Dakar: Nissan stage 8 report

Dakar: Nissan stage 8 report
Jan 9, 2004, 4:14 AM

The three Nissan Pickup vehicles reach Tidjika having shown real team spirit... The three Nissan Pickup vehicles reached the Tidjikja bivouac at the end of the first marathon stage having gone through a day full of ups and downs. Ari Vatanen lost ...

The three Nissan Pickup vehicles reach Tidjika having shown real team spirit...

The three Nissan Pickup vehicles reached the Tidjikja bivouac at the end of the first marathon stage having gone through a day full of ups and downs. Ari Vatanen lost precious time looking for the way, Giniel De Villiers had electrical problems and ran out of fuel. Finally, Colin McRae fell victim to a transmission problem, reducing his Pickup to two-wheel drive. He managed to get to the end of the special stage thanks to a tow from Giniel...Real team spirit between three champions.

The stage between Atar and Tidjikja proved to be ruthless, as had been predicted. Those who managed to reach Atar the day before had not expected to find such a selective route. This morning, only 93 cars, 113 motorbikes and 47 trucks turned up at the start line. It was easy to see that, the day before the Marathon stage, where all outside help is forbidden at the bivouac, the ranks of the competitors had already been decimated. This notorious stage will undoubtedly claim more victims, and after only five days of racing in Africa, the Dakar has already lived up to its reputation. For the Nissan Rally Raid Team, it was a day that could definitely be called difficult, although the three Pickups reached Tidjikja, together, having shown real team spirit. However, in the overall classification, precious hours have disappeared...

Giniel de Villiers set off at an excellent pace, but saw his progress come to a halt 30 kilometres from the start : "We had just started to attack the special stage when the engine suddenly stopped. We tried to get going again, but every time, the engine cut out. We soon understood that there was an electrical problem. We opened up the fuse box to try to find a solution, and after many tests on the electrical circuits, we managed to get going again. Further on, we did a bit of 'gardening', as did many others, because one of the instructions in the road-book was not very clear. We did not have any other problems, and no punctures, we just ran out of fuel ...What happened was that 60 kilometres from the finish line, we saw Colin, at a standstill. He had a transmission problem, and was down to two-wheel drive. We towed him until we ran out of fuel, 20 kilometres further on. Thierry de Lavergne stopped, but the hoses to transfer the fuel could not be adapted. A Few minutes later, Ari arrived. We took a bit of fuel from Colin's car and a bit from Ari's, and managed to get to the finish line. The three cars are at the bivouac, and that is the main thing. Apart from this electrical problem, the car went incredibly well, but the stage was very long, and particularly difficult."

Ari Vatanen and Juha Repo also had some adventures today. Still with some of his habitual good humour, Ari told the tale of his day :

"Today, there was everything you can expect from the Dakar. Difficult navigation, and particularly redoubtable terrain. We got lost, we got stuck in the sand. I must say that Juha is very good at digging ! Then we had a puncture, and the jack did not want to help us to change the wheel. Finally, we helped Colin and Giniel, who had run out of fuel. Real problems, a real Dakar..."

Colin McRae and Tina Thörner , 'saved' by their team-mates, were extremely pleased to reach Tidjikja. Tested by such a long stage, they were decidedly relieved. A relaxed Colin McRae was very happy to have finished ... for the evening.

" Terrible...it was a terrible day...We had a broken transmission and we found ourselves down to two-wheel drive. As you can imagine, it was no picnic out there. We had to wait for Giniel, who towed us. The navigation was difficult and we had to look for our bearings for quite some time. I am happy that the three cars are here this evening, and I would really like to thank Giniel for his help. We showed real team-work today. Now, we have to do some work on the car, because the assistance truck will not be there for quite a while..."

Almost immediately, Colin gave his car an initial check-up, before moving on to those of his team-mates. An excellent mechanic, Colin even said that he would manage to dismantle and reassemble his gear-box before supper... a real Champion...

Like their team-mates, Yoshio Ikemachi and Thierry Delli Zotti have reached Tidjikja. Having arrived at Atar very late yesterday, he covered the final 20 kilometres in the dunes in the dark. A souvenir that will remain in the young Japanese driver's memory ... Today, Yoshio says that they had a good day : "I drove normally, with no mistakes and without getting stuck in the sand. Just one puncture in the middle of the dunes ... To drive in the sand, we have to reduce the tyre pressure as much as possible, but a rock can burst the tyre. That is what happened. There was a lot of soft sand, and we had quite a tiring day. The long days are following on from each other, but I must admit that I like it. I know that it is very important to go through such experiences to make progress."

A second intense day for the survivors of the desert, but tomorrow, there are more than 700 km of timed sectors to cover before reaching Néma...and the assistance trucks.

A mythical stage, where some of the most amazing episodes of the Dakar have taken place. Soft sand up to Tichit, but on a relatively fast track. Further on, the competitors will have to attack the famous Enji pass, where everyone got stuck in a sandstorm in 1985. Plenty more adventures in store, among sumptuous landscapes.


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