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FIA Tunisia Rally: Lavieille finishes on the third step of the podium.

The last stage, between Ksar Ghilane and Djerba, was full of suspense, with the final hierarchy still to be defined. However, after a 286 km timed stage, there were no changes to the positions set the day before. Dominique Housieaux took the win, ahead of Eric Vigouroux, while Christian Lavieille climbed onto the third step of the podium, with the Dessoude Proto. Plenty of satisfactio n for th e whole team, and most particularly for André Desso ude.

This final, extremely technical, stage, between Ksar Ghilane and El Kantara, kept the suspense going until the very end. W hile Dominique Housieaux had a lead of just 12 seconds, Eric Vigouroux, on the attack, made a navigational mistake and lost all hopes of victory. As an outsider, Christian Lavieille did not relax, waiting for any of his rivals to make a mistake. Eventually, the Team Dessoude driver finished third, 14 minutes behind Eric Vigouroux.

Christian Lavieille and François Borsotto crossed the finish line, on the El Kantara beach, with great satisfaction. Christian, who finished in second position in Tunisia in 2007, did not appear too disappointed : "Globally, I am quite satisfied. We finished third in the rally, and it was not easy, especially as on a personal level I had a difficult week, due to the death of my mother the day before the start. I am pleased with the final result, I am just sorry that I made some mistakes, but everyone made some errors. We had s ome navigational problems, as well as getting beached twice, which lost us 25 minutes, but we were not the only ones to have had their fare s hare of problems.

I think we finished in the right place. Our pace was off at the start, I thought my rhythm was right, but it turned out that it wasn’t. The thing I am particularly happy with is the handling of the car. All the ev olutions we made were very positive,
especially over the sand and the camel grass, where there are real improv ements. We also gained in speed. There is still s ome work to be done, but André Dessoude’s team did excellent work every evening. The mechanics gave me a perfect car for each and every special stage. I am happy. I would have preferred to have won - but all drivers are the same in that respect."

Having finished on the podium of this event on many occasions, François Borsotto gave his comments: "The final classification is logical. We did the best we could, and given normal conditions, we could not catch the buggy. I’m back on the podium in this event, for the 7th or 8th time."

The team’s "boss", André Dessoude, drew up the final report of this very difficult race: "I am very pleased that Christian finished third. He could perhaps have finished second, but you have to consider that he set off under very bad psychological conditions. Over the early days, he could not have been thinking of the race 100%, after a difficult personal drama. He did everything he could, and that is excellent. There were no problems with the car. The mechanics worked well, and everyone was very motivated. Géraldine’s accident, and the repatriation of the cars took up a lot of my time these last few days, and the whole team reacted perfectly. They were behind me, and behind Christian. I am really proud of my team."

As André Dessoude mentioned, Géraldine Deshayes, his faithful assistant for many years, suffered an accident during the Idri /Idri loop in Libya, which meant she had to be repatriated back to France. After many uncertainties, she was finally diagnosed as having two broken cervical vertebrae. Back home, Géraldine will now begin a long convalescence before heading back to the rally raids. We wish her a speedy recovery as we are all waiting for her.

However, there was some disappointment concerning the T2 category: "Quite honestly, we could have won in T2. Three retirements on the same day is really bad luck. The law of Motorsport is very harsh. When I see the final classification, I think we could have managed a one-two-three. We had quite a few problems on this rally, but by the end, things became clear and fell into place. Géraldine’s accident was difficult, as we had a quite a few questions about her health. Now, we have been reassured, and she will have to rest. It will be difficult for the team to work without her for a while, but the hardest thing will be to persuade her to look after herself.

To come back to the Proto 05, I am pleased with the work we have done. The car is reliable, and has no more problems. The work accomplished on the same car with Miguel Barbosa on the Portuguese Championship allowed us to move things along. Everyone does his share of the work, and when we put together the analysis from both drivers, we notice that plenty of things are confirmed, which allows us to validate this or that technical option. Two drivers, both good at setting the car up, with identical cars on different terrains, means that we have been able to make the Proto evolve very rapidly. It would be amusing to get one of the drivers from the official Team Nissan days to try it - I think he would really notice the difference. The field has evolved greatly in a short time, and we had to really move fast these last two years to remain competitive.

The Team’s programme over the coming months starts with the Transoriental rally, organised by René Metge, between St Petersburg and Peking. We will continue with the Portuguese Championship, with nine events. To date, three have taken place, and Miguel Barbosa has won all three. We will certainly go to Egypt, and we are waiting for more information on the new Dakar in South America. It will be brand new, and we will certainly head towards Argentina shortly to organise the logistics and to make some contacts."

Last but not least, Pascal Lehuby and Laurent Levêque, who were taking part in the Desert Tracking regularity event, following the same itinerary as the rally, won this challenge hands down with their Team Dessoude Nissan Patrol. Our two friends from Saint Lô will have some fantastic tales to tell on their return, having been through plenty of joy and adventures. Well done, gentlemen.

The 27th Rally of Tunisia finished after nine days of intense racing for the competitors and assistance crews alike. Crossing two countries, this was a true desert rally, with breathtaking landscapes - unforgettable, even for the most unlucky of competitors.

2008/05/06 | 15:24 CET | Editor: MR/HS/Dessoude

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