LEG 15: SAINT LOUIS (SENEGAL) - DAKAR (SENEGAL)
Stage distance: 18KM
Sunday, January 19, 1997
SHINOZUKA FIRST JAPANESE VICTOR IN DAKAR
AS MITSUBISHI SWEEPS ALL MAJOR AWARDS
Kenjiro Shinozuka made history in Africa today, Sunday, January 19, when he won the *8,049km 1997 Dakar-Agades-Dakar Rally in his Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero, becoming the first Japanese driver ever to win the Dakar. After the final 18 km along the beach at Dakar and around the famous Pink Lake, Shinozuka, co-driven by Frenchman Henri Magne, crossed the line to rapturous applause from the many thousands of spectators who crowded the podium in bright sunshine and cooling breezes to witness a fabulous Mitsubishi 1-2-3-4 result.
It was an unprecedented result for Mitsubishi, with French pair Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra in second place in their Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, and fellow countrymen Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys third in the Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero. Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and his German partner Andreas Schulz were fourth in the Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger / Montero Sport, recording the first Dakar result for the Challenger / Montero Sport model.
Shinozuka declared: "It's a great feeling to win the Dakar at last. I have participated 12 times and every year I wanted to win. Now it is a dream come true. The Dakar is the most popular motor sport event for Japan and this result is good for me and good for Mitsubishi. I really enjoyed driving the T2 Pajero."
Second placed Fontenay observed: "All the stages were very nice and the car superb. The whole package with the Pajero - the brakes, suspension, engine, everything - works perfectly in harmony."
Said Saby: "For me this was a great rally. I like the new format and driving this T2 Pajero was very enjoyable no matter what the terrain was like."
And Masuoka added: "We only had four months to test the Challenger / Montero Sport but the car was perfect and we had no problems at all apart from four punctures during the event. The Challenger's performance (Challenger / Montero Sport) was better than I expected. I am very happy to get fourth place and my target next year is to be the overall winner."
Team Manager for the leading trio of Mitsubishis, Ullrich Brehmer was ecstatic, and stated: "I think we have completed a superb Dakar to fill the podium places with Mitsubishi Pajeros. Apart from a minor electrical problem with Fontenay's car, none of the Pajeros stopped for a single minute with a mechanical problem. I am delighted with this result - it is a good return on Mitsubishi's investment. It all went very well."
Mitsubishi's success extended right through the field to include class wins in the T3, T1 and Marathon classes, including a clean sweep of the top three places once again in T1 - the class for near-standard vehicle.
Portuguese driver Carlos Souza secured first place in T1, co-driven by Philippe Rey, in a Mitsubishi Pajero having led almost from the start of the event, following a strategy of careful driving. Their only problem was worn shock absorbers which started to affect the car's handling towards the finish. Said Souza: "We drove very carefully and we were kind to the car right from the beginning. We let all the others go fast and break their cars. I was quite surprised to lead from such an early stage. The car performed perfectly and we never had any serious problems."
French pair Bruno Lhotellerie and Benoit Leheron survived a late challenge from ex-Formula One star Philippe Alliot in his Nissan to take second place in their Mitsubishi Pajero. Delighted Frenchman Lhotellerie said: "I am very happy to be second. It was hard work but the car was very good."
Spaniards Miguel Prieto and Carlos Mas had hoped to win T1 this year but after early delays in the first week, they were nevertheless happy to win the Marathon Class and collect third in T1 in their Mitsubishi Pajero. In the Marathon class, the crew is not allowed to change any major parts on the car which are all sealed by the organisers, so their achievement is all the more remarkable. Said Prieto: "I would like to have won T1, but we are lucky to be here in Dakar at all. I am very happy that I won the Marathon award."
One driver whose result exceeded his expectations was Frenchman Jean-Pierre Strugo, who entered the event in T3 for the first time along with navigator Bruno Catarelli in their Mitsubishi Pajero. He explained: "I secretly hoped to get eighth place in Dakar but I told everyone I wanted just to be in the top 10. I was in eighth by the end of the second leg, so I was happy, but to get here in seventh place and win T3/1 was even better than my secret ambition."
A delighted Karl Ille, the director of Sonauto Ralliart and manager of the three leading T1 Pajeros, commented: "We have won all the classes we entered with Mitsubishis, so it cannot get better than that! It has been a brilliant rally for us."
The two Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS completed the rally in exceptionally good shape, with nothing other than a puncture and a slightly problematic cabin problem that was easily fixed to bother the six crew members in the two machines. Both trucks provided excellent service to the International group of Mitsubishi privateers, arriving in good time at the bivouac every evening packed with parts and support.
The two trucks proved to be very strong and agile, although their exhausted drivers revealed that the suspension was set too hard which made them difficult to control on twisty or bumpy sections. On wider tracks and through sweeping bends, these powerful machines were unbeatable, however.
Gilbert Versino, the French driver of the first Mitsubishi truck home, said: "The truck is superb. On fast, flowing stages it is a joy to drive, but it was very hard work on the narrow, twisty stages. But, we had no mechanical problems at all - the truck is very strong."
Driver of the second truck, Granjon added: "I am very tired, but very happy to get to Dakar. The truck is very strong, but the suspension is too stiff which made the twisty stages difficult." For Mitsubishi, the 1997 Dakar was an astounding success, despite the stiff opposition from the massed ranks of Nissan, Toyota and Jean-Louis Schlesser's team of buggies. But as the opposition wilted in the heat, the Mitsubishis remained strong, reliable and fast enough to win virtually all the classes and categories. It proved beyond all reasonable doubt that the Mitsubishi 4WD cars are Kings of Africa and masters of the cross-country world.
*Total kilometers after route change on Stage 7 of original 8,518km
(Route change was to avoid risk in the region of the Massif.)
SS15 /EC15 SAINT LOUIS - DAKAR 18KM
1 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT SCHLESSER ORIGÅ@Å@ T3.2 00:22:43 2 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ 00:23:38 3 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger / Montero Sport T2 00:23:41 4 - G. VISMARA VISMARA ORIG T3.1 00:24:26 5 - D. POLLINI ROVERÅ@Å@ T3.1 00:24:29 6 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 00:24:38 7 - JP. FONTENAY / B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ 00:24:39 8 - JP DUCROUX TOYOTA T3.1 00:25:36 9 - S. SERVIA NISSANÅ@Å@ T3.1 00:26:21 10 - JP STRUGO MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T3.1 00:26:23
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS15 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL apres EC15
1 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 61:58:31 2 - JP. FONTENAY / B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +00:04:16 3 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 +00:09:12 4 - H. MASUOKA/A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER/MONTERO SPORTÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +02:25:27 5 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT / J. BOUTAIRE (D/FR) SCHLESSER ORIGÅ@Å@ T3.2 +04:35:51 6 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +05:15:14 7 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T3.1 +06:20:08 8 - D. GUEDES / J. DUBOIS (POR / FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +09:23:13 9 - E. ARGAZZI/R. ARGAZZI (IT) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +09:40:41 10- C. SOUZA / P. REY (POR/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T1 +10:14:58 11- B.LHOTELLERIE / B. LEHERON (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T1 +11:13:10 12- M. PRIETO / C. MAS (SP) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T1 +12:34:49
MITSUBISHI OIL / PIAA / OFF ROAD EXPRESS / MICHELIN
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.