If Christian Lavieille’s Proto looks like Nissan to you it’s because it is Nissan. Properly modified and adjusted by Team Dessoude but still powered by VQ 40 V6 engine. From the very beginning of a rally Lavieille was on a winning string fighting side by side with Novitskiy. But in the third stage Russian lost his way and with 50 minutes loss his chance to win seemed faint. In the half time of the race J-L Schlesser grabbed the second place only some tens of seconds behind Lavieille and with fine advantage on third Eric Vigouroux.
Steadily driving Italian Maurizio Traglio with Nissan Pathfinder had to withdraw during the fourth stage while he was sixth in general ranking. Schlesser’s teammate Francois Lethier crashed heavily in the same stage and the car caught fire. His co-pilot Jean Marie Lurquin was badly burnt and transported to hospital in Benarous. More unexpected problems surprised two of the leading three on the penultimate stage. Eric Vigouroux experienced transmission failure which dragged him down to tenth. Lavieille was caught speeding and with 30 minute penalty he lost the first place which was in possession of J-L Schlesser. Thanks to Vigouroux’ problems Novitskiy was back on podium.
The last special stage with 133 kilometers against the clock was way too short for Lavieille to fight the victory back. He lost to Schlesser by ten minutes. And with the same time difference he defeated third- placed Novitskiy. Ronan Chabot, former T2 class ace, switched to T1 SMG Buggy and finished fourth. Pascal Thomasse (MD Buggy) on the fifth was one position worse than last year. Eric Vigouroux used the last stage the best he could and improved his position to sixth overall. Ludovic Leluop (Toyota HZJ 80) as the fastest Tunisian pilot finished eight.
Nissan has a very strong position in T2 class (production cars) and just like in Abu Dhabi these cars dominated the race. Two Russians Artem Varentsov and Andrey Ivanov driving Toyota faced the family duo of Laurent and Joseph Rosso representing Team Dessoude backup-ed Nissans. Except the first stage Laurent Rosso was undisputed ruler of Tunisian dunes. He won five out of six stages and finished tenth overall with huge advantage on the second Varentsov. And as history repeats third has been Joseph Rosso.
A short list of other categories and trophies winners:
Chilean Francisco “Chaleco” Lopez won the motorbike category beating all the big machines with his Aprilia 450 RXV.
Romain Souvignet from Team Casteu team won Enduro Cup on his Sherco 450 Rally.
Polish Rafal Sonik won the quad category riding Yamaha 700 Raptor.
Yves Fromont won Wildcat Trophy and Elisabete Jacinto the truck category on her big blue MAN.