Following that, Andre Dessoude and Team Dessoude went on to play a central role in Nissan's Dakar Rally activities.
Although Dessoude missed out on a win in 1982, he acquitted himself well with an excellent maiden course completion. Awareness of the "Paris-Dakar" was already high when Dessoude tried his hand as a privateer in a self-prepared Nissan Patrol, well-known for its durability.
As time went on, Team Dessoude improved its overall capabilities, for example winning second place in the diesel prototype class of the (seventh) 1985 rally. In the (ninth) 1987 rally, with the support of the distributor, Richard-Nissan (predecessor of today's Nissan France), Dessoude began participating with the Terrano, which had just appeared on the market.
Nissan quit the dunes
The first diesel to attempt the rally, the Terrano was not successful, but from 1988 (the 10th rally) when Dessoude switched to a VG30 three-liter gasoline engine V6, Nissan began providing full support activities. The technical support of Nismo was also effective in improving Nissan's potential. Also in 1988 Nissan entered the rally with a three-vehicle approach, including driver Philippe Alliot who was active on the F1 circuit at that time.
Dessoude cars achieved excellent class victories, with one coming second in the unmodified production class in 1988 (equivalent to the T1 class instituted in the following year) and another finishing 11th overall in 1989. Leaving other prototype rivals in its wake, a Terrano achieved the remarkable feat of coming 11th in the T1 class. Terranos went on to achieve a string of victories after that and the marque eventually became a byword for the T1 class.
Partly as a test, Thierry de Lavergne and D'Orgeix entered the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup where they won the Marathon Trophy (becoming T1 class champions) for three years in a row from 1993, the rally's initial year.
By the end of the 1980's, European countries such as Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Belgium were also entering many vehicles, centered on the Nissan Patrol. Spain's Nissan Motor Iberica, which built the Nissan Patrol locally, entered a Patrol diesel prototype it had developed itself. Performing better than a gasoline vehicle, the prototype attracted considerable attention.
But the rally attracted a plethora of vehicle types, including the long-body T1 specification preferred by the privateers, long and short bodies, and gasoline and diesel motors. One reason for the increase in Nissan vehicle entries was the existence of a competition vehicle production company established jointly by Richard-Nissan (as it was then) and Dessoude to support Nissan users.
The Nissan vehicles, which numbered just 10 in 1986, steadily grew to 50 - the highest number of entries of any maker in the Dakar Rally. Teams of regular participants appeared, including teams of Nissan employees from Japan driving Terranos. In 1998 and 1999, Masahiro Hasemi, a race veteran and one of Japan's top circuit racers, entered the rally on the Nissan team.
In 2000, with the full backup of Nissan Europe and Nissan Motorsports Europe (as it was then), Nissan developed a new type of T2-spec Terrano with a VQ35DE engine. Driven by Thierry de Lavergne and others, this new Terrano, with its low center of gravity and excellent aerodynamics came eighth overall in its debut in the 1998 Dakar Rally.
In addition, the new T1 specification Terrano displayed its excellent origins and in the 2001 rally was driven to victory by Stephane Peterhansel, who had achieved an unprecedented six wins in the two-wheel class. In 2002, Peterhansel went on to drive, with co-driver Gregoire de Mevius, a Nissan South Africa-built super-production pickup. Ultra-popular French musician Johnny Hallyday participated in the same rally on a super-production X-Trail along with Rene Metge (two-time winner and course director of the 10th rally, later promoter of the Paris- Beijing rally).
In 2003, Nissan sent a works team to the Dakar Rally for the first time. The vehicles were 2003 model Nissan South Africa-built pick-ups, including improvements based on 2002 specifications such as the addition of a tire pressure control system. The three vehicles (which included one evolution model with 4 wheel independent suspension) were driven by Kenjiro Shinozuka, who became the first Japanese driver to win the Rally in 1997, Ari Vatanen, ex-WRC champion and 4 time winner of the Paris-Dakar Rally, and Giniel de Villiers, who has put a great deal of effort into automobile development in South Africa.
Furthermore, Team Dessoude became part of the Nissan works team and drove the two Nissan pickups (drivers Thierry de Lavergne and Al Mutaiwei). De Villiers finished in 5th place, Vatanen in 7th place and de Lavergne in 11th place. Kenjiro Shinozuka was forced to retire on the 9th day, but with ShinozukaÍs victory in the prologue and VatanenÍs 4 stage wins the team secured a good response.
2004 saw the introduction of a greatly improved Nissan Pick-up into the rally. The driver line-up was impressive, and included ex-WRC champion Colin McRae, Yves Loubet, Vatanen and de Villiers. In addition to this, under the so-called ñrookie programî designed to nurture young Japanese drivers, Yoshio Ikemachi, who started out as a motor bike driver, drove a Nissan Patrol (T1), and Jun Mihashi drove a Nissan Terrano (T1).
Despite aiming for the top, the Nissan team repeatedly faced severe difficulties in the heated battle, and in the end had to make do with the 7th place achieved by G. de Villiers. On the other hand, Ikemachi fought well, and despite the fact that it was his first appearance as an automobile driver he became the first Japanese participant to win in the T1 class.
Nissan miss primary goal
51 not out for Vatanen
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