Dakar: South African competitors preview

SA teams ready for 25th Dakar. Marseille in the South of France saw a new era evolve yesterday, at the start of the 25th Dakar race, when the technical scrutineering of the competing vehicles was conducted together with the exhibition of ...

SA teams ready for 25th Dakar.

Marseille in the South of France saw a new era evolve yesterday, at the start of the 25th Dakar race, when the technical scrutineering of the competing vehicles was conducted together with the exhibition of the participating teams. The race, which traditionally finished on the West coast of Africa, will now be contested along the North Africa crossing through Tunisia, Libya and finishing on the East Coast of the Red Sea in Egypt.

Four professional South African teams will compete in the quarter century Dakar race, which is history in the making; Vicus van Deventer on a 650cc Bombardier quad, Giniel de Villiers in a Nissan Hardbody, Hannes Grobler in a Renault truck, as a Nissan support team driver, and Alfie Cox on a 660 Gauloises KTM Rally motorcycle. Cape Townian, Neville Murray, will compete as amateur on a 650cc Honda motorcycle.

Technical scrutineering of the vehicles and the completion of administrative tasks together with a massive public exhibition of the competing vehicles and the associated teams form the core of the happenings on the first two days.

Tomorrow (1 January 2003) the festivities reach their peak in the Parc Rhone in Marseille when the competitors compete in a 1km night prologue before traveling the 264km to the overnight stop at Narbonne.

Hubert Aurial, chief-organizer of the event says he is excited about the future of the Dakar. According to Aurial the route was changed to build enthusiasm amongst the competitors and ensure the expansion of the race to unknown territories in Africa.

Most competitors will be much to busy contesting nature to appreciate the picturesque landscapes; all in an attempt to proudly boast the finisher's trophy, proving they have conquered the world's most arduous cross-country rally.

There is no glamour in this race; it is man and machine against the hostility of nature.

Alfie Cox
Alfie Cox will have an uphill struggle on the Gauloises Natro Freight Nashua 660cc KTM Rally in his sixth Dakar, after he finished second in the 2002 Dakar race. The twin-cylinder 950cc KTM's will be much better suited for the route apparently run over less soft sand and harsh dunes, with more high speed special stages.

The super fit red-head from Cato Ridge in KwaZulu Natal is known for his perseverance under extremely difficult conditions and he will definitely do his utmost to finish on the podium.

Vicus van Deventer
Never underestimate this skinny dairy farmer from the North West Province. He has two wins in the Experimental Class for Quads and this year he has definitely got a package together enabling him to really focus on his third win aboard his 650cc Baja Bombardier.

Nissan Motorsport Team
Giniel de Villiers, the relatively young Cape Townian and his French navigator, Pascal Maimon in their Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody will definitely need to be reckoned with. Maimon was the winning navigator in the 2002 Dakar, whilst De Villiers has won numerous circuit racing titles. He has raced the Nissan Hardbody for two seasons in the SA National Off Road championships, which he won in his maiden season.

A total of 5 Hardbodys were entered by Nissan, which will be driven by Kenjiro Shinozuka of Japan, Ari Vatanen of Finland, Thierry de Lavergne of France, South Africa's Giniel de Villiers and Khali Al Mutaiwei of the UAE. Nissan also entered three trucks to be driven by Joseph Petit of Belgium, South Africa's Hannes Grobler and Daniel Dunand of France who race as support vehicles for the Hardbodys competing in the race.

Hannes Grobler, Terry Harryman and Aaron Ragobale will race together in truck 415, a Renault truck that, over and above their own race, will provide support and get their limping Nissan teammates up to speed and back in the race as soon as possible, should anything go wrong.

Tension is building and the nerves troubling all in the last few hours before the start of the 2003 Telefonica Dakar over a distance of 8550km.

-Coen van Zyl

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About this article
Series Dakar
Drivers Giniel de Villiers , Ari Vatanen , Pascal Maimon , Kenjiro Shinozuka , Thierry de Lavergne , Vicus van Deventer , Alfie Cox , Joseph Petit