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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 January, 2004, 10:33 GMT
McRae relishing Dakar test
Former world rally champion Colin McRae
The Dakar Rally will be a new experience for McRae
Former world rally champion Colin McRae is looking forward to making his mark in the Dakar Rally.

The 6,800-mile marathon in the Sahara desert, which begins on New year's Day, is a lot longer than the rallies McRae normally competes in.

But the 1995 world champion relishes the opportunity to try something new.

"I am really looking forward to it. Now I will have the chance to tackle a true endurance event, and I cannot wait in all honesty," he said.

"The car will be radically different to what I am used to, as it is Nissan's Double Cab 4x4, but this is all about taking on a new challenge," he added.

"My co-driver will be Tina Thorner, who has done this event many times, and I'll be banking on her experience and that of my team-mate Ari Vatanen to help me through my first Paris-Dakar."

McRae is particularly looking forward to the Dakar because in recent years on the world championship he has missed the challenge of Kenya's Safari Rally since the event was shortened and sanitised.

"Dakar is more like the Safari Rally, where the first objective is to survive it and then think about your position," said McRae.

"I'm used to rallies where you go flat out for about six stages of 20 minutes or so on each of the three days. Dakar lasts for six times as many days and some of the stages are 700km long. You're doing 10 to 12 hours a day."

Nissan's Dakar Rally chief Gilles Martineau is delighted to have the Scot on board.

"The fact that Colin McRae has joined Nissan is a major topic in Europe and elsewhere," said Martineau.

"Colin is an extremely experienced driver and has remarkable talent.

"Colin is known for blinding speed in gravel rallies, but I expect him to enjoy driving this traditional desert rally."

The rally starts in the Auvergne region of France and travels through Morocco, Mauritania and Mali before finishing in the Senegalese capital Dakar on 18 January.

Reigning champion Hiroshi Masuoka will be looking to give Mitsubishi their fourth win in a row, while Russia's Vladimir Tchaguine is the defending champion in the truck category.

The other Britons competing alongside McRae in the car section, which always provides the overall winner, are Mark and Paul Round and fellow Land Rover drivers Paul Green and Daniel Upton.

Patsy Quick, who crashed and ruptured her spleen in last year's event, will return to race in the motorbike class.

McRae to race in desert rally
18 Nov 03  |  World Rally

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