Clearly the most demanding and difficult of all motorsports events in the world, two weeks with only a single day off, almost 7000 miles, brutal terrain—The Dakar is here!!
Again held in South America and known affectionately as "El Dakaro" it got underway in earnest today. The first few Argentina stages are mostly tight gravel track similar to that of the WRC events that take place there. This terrain favors the 4WD vehicles and the WRC experienced drivers. My "hope" for the event is to see a single Nissan place in the top ten and three in the top 20. I think that is a realistic goal given they put two in the top five and three in the top 15 in '09.
Numerous items going against the Nissans are the reasons for my dialed back expectations, not the least of which is the lack of support from Nissan South Africa who dumped motorsports entirely in late '09.
Regardless, today was a decent day for the more favoured Nissans. Krysztof Holowczyc who finished fith overall in '09, returns in his SA built Navara and was ninth off the line and finished 7th on the day, 6:07 adrift of the leader Joan "Nani" Roma (a guy) in his factory BMW. Christian Lavielle and his Dessoude Navara finished 14th, right where he started the day, 10:05 behind. The other two strong Nissan efforts are driven by Alfie Cox, who is driving the same Navara that Ivar Tollefsen took to an amazing fourth place in the '09 Dakar. Alfie started 30th on the day and came in 17th which bodes REALLY well for this team and lastly there was the third Overdrive Racing entry (Holowczyc and Cox being the other two) of Alexander Mironenko who started 34th and finished 29th.
The race has a LOOOOOOOOONG way to go and for the Nissans to put in a good showing they will have to perservere as others fall out—as happened in '09, but if Lavielle can manage not to burn down his Navara for the second year in a row and the others can drive competitively but not beyond the edge, they could exceed my modest expectations once again...Fingers crossed...