Giniel de Villiers and his Nissan Pickup climb to fourth in the overall classification A testing and difficult stage. The two Nissan Pickup vehicles of Ari Vatanen and Giniel de Villiers finish in 5th and 6th places. Giniel gains a place in the...
Giniel de Villiers and his Nissan Pickup climb to fourth in the overall classification
A testing and difficult stage. The two Nissan Pickup vehicles of Ari Vatanen and Giniel de Villiers finish in 5th and 6th places. Giniel gains a place in the overall classification, and is lying fourth this evening. Due to the bad weather conditions throughout Mauritania at the moment, tomorrow's stage will be shortened.
A formidable and much dreaded loop, the Atar-Atar special stage consealed more than its fair share of difficulty and disillusionment. Quite possibly the most difficult stage in terms of sand dunes to cross. From the start, they were faced with a 40 km erg, followed by the trying Thaga pass. A sea of sand, and many sand dunes led to the El Beyyed erg. And then the competitors faced 40 km of dunes, amongst the most difficult ever crossed by the competitors. The return part of the loop took place in the plane, with 200 km through the Sebkhet Chemchâm saline lake.
The Nissan Rally Raid Team cars did a team race throughout the day. Ari Vatanen, a long way back in the overall classification, played the role of Giniel de Villiers' guardian angel today. Giniel managed to set the 5th fastest time, and gained another place in the overall classification. This evening, he is 4th. " We were stuck in one dune for 25 minutes, three kilometres from CP2," he explained. "It was a shame, we were around 50 cm from an area where we could have regained some speed. Before then, everything was going well. When we stopped, we were five minutes up on Gordon and Kleinschmidt. And then we had two punctures..." He added, with a big smile : "At least it gave Jean-Marie some exercise !!!"
Jean Marie Lurquin replied in the same vein : "When Giniel got going again, he looked for a place where he could stop safely without getting stuck in the sand again. He decided that he needed to do around one kilometre ! I had to walk to the car, pulling the planks with me... All that so that we could lose a bit more time later on. because Giniel had strapped them on badly !!! If only I'd known..."
Very relaxed, and with his back hurting him less, Ari Vatanen spoke of his day : "It was a very fine stage, a typical Dakar stage, with fast sections, camel grass and dunes, but you were always able to go fast. We started off well, we caught up with Robby Gordon and overtook him easily. I wanted to show him what the Europeans could do ! Then we had two punctures in the camel grass, and then when we saw that Giniel had planted himself in a sanddune, we wanted to stop to pull him out, but we got stuck too ! Unfortunately, I was not a great help to him..."
Tomorrow sees a route change. Perhaps the most awesome stage in the rally, between Atar and Kiffa, has been shortened. Initially planned as 656km long, the stage will now only be 400 km.
The information received from the openers indicated that the first half of tomorrow's stage had become very difficult, and would be even more so if the weather does not improve. In these conditions, the organisation preferred to play it safe, and shortened the 11th stage, which looked like being the most difficult of the whole event. The timed sector will stop at the CP2. From CP2, the teams will head for the Kiffa bivouac on tarmac roads.
Some news of Colin McRae, who is now back in Scotland. The driver, who suffered a serious accident on the special stage between Smara and Zouerat, was suffering from sight problems. Having consulted a specialist, and after two or three weeks of treatment, the former World Rally Champion's eyesight should be back to normal. Very good news indeed.