LEG 1 : DAKAR - TAMBACOUNDA (SENEGAL)
Distance : 587KM
Stage distance : 275KM
Stage distance to finnish: 7931KM
Saturday, January 4, 1997
Three Mitsubishi Pajeros filled the top three positions at the end of the first leg of the gruelling "Dakar" classic in Africa today, January 4, 1997. French pair Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra led the Mitsubishi trio home in the team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, 2m25s clear of their nearest rivals.
Mitsubishi takes first, second and third on first day of Dakar.
The warm but dull conditions created few problems for the leading competitors other than the dust which reduced visibility on the narrow twisting tracks through the trees and undergrowth in the savanna - like countryside of Senegal.
Rally leader Fontenay declared: " It wasn't very hard for driving - very enjoyable because the tracks were so flowing, and our Pajero was perfect for these conditions."
However, his navigator Bruno Musmarra added: " The navigation was difficult and we had to be very accurate with our headings on the GPS. It was very easy to make a mistake and get very lost."
French driver Bruno Saby arrived at the overnight bivouac as darkness fell on the first day very satisfied with his position in second place in his team Piaa Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, co-driven as usual by his experienced fellow countryman Dominique Serieys. He commented: " It was hard work driving through twisty roads, but the Pajero was excellent and made it very enjoyable. I am more used to the prototype Pajero I have driven in previous years, but I think that this Pajero in the T2 class is a better package overall for these conditions."
Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka, third in the team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero, concurred, adding: "I actually think that on these roads the T2 Pajero was faster than the prototype. It is easier to drive, smaller and narrower which meant that I could drive to the maximum on the narrow tracks."
However, dust was a major problem and the navigation was extremely hard, as Shinozuka's french co-driver Henri Magne explained: " There was so many tracks to choose from, some of which appeared to be parallel but were not. I had to concentrate very hard. And sometimes it was too dusty even to see the road ahead !"
Driving the team Mitsubishi Oil Car Plaza Challenger/Montero sport, japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka suffered a difficult first day because his german co-driver, Andreas Schulz was almost incapacitated by a severe stomach upset. Masuoka had to stop the car several times to allow Schulz to be ill, and the german lost concentration long enough for the pair to become lost for a short time. They nevertheless finished in a creditable sixth place overall, and Masuoka declared: "The car was perfect and everything went very well, apart from Andy's problems. I plan to continue at this steady place and gradually make up position as the rally goes on."
Mitsubishi team manager Ullrich Brehmer was delighted with the progress made on the first day. He said: "Yesterday we had a team briefing where the competitors were told to stay cool for the first few days and allow anyone foolish enough to drive hard to make mistake. They all drove perfectly, fast enough to beat everyone, but carefully enough not to make a mistake. I am very happy - a perfect start, but there is such a long way to go !"
Privateer french pair Jean-Pierre Strugo and Bruno Cattarelli were delighted to find themselves in the top 10 at the end of the leg, driving a modified Mitsubishi Pajero for the first time. Strugo, more used to the comparatively leisurely pace of the near standard T1 category, was driving in the T3 class although his car is mostly T2, his highly modified rear suspension puts him up a class. He said: "My plan is to finish in the top 10 in Dakar, so I am very surprised and happy to be eighth at this early stage."
Most competitors agreed that the first leg was relatively easy, but team Mitsubishi Ralliart hopes that its early good luck will continue for the next 14 days of hard competition through some of the most difficult and spectacular terrain in Africa. 98 cars started from Dakar on the morning of the first leg and most made it to the finish.
SS1 /EC1 DAKAR - TAMBACOUNDA 275KM
1 - JP FONTENAY MITSUBISHI Pajero T2 03:17:56 2 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI Pajero T2 03:20:21 3 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI Pajero T2 03:21:17 4 - JL.SCHLESSER SCHLESSER ORIG T32 03:23:09 5 - S. SERVIA NISSAN T2 03:25:51 6 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger/Montero sport T2 03:28:28 7 - T. DE LAVERGNE NISSAN T2 03:28:32 8 - JP STRUGO MITSUBISHI Pajero T31 03:30:58 9 - J.C. SERVIA TOYOTA T31 03:31:30 10-P. WAMBERGUE TOYOTA T2 03:33:49
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS1 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL apres EC1
1 - JP. FONTENAY / B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI Pajero T2 03:17:56 2 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI Pajero T2 +00:02:25 3 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI Pajero T2 +00:03:21 4 - JL.SCHLESSER / P. MONNET (FR) SCHLESSER ORIG T32 +00:05:13 5 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSAN T2 +00:07:55 6 - H. MASUOKA / A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI Challenger/Montro Sport T2 +00:10:32 7 - T. DE LAVERGNE / L. ARGUELLES (FR) NISSAN T2 +00:10:36 8 - JP STRUGO / B. CATTARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI Pajero T31 +00:13:02 9 - J.C. SERVIA / J. PUJOLAR TOYOTA T31 +00:13:34 10-P. WAMBERGUE / J.P COTTRET (FR) TOYOTA T2 +00:15:53
Tomorrow, Sunday, January 5, 1997
Leg 2: Tambacounda (Senegal) - Kayes (Mali) Distance: 594 km
Special Stage: 505 km
After the first leg "Warm-up" stage, the remaining competitors face the first section of the gruelling new regime tomorrow which focuses on reliability with restricted servicing.
The changing terrain over the 505 km second stage will present many challenges, from lush vegetation to river crossings and fast laterite tracks. No airborne mechanics will be allowed at the second overnight halt, to the drivers most concentrate on keeping their cars in good condition.
The second leg starts from Tambacounda at 08:55 local time for the cars, and the leaders are expected to reach Kayes, in Mali, at around 17:25.
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.