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South African Nissan Navaras finish fourth, fifth and 20th on Dakar Rally


-- Dakar Rally 2009(Argentina-Chile) Race Report --

Three privately-entered Nissan Navaras, built by Nissan Motorsport in South Africa have finished fourth, fifth and 20th in the Dakar Rally Argentina-Chile, which ended in Buenos Aires on Saturday afternoon after 15 gruelling days’ racing across two continents and over the Andes Mountains.

Norwegian adventurer and mountain climber Ivar Erik Tollefsen and his English co-driver Quin Evans, regular competitors in the South African off road championship, finished a remarkable fourth overall in their Nissan Navara pickup competing under the banner of Team Overdrive of Belgium. They completed the 9 500-km ultra marathon cross country race in a time of 44 hr 15 min 31 sec and were 6 hr 4 min 34 sec behind the winners, South Africa’s Giniel de Villiers and Dirk von Zitzewitz of Germany in a factory Volkswagen Race Touareg.

Fifth overall, 33 min 15 seconds behind Tollefsen and Evans, was former Polish rally champion Krzysztof Holowczyc and his Belgian co-driver Jean-Marc Fortin in a second Team Overdrive Navara. The third proudly South African Nissan, crewed by Hungarian cross country champions Laszlo Palik and Gabor Darazsi, finished 20th, 27 hr 22 min 19 seconds behind the winners.

“Ivar and Krzysztof’s performance on what was one of the toughest Dakars in recent years was massive. It’s simply heroic,” said Glyn Hall, general manager of Nissan Motorsport, who was team manager in South America for Team Overdrive. “They won the class for production vehicles and were only beaten by the state-of-the-art factory Touareg prototype and a multi-million dollar racing Hummer. We believe that Ivar’s fourth place is the highest a genuine privateer has achieved in the Dakar in the modern era.”

“South Africans can be very proud today,” added Hall. "Not only did our Navara pickups survive the world’s toughest off road race, but there were also two South Africans in the first two cars - Giniel de Villiers in the winning Touareg and his team-mate Ralph Pitchford, who was co-driver in the second-placed Touareg.

"Giniel is a former national off road champion in one of our Nissan Hardbody pickups and joined Volkswagen’s Dakar squad after completing three Dakars in a factory Nissan Hardbody. Giniel is the first South African to win the Dakar and we’re very proud of him. It’s a huge achievement, comparable to Jody Scheckter winning the 1979 Formula One world championship in a Ferrari.’

"Ralph is co-driver to reigning South African off road champion Duncan Vos in our Sasol Nissan Navara, pretty much the same car that Ivar and Krzysztof drove on the Dakar.

“We knew that our racing Navara was a strong vehicle - we’ve won the national off road championship for the last three years - but to have this kind of affirmation is really satisfying. We have customers all over the world and have already delivered 10 of these vehicles to customers around the world.”

A delighted Johan Kleynhans, sales and marketing director of Nissan South Africa: “Congratulations to all three Nissan crews for their historic performance on the Dakar. Nissan has a proud history in motor sport around the world and today a new chapter has been written. We’re very proud of our motor sport department, who built these racing Navaras and also the Hardbody and Navara pickups that have won the last eight South African off road championships. It’s a great demonstration of our ’made in South Africa’ product and it’s appropriate that it comes in the 50th year of our involvement in motor sport in South Africa.”


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