Dakar: Nissan stage six report

Into Libya. Today, the Dakar crossed into Lybia. The end-point of the 6th leg, Ghadames, also called " the pearl of the desert " is one of the oldest pre-Sahara cities. Leaving El Borma this morning, the competitors had to follow a totally ...

Into Libya.

Today, the Dakar crossed into Lybia. The end-point of the 6th leg, Ghadames, also called " the pearl of the desert " is one of the oldest pre-Sahara cities. Leaving El Borma this morning, the competitors had to follow a totally off-road itinerary, crossing a series of ergs and dunes, through a 228 km special stage.

During this special exercise, Kenjiro Shinozuka, setting the 4th fastest time, was once again the leader amongst the Nissan clan drivers. Ari Vatanen followed him, nearly two minutes behind, with Giniel de Villiers 10th and Khalifa Al Mutaiwei 14th. Starting at the back of the field, after his accident the day before, Thierry de Lavergne arrived later in the day, but nevertheless set the 12th fastest time...

Kenjiro Shinozuka and Thierry Delli-Zotti.
Photo by Nissan Europe.

Kenjiro Shinozuka, still extremely serene, analysed his day : " The special stage was quite short, we were already at the bivouac by midday... an ideal day for drivers... it was all sand today, the first part was quite fast, up until CP1, then a bit slower, but still sandy with a few dunes. De M?vius passed us, and we were not able to overtake up beforel the finish line, even if we were catching him by the end. He was a bit faster than us today ... but we know exactly what we need to improve to be more competitive. " Incidentally, when he arrived at the bivouac, his compatriot and friend, Hiroshi Masuoka, came over to chat to his former team-mate. A real treat for the Japanese journalists present.

As for Giniel de Villiers, he is continuing his " education " : " The day went well. Today, I discovered the sand-dunes...Pascal (Maimon) told me that these were easy ones... My problem at the moment is to learn how to go over them correctly and at the right speed. Time and experience should help. I am very aware that every day, I am discovering new things, and it is up to me to use them in the best way possible. The car was perfect, we did not get stuck in the sand, although it was a close thing at times...

Ari Vatanen, setting the 5th time overall, was rather optimistic : " The special stage was initially fast and sandy, and then we reached the dunes... we went off in the wrong direction once, which meant we had to cover a few extra kilometres, losing time as a consequence. But it was not very serious... This time, we did not have any problems with the inflating/deflating system that cost us so much time yesterday. I really enjoyed today's stage, the final result could have been better, but I think we are on the right track. Tomorrow, the stage will be interesting, extremely varied and, why not ? a major change in the overall classification, to our advantage of course !!!"

Thierry de Lavergne set a good time today, despite his misadventures yesterday : " Perhaps I made an error of judgement, but I was not the only one. Some went by without problems, but it looks as if a small error slipped into the road book. We hit a rock that was right in the track, and broke a suspension triangle. We had to wait nearly four and a half hours for the truck, in order to make the repairs. It was a big disappointment, as it effectively ended our hopes of a podium finish, but our motivation is still intact and we will try to claw back some time every day to achieve a better final classification. This morning we started in 166th place, behind the trucks and the cars ... the first time I have ever done that. We drove well, although we were delayed in the dunes by a number of stranded competitors. To finish 12th is not bad at all !"

The driver from the Emirates, Khalifa Al Mutaiwei, continued his near clockwork progress, gaining another two places in the overall classification : " Plenty of sand, from the beginning to the end ... we noticed quite a few competitors had got stuck. We had no problems with the car, no punctures, no worries with the inflating and deflating system ... thank goodness ! Tomorrow will be a long and difficult day. I need to adopt a slightly different driving style - we will talk more about that later..."

Alec Poole, the Team Manager of the Nissan Rally Raid Team, drew up an initial report after the first days of the race, after yesterday's El Borma special stage : " Globally, the results to date have been better than we could have expected. The special stage to El Borma was the first real test. It's true, we are a bit disappointed, because we hoped to do better, but if I had been told two months ago that we would have a car in third position in the overall classification, and another in 6th place, I think I would have signed right away... We know that we are in an apprenticeship phase here. One of the points that is important to us is that we are really applying ourselves to service the cars fully every day. The team is working intensely, as we know that the race is long, and every day the cars have to start off at 100% of their capacity.

We have no particular strategy with our drivers, as each of them brings something different to the team. As we had expected, Giniel de Villiers has been competitive, and even if this is his first Dakar, I strongly believe that he has a real future in this type of event. He is fast and an extremely hard worker. He was perhaps hoping to do better, but compared to the races in which he usually competes in South Africa, the Dakar is not child's play. Kenjiro Shinozuka is a safe bet, as he is mature and has plenty of Dakar experience. Undoubtedly, he is the one who can bring us the most. For the Team, Ari Vatenen is invaluable. Although he has not taken part in a race for 5 years, at 50 years old, his determination to win is intact .. there is no particular strategy to maintain, a certain natural balance has set in. Everyone is joining in the debriefings very openly, talking about any problems. If a technical problem occurs on one of the cars, we must be able to anticipate that it will also happen on one of the others. At this level, things are working in a very natural fashion

As far as the two cars managed by Andr? are concerned, I am very disappointed for Thierry de Lavergne. Sincerely, I thought that he would be able to finish in a very good position. The most important fact is that the car should get going again to give him an opportunity to demonstrate his talents. Khalifa Al Mutaiwei is also on the right path. Also, the terrain suits him perfectly. It is important for the future that we have as many Pickups as possible at the finish. There are five cars entered in the fight, and if we can get to Sharm el Sheikh with all five, we will have made a big step forwards... "

For Andr? Dessoude, who manages the Pickup vehicles driven by de De Lavergne and Al Mutaiwei, there has been some disappointment, but plenty of clear thinking : " Thierry was going well until El Borma, his race was progressing well. The problem he encountered (broken front suspension) means that he has no hopes of winning or finishing on the podium, but his morale is still good, and I know that he will do the utmost to reach Sharm el Sheikh. As for Khalifa, his " strategy " is slightly different. The rhythm at the front is very fast, and he does not want to get involved in the fight. He is holding back, waiting, and I am sure this is the right way. We have had no major technical problems, all the drivers have their feet firmly on the ground. There is no pressure. The rally will be long - even very long .. my orders are simple : to watch and wait. Concerning the private customer teams, driving Terrano cars, Henri Pescarolo had a few problems at the start, but everything is working well now. Yves Loubet, who led the Production category at the start of the race, is coping very well, and Paul Belmondo is more and more at ease... "

Tomorrow's stage is a marathon event, which means that there are no service vehicles, in the evening bivouac, except for those vehicles taking part in the race. The assistance trucks will go straight to Sabha. The physical condition of the drivers, and the preparation of the cars, could make all the difference.


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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Henri Pescarolo , Hiroshi Masuoka , Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Kenjiro Shinozuka , Thierry Delli-Zotti , Thierry de Lavergne , Yves Loubet , Paul Belmondo