So the route for the '09 version of the Dakar has been released. I'll go out on a limb and say that this route has more variety and will present more of a challenge than recent Dakar runs.
Though the cancellation of the '08 Dakar sucked for a variety of reasons, I think the change of scenery can be a very good thing for this event. South American fans can be as insane as any fans on the planet (just look at soccer) and the exposure there to 1st class Dakar style rally racing is sure to be a hit. It also helps the manufacturers in getting additional exposure to a more affluent customer base.
Lastly, I am not sure (at least I haven't seen it commented upon) how the extreme elevation changes to be seen in this race are going to manifest themselves. Take a look at the map. The race starts at sea level in Buenos Aires and passes over the Andes twice!! The northern most portion of the race takes the course by peaks in excess of 22,000 feet, with the course itself probly topping out around 14,000 feet I would imagine...Racing for long distances at elevations equivalent to the TOP of Pikes Peak should be interesting.
In regards to Nissan...well...they don't truly have any "world class" competitors that will run in the top 1/2 dozen or so but Ivar Erik Tollefsen--Norway--Overdrive Racing (a top mountaineer with numerous Antarctic first ascents under his belt) and Laszlo Palik--Hungary--RTL Motorsport Klub are two of Nissan's top drivers and should compete for a top 20 finish and if they get a smidge of luck, perhaps a top 15.