South African Dakar rookie privateers Shameer Variawa and Zaheer Bodhanya were a bundle of nerves as the SVR Red Lined Nissan duo waited to start well back in the field on a busy 84km stage through the Peruvian dunes. Setting off 94th of 99 cars, the duo expected navigation to be easier as a result, but they were concerned about racing on tracks churned up by the traffic ahead.
Their concerns however proves quite unnecessary as they powered their brand new South African designed and developed Nissan Navara V8 home 45th overall, just 20 minutes off the leaders in spite of having to fight their way through the field. The Nissan however missed a waypoint en route, earning them a 20 minute penalty to slip down the field.
“Stage 1 of our Dakar debut is done and dusted,” Shameer Variawa confirmed after the first day’s racing that included an 84km racing loop around the dunes of Pisco following a 247km liaison down the breathtaking Pacific coast. “It was a complicated stage — we did not have any prior seeding, so had to start down in 92nd position, which meant we had a lot of dust and so many slower cars to pass.
“We initially struggled to find our rhythm — the stage took us straight into some monster dunes, but once we settled down we found a comfortable race pace, which allowed us to pass several other cars and we managed to finish 45th, which momentarily was great considering our starting position. “Sadly we picked up a 20 min penalty for a missed waypoint which dropped us back down the field — a bitter pill to swallow but as they say at the Dakar; it is what it is!”
Reflecting on the rollercoaster of the build-up to the team’s first Dakar, Variawa was touched by the moment: “It took a year to get here and and it was quite emotional as we waited for the start and sitting there with the car ready to rock and roll was a special moment in anticipation for the first test of what’s to come…”
“Anyway one down, nine to go,” Shameer concluded. “We will continue to take it day by day and stage by stage as we find our feet at the world’s toughest motorsport event — thanks to all, following us for all the support!” Tuesday’s second day runs from Pisco to San Juan de Marcona in the first long stage of Dakar, once again through the dunes of the Peruvian desert with the cars starting midday South African time.