LEG 4 : NARA (MALI) - TIMBUKTU (MALI)
Distance : 666KM
Stage distance : 658KM
Stage distance to finish: 6079KM
Tuesday, January 7, 1997
French pair Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys stormed into the lead of the 1997 Dakar rally today, January 7, by taking fastest time on the longest and toughest leg of the event in their Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, the gruelling 658 km run from Nara to the almost mythical Malian town of Timbuktu.
MITSUBISHI 1-2-3 AS SABY TAKES LEAD IN DAKAR RALLY
Saby now heads an impressive trio of Mitsubishis filling the top three places of this prestigious African motor sport classic, with fellow countrymen Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra in second place driving the Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero. Leaders after the third leg, Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka and his French partner Henri Magne dropped to third at Timbuktu after minor mechanical problems in their Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero.
The fourth leg was the most gruelling so far, although a 173 km section between the second and third check points was cut from competitive status to liaison for safety reasons because of the high level of traffic and crowds on the roads. The extremely high temperatures, reaching 40 degrees Celsius in places eased later in the day as cloud cover increased, but the competitors all agreed that it was extremely difficult going nonetheless, especially with desert-like conditions being experienced for the first time on the event. Today's leg was also the last stage of a three day marathon section, and all were relieved to reach Timbuktu in one piece to see their airborne mechanics for the first time since Tambacounda on day one, ready to initiate long awaited rebuilds and repairs.
Rally leader Saby reported: "It was a very, very hard stage. Everyone is very tired. But today my car was perfect and I had no problems at all, so I was very pleased with my time."
Likewise, Fontenay enjoyed the tough challenge without difficulty, revealing: "No problems - my car was first class, although I did find it very tiring. I was stuck in Schlesser's dust for about five kilometres but once I passed him it was superb. I really enjoy this type of challenge, if only every day on the rally could be like this!"
Shinozuka was not quite as happy; resting, relieved and exhausted at Timbuktu he said: "It was very hard for me - not a good day. My gearbox temperature was getting high and I had a brake problem, so for the last 120 km I had to drive very slowly and carefully."
The last 100 km of the day took the competitors from the sparsely vegetated savannah-like roads they had endured for the past three days to sandy, desert terrain for the first time. Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka, partnered by German navigator Andreas Schulz in the Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger / Montero Sport, said that this was the part that he enjoyed the most as he pulled into Timbuktu in fifth place overall after setting fifth fastest time. He commented: "It was a hard day but I really enjoyed driving on the sand in the last part. Today was perfect, my best day so far. I had no punctures, no navigational problems, and once again my car ran very reliably."
Overnight, the airborne mechanics and technicians will have their first chance since leg one to give the cars a proper mechanical overhaul tonight. Team Manager for the T2 Mitsubishi Pajero trio leading the event explained: "It will be a full service with fresh mechanics who have all been rested for three days. The Pajeros have been super-reliable, so I'm very pleased, but I am relieved that we can do the jobs that have had to wait, like some modifications to make it easier to get spare wheels and tyres out quickly in the event of a puncture. It will also mean more rest for the truck mechanics who had to work until very, very late during the past two nights as they had no help from our main mechanics. Everything is going very well for us; I hope it continues for the rally has a long way to go."
Karl Ille, Team Manager for Masuoka's Mitsubishi Challenger / Montero Sport, Jean-Pierre Strugo who is going well in his T3 Pajero in eighth place at Nara and Spaniard Miguel Prieto who is going well in his T1 Mitsubishi Pajero, also said he was very happy with events so far: "Everything is working to plan and I am very happy. Masuoka is driving very well, and the car is very good, and both Prieto and Strugo are doing well."
In the truck category, the Mitsubishis 415RS are 4th and 9th without any problem. The driver of the first one, Versino, said : " We are having difficulty with the hot weather and a very narrow course. Our left window was broken hit by a tree. We have to drive without it until Agades as we do not have a spare. However, our truck and the crew are all in good condition."
Imai, the driver of the second Mitsubishi's truck said : " I am enjoying my new challenge driving in Africa and communicating with French crew. The pist is very narrow with Savanna trees which made many scratches on body and head lights. But we have no mechanical truble and everything is going well. The mecanicians are doing a good job for us."
SS4 /EC4 NARA - TIMBUKTU 658KM
1 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 05:23:00 2 - JP. FONTENAY MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 05:25:58 3 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 05:28:34 4 - JL.SCHLESSER SCHLESSER ORIG T32 05:38:55 5 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI CALLENGER/MONTERO SPORT T2 05:47:08 6 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT SCHLESSER ORIG T32 05:50:29 7 - S. SERVIA NISSAN T2 05:54:30 8 - T. DE LAVERGNE NISSAN T2 05:58:42 9 - JP STRUGO MITSUBISHI PAJERO T31 06:07:14 10 - D.TRAGLIO NISSAN T2 06:15:22
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS4 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL apres EC4
1 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 20:13:51 2 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 +00:01:01 3 - JP. FONTENAY/B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 +00:02:37 4 - JL. SCHLESSER /P. MONNET (FR) SCHLESSER ORIG T32 +00:14:03 5 - H. MASUOKA/A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI CALLENGER/MONTERO SPORT T2 +00:51:00 6 - T. DE LAVERGNE / L. ARGUELLES (FR) NISSAN T2 +01:26:29 7 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSAN T2 +01:48:42 8 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T31 +02:20:44 9 - M. TRAGLIO/M. DOMINELLA (I) NISSAN T2 +02:28:18 10- J. KLEINSCHMIDT / J. BOUTAIRE (D/FR) SCHLESSER ORIG T32 +03:07:41
Tomorrow, Wednesday , January 8, 1997
Leg 5: Timbuktu - Gao
Distance: 424 km
Special Stage: 415 km
Tomorrow the survivors from the 120 cars and trucks that started from Nara will enjoy a much easier day with a shorter, faster route to Gao. The fast, sandy stage will be well-defined through valleys, so it also should provide some respite for the beleaguered navigators who have struggled through four difficult days so far.
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.