LEG 11 : KIDAL (MALI) - TIMBUKTU (MALI)
Distance : 577KM
Stage distance : 568KM
Wednesday, January 15, 1997
It was a day of high drama on the 11th leg of the gruelling Dakar Rally as Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka, partnered by French co-driver Henri Magne, retook the lead by just 45 seconds in the Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero. It was also a day of celebration for French privateers Jean-Pierre Strugo and Bruno Cattarelli, driving in the Mitsubishi International team, who won their first ever leg in their T3 Mitsubishi Pajero.
MITSUBISHIS IN CHARGE AS SHINOZUKA RETAKES LEAD AND STRUGO WINS LEG IN DAKAR RALLY
The three Mitsubishi Pajeros leading the event are virtually neck-and-neck as the Dakar approaches its climax, with French pair Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra second in their Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, and fellow countrymen Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys third in their Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero. However, a degree of control is being exercised by Team Manager Ullrich Brehmer who, while not issuing team orders, is applying a daily strategy to avoid risk-taking.
Today's leg was another long, arduous trek for the remaining 99 cars and trucks that started from Kidal this morning in an attempt to cross the burning desert of the northern Sahel. There was something for everyone on the 568 km stage: long, fast straights across desert plateaux, tortuously twisty mountain tracks strewn with rocks, not to mention a punishing 100 km section of camel grass which can rip the suspension from a car with an incautious driver.
The three leading Mitsubishis played safe. Rather than battling with each other, they regrouped before the bumpy camel grass section with Saby leading the way, Shinozuka second, and Fontenay, the most mechanically experienced, brining up the rear to help with any repairs needed, in true team spirit.
But the day's winner Strugo, with his Pajero's independent rear suspension (which puts him in the T3 category in 1997 Dakar regulation), took advantage of the leading trio's caution to score his first ever stage victory. He said: "Our car was very suited to this stage, especially our rear suspension. My win would have been much bigger if I had not had a puncture in the first part of the stage."
Happiest of all was Shinozuka, delighted at regaining the lead he held at Agades and lost at Oclan. He commented: "I am pleased to be in front. The only problem today was through the camel grass, where our shock absorber temperatures were very high. We knew this would happen which is why we drove very carefully. This section is very hard on a car." Fontenay added: "Although it was a tough stage, it was not very difficult because we all agreed to drive slowly. The sand was also very soft in places, so all the transmission temperatures were high too." Saby concurred: "It was the same for me. I was always worried, but these cars are very strong, so it was just a matter of not taking any unnecessary risks."
Ullrich Brehmer explained the team strategy, commenting: "We decided a strategy for today based on the terrain, and we will do the same for each leg from now on. We decided to go fast on the first part, but then regroup and go slowly through the difficult parts, and then race to Timbuktu. I still cannot say who will win Dakar. My first priority is seeing three Mitsubishi Pajeros on the podium. It is still to early to issue team orders; it is simply a strategy to minimise risk for all three cars."
Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and his German Navigator Andreas Schulz played a helping role at first today in their Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger / Montero Sport. They waited for Shinozuka after 15 km to check he was in good shape, before continuing to do battle with Strugo to the finish. Said Schulz: "We tried to win the stage and we had a good fight with Strugo. It was a good feeling. I thought the stage was very nice and I think Hiroshi enjoyed the driving."
Also delighted with their highest ever placing on a competitive section were five-times Thai National Rally Champions Pornsawan Siriwatankun and Tull Suvanarat who finished the day second to hold eighth overall in their Mitsubishi Pajero. Said Suvanarat: "We didn't do anything special. We just drove at our normal pace. We had no problems at all with the car."
Portuguese driver Carlos Souza and his navigator Philippe Rey continued to stick to their cautious strategy, now with an unassailable lead in the T1 category in their Mitsubishi Pajero. Said Rey: "Our job is now to go very carefully and get to Dakar. We have a big lead so all we need to to is get to the finish."
French pair Bruno Lhotellerie and Benoit Leheron pushed their Pajero back up into second place in T1 after languishing in third for two days allowing Philippe Alliot's Nissan to split the two Mitsubishis. Lhotellerie explained: "I was very ill for two days with a stomach problem, so I couldn't compete very well. But I am much better now, so we have regained second place from Alliot."
Brazilians Klever Kolberg and Joao Mesquita continued to do well in their Pajero, reaching Timbuktu for their second visit without drama this time after rolling before their first visit last week. Said Kolberg: " It is much easier now that I am not in the dust of other cars. I was warned that today would be very difficult, but I was careful and I did not think it was too bad."
The two Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS trucks have been ploughing through the desert sections without problem since they left Agades, although the drivers admitted that it was hard work. The director of Mitsubishi Sonauto Ralliart, Karl Ille explained: "These trucks have a short wheel base which means we cannot fit long leaf springs, which makes them very stiff. This means the trucks are exceptionally strong, but it makes the drivers' lives very tough."
Gilbert Versino, driver of the leading Mitsubishi truck, agreed: "On fast bumps and twisty sections it is hard work. But on fast, flowing sections, the truck is a joy to drive and we are 5th and 6th in our category."
SS11 /EC11 KIDAL - TIMBUKTU 568KM
1 - JP STRUGO MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T3.1 05:40:11 2 - P. SIRIWATANAKUN MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 05:43:29 3 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ 05:43:33 4 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger / Montero Sport T2 05:44:25 5 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT SCHLESSER ORIG T3.2 05:47:23 6 - JP FONTENAY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 05:50:23 7 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 04:55:04 8 - D. GUEDES NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 05:51:34 9 - S. SERVIA NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 05:58:35 10 - E. ARGAZZI NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 06:01:40
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS11 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL après EC11
1 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 48:45:35 2 - JP. FONTENAY / B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +00:00:45 3 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 +00:09:35 4 - H. MASUOKA/A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER/MONTERO SPORTÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +02:12:09 5 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT / J. BOUTAIRE (D/FR) SCHLESSER ORIGÅ@Å@ T3.2 +04:31:44 6 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +04:40:25 7 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T3.1 +05:41:28 8 - P. SIRIWATANAKUN / T. SUVANARAT (T) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 +05:51:15 9 - D. GUEDES / J. DUBOIS (POR / FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +07:47:39 10- E. ARGAZZI/R. ARGAZZI (IT) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +07:55:21
Tomorrow, Thursday, January 16, 1997
Leg 11: - Timbuktu (Mali) - Nema (Mauritania)
Special Stage: 577km
After their second visit to Timbuktu in the 1997 Dakar, the remaining competitors in the rally will wave goodbye to the legendary town and Mali for the last time tomorrow, as they head for some gruelling rallying in Mauritania. The next stop is Nema, just across the border, before which they must endure narrow tracks through heavier vegetation in the Sahel.
The first motorbike is scheduled to start at 07:15 to arrive in Nema at around 16:15. The first car is due to leave Timbuktu at 08:45, aiming for Nema by 17:45.
MITSUBISHI OIL - PIAA - OFF ROAD EXPRESS - MICHELIN
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.