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Former World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen drove his Nissan to victory in the 13th stage of the Dakar Rally across the Egyptian desert from Siwa to Dakhla on Thursday.

The 50-year-old Finn, who is a member of the European Parliament, completed the 657-km stage 16 minutes and 11 seconds ahead of rally leader Stephane Peterhansel.

Frenchman Peterhansel was fifth but still managed to extend his overall lead over defending champion Hiroshi Masuoka of Japan to 25 minutes and 50 seconds. Masuoka was sixth.

Driving across the North African desert makes a stark change from Vatanen's day job as a member of the European Parliament in Brussels, to which he was elected in 1999.

Vatanen, who started racing in 1970, was world rally champion in 1981 as well as twice winning the British rally championship. He has raced in the Paris-Dakar Rally four times before, most recently in 1991.

Luc Alphand of France, in a BMW, was second in Wednesday's stage, one minute and 18 seconds behind the winner, while South Africa's Ginie de Villiers, also in a Nissan, finished third.

In the motorbike category, rally leader Richard Sainct of France finished more than 13 minutes behind Italian winner Fabrizio Meoni, who has won the Dakar Rally for the last two years.

Sainct was closely followed by another Frenchman Cyril Despres and so extended his overall lead over his compatriot to 11 minutes and two seconds.

Source: Reuters

Date published: Jan 16, 2003

straight at T
2,472 Posts
Vatanen seems to be having fun (joking about usually being interviewed after big crashes etc.). The truck looks fast, but awfully tail-happy. Maybe that's driving style or setup, since none of the other Nissans seem to be doing it, and the Mitsus and BMWs seem to be rock-steady in the same conditions.

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