Giniel de Villiers has been confirmed as one of the four works drivers for Team Nissan who will compete in the 2004 Dakar Rally in France, Spain and North Africa next January.

The 31-year-old South African, who finished fifth in his debut on the 2003 Dakar Rally this January, will compete in an evolutionary version of the Proudly South African Nissan Hardbody Pickup used in the 2003 event. De Villiers also drove for Team Nissan in the Morocco Rally in June, winning the fourth round of the FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup by almost 43 minutes in his South African-built Nissan Hardbody.

“It’s a relief to have a contract signed, and it’s an honour to be chosen as a member of Nissan’s international motorsport team again,” said De Villiers. “It’s great to compete overseas, and I’m hoping it’ll bring me other opportunities within Nissan internationally. I’m very excited.”

The Capetonian’s contract involves a number of other duties, including testing and the possibility of up to three other off-road events in 2004.

“Our immediate challenge is the next Dakar, and with the experience gained in this year’s event, and more recently the Morocco Rally, there will be far fewer surprises in store for me next time round. Also, the Hardbody has undergone a number of changes that will make it even better suited to the conditions.”

De Villiers spearheads Nissan South Africa’s domestic off-road campaign, and won the local championship overall in 2001 at the wheel of a Hardbody-based production vehicle. He and co-driver Francois Jordaan were the outright winners of the recent Tarka 400, round five of the SA Off-Road Car Championship…presented by Absa.

In terms of an agreement reached before this year’s Dakar, the Nissan desert racers will be built, prepared and run by Nissan South Africa up to and including the 2005 race.

“Giniel’s confirmation as a driver for Dakar 2004 is an endorsement of his driving skill and professionalism,” added Glyn Hall, who is in charge of Nissan South Africa’s motorsport operation and also acted as the technical head of Nissan’s 2003 Dakar effort.

“It’s a great opportunity for him to gain experience and exposure in the international arena and we as a team are very pleased for him. To have finished fifth at his first attempt at the Dakar is no mean achievement, and we hope to provide him with the equipment and the back-up to do even better in 2004.”

Original article from Car