards, the front right wheel overtook us... Normally, you can't drive like that, but it was too stupid to stay there. I put it into first, then second, third and up to fifth. In all the right-handed corners, there were no problems, but in the left-handed corners, it was a bit difficult... the main thing is that we got to the end.This special stage was not exceptionally difficult, but the end was terrible with dreadfully soft sand. I am afraid that the trucks could lose a lot of time in that sector. As for the amateurs, it is quite likely that a lot of them will spend the night in the dunes... "

By 21 :30, only 25 cars had reached the Atar bivouac. Many competitors are still out on the route, and will be there for much of the night. Tomorrow, the survivors will head for Tidjika after 355 km of a special stage, over a track which has never been used by the Dakar before. The navigation will be a key element, as it will be necessary to find the the best passes to get over some difficult ergs, through breathtaking landscapes. A lot could still happen...


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Colin McRae , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Paolo Barilla