LEG 5 : TIMBUKTU (MALI) - GAO (MALI)
Distance : 424KM
Stage distance : 415KM
Stage distance to finish: 5655KM
Wednesday, January 8, 1997
As temperatures in the desert between Timbuktu and Gao soared to around 40 degrees Celsius, Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra scored a memorable stage victory on the fifth leg of the Dakar rally in their Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Pajero. Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys still lead however in their Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, with Japanese driver Kenjiro Shinozuka and his French co-driver Henri Magne second in the Team Mitsubishi Oil Pajero. Fontenay remains in third, but less than one minute separates the leading trio of Mitsubishis who are now truly dominating this year's Dakar.
MITSUBISHI CONTINUES ITS DOMINATION OF DAKAR RALLY
Celebrating in the shade, away from the searingly hot sunshine, Fontenay remarked: "It's my son's third birthday today, so this win is for him! But at one point I didn't think it was going to be possible. There was a bad vibration from the rear and I thought I had a puncture, but luckily it was just a broken stabilising bar - nothing serious, so I just drove on as hard as was sensible. Everything on the car is working very well, especially our Michelin tyres which are very good."
Rally leader Bruno Saby was pleased with the break from the gruelling stages of the last three days. The fifth leg, at just 424 km, was shorter and much more straight-forward, Saby commenting: "It was different today, very easy. The section was fast and twisty but with a good flow so I was able to keep to a good rhythm. But so far it is very good for Mitsubishi - three cars in the top three and just a minute between us all! That is a good example of real team work!"
Although the day was extremely hot once again, the route was very simple following a single track from Timbuktu to Gao, running alongside the River Niger, with little need for complex navigational skills. There were a few dunes, but the hard-packed sandy road through the desert was easy to cross. Kenjiro Shinozuka, in second place, was a little worried during the leg however, explaining: "We changed the gearbox last night in Timbuktu, but I think we still have an oil leak. It's probably not serious and I am sure we will fix it tonight, but things like this can make you worry. Otherwise the car is fine, and it was a nice route."
The extreme heat did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the team as they once again set about refurbishing the cars, not that there was much to repair. Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka, who is partnered by German Andreas Schulz in the Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger / Montero Sport and currently fifth in the overall standings said: "My car was perfect again today. There were many twisty sections but the car handled it well. Our Michelin tyre are fantastic and we set the pressures low for the sand, and it worked perfectly. This T2 Challenger Montero Sport is really good !" Lower down the order, many more Mitsubishi drivers are full of praise for their cars and the rally. French pair Jean-Pierre Strugo and Bruno Cattarelli were delighted with the move up one place to seventh overall with another problem-free day. Said Strugo: "Our target before the start was to get into the top 10 before getting back to Dakar, but we are running well ahead of plan!"
Portuguese pair Carlos Souza and Philippe Rey were first in the T1 category for near-standard cars in their Mitsubishi Pajero after another great run to Gao.
Brazilian duo Klever Kolberg and Joao Mesquita were still in the running despite rolling their Mitsubishi Pajero on the fourth leg between Nara and Timbuktu. The mechanics and technicians soon had them on their way however, after reshaping the bodywork and fitting a new windscreen. They survived without any mechanical damage, which testifies to the strength of the Pajero. Said Kolberg: "I had a front puncture and lost control in the deep ruts. We didn't lose much time with the roll itself, most of the delay was caused by changing the punctured tyre and then having to drive in the dark without a windscreen which was not easy! But the car is fine and we are continuing as normal."
Karl Ille and Ulrich Brehmer, the Mitsubishi Team Manager said: "Last night in Timbuktu was the first chance we had to servicing all the cars properly for three days with all our mechanics after the Marathon section. It was a good night and we were able to ensure that all the remaining Mitsubishis left for Gao in good condition."
The two Mitsubishi trucks are going exceptionally well, with no mechanical problems so far. The only difficulty has been smoothing the scratches and dents from the bodywork of the cabs after bumping into overhanging tree branches on the narrower tracks. Gilbert Versino, driving the lead truck commented: "It was hard work on the narrow, twisty tracks, but this Mitsubishi truck is a pleasure to drive on the big corners or through the desert. We have had no mechanical problems at all, even though the terrain has been very tough for trucks." 115 cars and trucks made the restart from Timbuktu this morning.
SS5 /EC5 TIMBUKCTU - GAO 415KM
1 - JP FONTENAY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 03:42:40 2 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 03:43:29 3 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ 03:44:21 4 - JL.SCHLESSER SCHLESSER ORIG T32 03:45:39 5 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT SCHLESSER ORIG T32 03:58:30 6 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger / Montero SportÅ@Å@ T2 03:59:25 7 - M. TRAGLIO NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 04:14:35 8 - S. SERVIA NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 04:16:33 9 - JP STRUGO MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T31 04:17:00 10 - D. HOUSIEAUX NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 04:20:34
GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS5 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL apres EC5
1 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 23:58:12 2 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2Å@Å@ +00:00:09 3 - JP. FONTENAY/B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROÅ@Å@ T2 +00:00:56 4 - JL. SCHLESSER /P. MONNET (FR) SCHLESSER ORIGÅ@Å@ T32Å@Å@ +00:15:21 5 - H. MASUOKA/A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI CALLENGER/MONTERO SPORTÅ@Å@ T2 +01:06:04 6 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +02:20:54 7 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHIÅ@Å@ T31 +02:53:23 8 - M. TRAGLIO / M. DOMINELLA (I) NISSANÅ@Å@ T2 +02:58:25 9 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT / J. BOUTAIRE (D/FR) SCHLESSER ORIGÅ@Å@ T32 +03:21:50 10- P. SIRIWATANAKUN / T. SUVANARAT MITSUBISHIÅ@Å@ T2 +03:52:29
Tomorrow, Thursday , January 9, 1997
Leg 6: Gao (Mali)- Tahoua (Niger)
Distance: 736 km
Special Stage: 332 km
After a relatively easy day, the remaining competitors face a tough and challenging route tomorrow, taking them from Gao and across the border into Niger. There will be great contrasts in terrain, with typical Sahel at first - lots of sand with sparse vegetation, before moving on to rocky tracks were punctures may be a problem, and then to sand and camel-grass which can severely damage a car's suspension. The first motorbike is scheduled to leave Gao at 06:45 to reach Tahoua at around 22:15. The first car should leave at 08:15 aiming to arrive at the Bivouac at 23:45. It is going to be one of the longest days of the rally!
Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.