LEG 12 : TIMBUKTU (MALI) - NEMA (MAURITANIA)
Distance : 585KM
Stage distance : 577KM
Thursday, January 16, 1997
After what was arguably the longest and hardest day of this year's epic Dakar Rally from Timbuktu in Mali to Nema in Mauritania, Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka and his French navigator Henri Magne look set for an historic victory in their Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero. Although a mere 23 seconds in the lead, Mitsubishi Team Manager Ullrich Brehmer decided today to protect Mitsubishi's magnificent 1-2-3-4 position and issue team orders.
SHINOZUKA SET FOR VICTORY AS MITSUBISHI CONSOLIDATES DAKAR RALLY LEAD
The hot, dusty tracks from Timbuktu to Nema provided the toughest test yet for the remaining 95 cars and trucks that started this morning in Mali. Over seven hours of driving took them over winding tracks through the Sahel, with sandy, deeply rutted tracks covered in fine sand which hid grooves in the road that could trap or even roll a car. Heat was a major problem as the cars and trucks made their way slowly over the route; while outside temperatures hovered around the 35 degree Celsius mark, inside the cabins it soared to an unbearable high with the heat of the engines.
Shinozuka had few problems with the stage as he carefully picked his way past the hazards. Exhausted but elated at the news that his Team Manager was to support his bid for victory, he said: "This was the longest day of the rally - over 80 per cent in deep ruts with the car always bottoming out. We drove very, very slowly and the car was very hot inside. We couldn't go fast otherwise we would roll or get stuck. It was a very difficult day, but the car was no problem."
Both Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra, driving the Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, and Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys in the Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, suffered delays today. Saby was delayed briefly when his car became stuck in deep ruts in the sand, and Fontenay with a minor electrical problem. Fontenay is now second, while Saby is over 11 minutes behind in third place with three legs to go.
Brehmer, delighted that Shinozuka made it to the end of the leg without problems, said: "I wanted to get the three Pajeros here to Nema first before making a decision, because I'm sure that this was the hardest stage of the rally. Shinozuka has driven a fantastic rally, his best Dakar ever, especially in the first week when the battle was hot and he was leading by Agades, so I think he merits our support. So, we have decided that Kenjiro will be our Crown Prince in Dakar, and from now on the whole team will support him to Dakar. For sure, we still have 600 km of special stages to do, and it's true that Africa may decide otherwise, but the team will do its utmost to make this result happen.It was very difficult to take this decision because both Saby and Fontenay drove very well too, and had a chance to win.
Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and his German navigator Andreas Schulz, look set to hold on to fourth position in the Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger/Montero Sport, despite being delayed by a puncture. Said Masuoka: "It was a very hard day and very hot, but the car is going very well and we will now try to hold this position to Dakar."
It is a successful day for French pair Jean-Pierre Strugo and Bruno Catarelli becoming embroiled in a frantic battle with Thailand's Pornsawan Siriwatanakun and Tull Suvanarat, both crews in Pajeros. Strugo was defending an impressive seventh place, but the Thai pair chose today to try and overtake him. They succeeded at first, but were then delayed by two punctures and a slight tracking problem on the suspension. Tull explained: We were going well but then we had a puncture after 100 km. Then we came across Saby stuck in the sand and had to turn quickly to avoid him and banged the suspension which knocked the tracking out so the car wouldn't steer properly. Then we had another puncture and with no spare left, we had to let Strugo go and drive carefully to the finish."
For his part, Strugo was slightly relieved, commenting: "It was the right day to be first on the road because of the dust, but now we are looking forward to getting to Dakar with some confidence. The car has been very good, but our only problem was the Thai pair. They've had problems today so I think the threat is over and we can relax."
Portuguese driver Carlos Souza and his Navigator Philippe Rey still enjoyed a comfortable lead in T1 at Nema in their Pajero, Souza commenting: "That was a long day! But we are glad to be here without problems. It was the hardest day of the whole rally, so we drove very slowly and carefully."
French pair Bruno Lhotellerie and Benoit Leheron, driving a Mitsubishi Pajero, successfully fended off Philippe Alliot's Nissan again today to hold second place in T1 today. Leheron said: "We had no problems today other than it was very difficult to get through the sections with deep ruts, but the car was fine. We had to go very fast to stay ahead of Alliot, so we could not relax. We did a good time today, so maybe tomorrow we can go more slowly."
The long, arduous leg from Timbuktu to Nema was doubly difficult for the two Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS trucks which are reported to be going well, but are expected late this evening. Apart from a minor problem last night when the cab fixings of one truck were discovered to have broken and were easily repaired, both of the impressive machines have had no mechanical problems whatsoever.
However, the director of Sonauto Ralliart Karl Ille warned: "Today is the hardest of all for the trucks.The suspension is unforgiving and it's very hard for the drivers, and today's stage with deep ruts and twisting tracks will be very hard on the crews, although I'm sure the trucks themselves will not have too many problems. It will be hard work, but I am confident they will make it."
SS12 /EC12 TIMBUKTU - NEMA 577KM
1 - JP FONTENAY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 06:50:40 2 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 06:51:02 3 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ 06:52:56 4 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT SCHLESSER ORIG T3.2 06:56:27 5 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger / Montero Sport T2 07:08:41 6 - JP STRUGO MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T3.1 07:09:12 7 - D. GUEDES NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 07:11:35 8 - D. GUEDES NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 07:14:49 9 - M. HASEMI NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 07:31:19 10 - B.LHOTELLERIE MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 07:35:58
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS12 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL après EC12
1 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 55:36:37 2 - JP. FONTENAY / B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +00:00:23 3 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 +00:11:29 4 - H. MASUOKA/A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER/MONTERO SPORTÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +02:29:48 5 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT / J. BOUTAIRE (D/FR) SCHLESSER ORIGÅ@Å@ T3.2 +04:37:09 6 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +05:04:12 7 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T3.1 +05:59:38 8 - P. SIRIWATANAKUN / T. SUVANARAT (T) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 +06:37:33 9 - D. GUEDES / J. DUBOIS (POR / FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +08:08:12 10- E. ARGAZZI/R. ARGAZZI (IT) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +09:09:42
Tomorrow, Friday, January 17, 1997
Leg 13: Nema (Mauritania) - Kiffa (Mauritania)
Special Stage: 308km
An early start: 04:00 for motorbikes and 05:20 for cars; will take the surviving competitors along a long, tarmac road section before a relatively short competitive stage through sweeping passes and a mixture of sandy and rocky tracks. The first motorbike is scheduled to reach Kiffa at around 16:45 and the first car at 18:05.
MITSUBISHI OIL - PIAA - OFF ROAD EXPRESS - MICHELIN
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.