Dakar: Nissan stage seven report

A Marathon. The keywords of this second Libyan stage of the 25th Dakar were 'sand' and 'heat'. The survivors set off from Ghadames this morning for the longest leg of the rally : 584km, a real test of courage, from which not all would emerge ...

A Marathon.

The keywords of this second Libyan stage of the 25th Dakar were 'sand' and 'heat'. The survivors set off from Ghadames this morning for the longest leg of the rally : 584km, a real test of courage, from which not all would emerge unscathed. Additionally, there will be no service part at Ghat, this being a so-called Marathon stage. All the assistance vehicles went straight to Sabha, the end-point of tomorrow's leg. The competitors will have to take care of their vehicles, maintaining them in a sufficiently fresh state in order to be able to reach Sabha without problems.

Giniel De Villiers and Pascal Maimon.
Photo by Nissan Europe.

The track, rapid but varied over the first 300 kilometres, took the competitors to the start of the Awbari Erg (previously crossed during the 1989 edition of the race), 50 kilometres of gigantic dunes with sumptuous forms. The difficulty lies in choosing the right path between the monumental ergs. Afterwards, the trail continued through some magnificent countryside : canyons and great sandy stretches, with all the possible difficulties that a rally such as the Dakar can offer. A testing stage for men and machines alike. Many competitors got stuck in the sand, and there were plenty of problems....

As far as the Nissan Pickups were concerned, Ari Vatanen proved his speed once more, finishing 3rd behind Peterhansel and Masuoka (who set a deadly pace), despite facing his fair share of problems : " A long stage, where everything can be lost or won. We chose the 50/50 option, that is to say we opted for minimum risks, without holding back... we had more than our share of punctures. A slow puncture before the start of the event, then another one after the first 50 km, and another 550 km to cover with only one spare wheel. For the last 200 km, we did not have any spare wheels left ... we were rather worried. In between, we went off-piste, leaving the correct track. Considering all that, the result is not too bad. When you think you've lost everything, you realise that it's not so bad after all. That's the Dakar ! You need some long stages to liven things up ... and tomorrow will be another long day... " Ari is currently in 5th place in the overall classification, but he is already one hour behind Peterhansel.

An excellent student, Giniel de Villiers is following Professor Ari closely. He finished fourth in today's stage, maintaining his 6th overall position. Giniel was rather satisfied with his day : "An extremely fast day, which needed quite a lot of driving. I am very pleased that we were able to achieve a good result, especially as the car did not suffer at all. No punctures; our biggest problem was the dust. We left in 10th place and after 15 km, we caught up with the buggy. We stayed behind it for quite a while, which bothered us. We made a small navigation error, but nothing serious. And we weren't the only ones ... I really enjoyed the day, despite the length."

Even if Kenjiro Shinozuko took 3rd place in the overall classification today, his expression showed how disappointed he was. In the dunes, Thierry Delli Zotti indicated to the left with his hand (where the tracks were visible) while announcing the right. Confusion reigned, and Kenjiro went to the right. Stuck in the sand, they lost plenty of time, partly due to the failure of the jack needed to lift the car. In total, 20 minutes were lost. Then, before the second checkpoint, a GPS problem saw the Pickup stray from the right route ... meeting up with a number of other lost competitors. More minutes wasted. In the final kilometres, a bump on a tyre resulted in a puncture. The Pickup finished the special stage in 8th place, reaching the bivouac without further problems.

The nr 210, driven by Thierry de Lavergne, set the 14th time, after an average day : " Fifty kilometres after the start, we landed really heavily. It was so bad that it jarred my spinal cord. I had to get out of the car to get my breath back. After that, I drove quite calmly, as I was really in pain. We did not have any punctures, and just one small navigation error (like quite a few people). The special stage was really tough ... the Dakar ... absolute horror ! " Thierry actually displaced a vertebra in his accident, and the Organisation's doctors took him in charge as soon as he arrived at the bivouac. After a good night's rest he should be able to face tomorrow's equally hard stage.

Khalifa Al Mutaiwei was two places behind De Lavergne, almost 55 minutes from Peterhansel. In the overall classification, he is currently 13th. The driver from Dubai was complaining of a lack of engine power, but did not suffer any punctures. A rather lacklustre day.

Tomorrow, the competitors will face their third stage on Libyan soil, with a total of 727 kilometres to cover, including a 497km special stage. According to the organisers, it is the most difficult special stage of this rally... to be continued.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Pascal Maimon , Thierry de Lavergne