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DAKAR-AGADES-DAKAR 1997
Communique 8
LEG 7 : MENAKA (MALI) - TAHOUA (NIGER)
Distance : 396KM
Stage distance : 381KM
TAHOUA, NIGER
Friday, January 10, 1997


MITSUBISHIS SWEEP ALL BEFORE THEM IN DAKAR RALLY


Mitsubishi continues to enjoy one of its most successful Dakar rallies ever as they approach the half-way mark. At Tahoua in Niger, after seven tough legs and around 3,500 km just five minutes separate the leading three Mitsubishis with Japanese ace Kenjiro Shinozuka and his French partner Henri Magne leading the event overall in their Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero. Portuguese pair Carlos Souza and Philippe Rey lead T1 by a substantial margin in their near-standard Mitsubishi Pajero.

French pair Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Bruno Musmarra hold second overall in the Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero after winning today's leg between Menaka and Tahoua, just 21 seconds behind Shinozuka, while Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys, both from France, hold third in the Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero.

In the blazing sunshine of Niger, with temperatures reaching close to 40 degrees Celsius, winner of the competitive section, Fontenay said: "Today was no problem. It was very fast at the start, but then it became twisty with many ruts in the sand and rocks. It was a very good section, but I am glad we did not have to do this yesterday, it would have been very tough!"

Saby added; "The first section was a big road; flat out all the way, but the car was no problem and the Michelin tyres were very good once again."

Said Shinozuka: "It was very difficult in the twisty section, very rough and very hard work."

Driving the Team Car Plaza Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger/Montero Sport, Hiroshi Masuoka remained in fourth place and pronounced himself very pleased with his progress, despite a puncture 50 km from the end of today's section. "It was a rear right puncture," said his navigator Andreas Schulz. "I think today's stage was the hardest in three days!"

Team manager for the leading three Mitsubishi Pajeros Ullrich Brehmer showed no concern that the his drivers were competing very hard with each other despite dominating the rally. "No, there will be no team orders," he declared. "The three drivers are fighting it out, but they are still being very sensible and taking no unnecessary risks. I think for the moment it is best to wait and see so that there is a fair victory."

In T1, Carlos Souza moved into an even more comfortable position, with his winning margin increased to nearly 40 minutes. "We are still driving very carefully, as we have from the start," said Souza. "But our strategy is now giving us a good lead because our car is still strong and fresh." Pornsawan Siriwatanakun and Suvanarat Tull, both from Thailand, have improved their position dramatically over the last few days. Tull explained: "We had a bad start to the rally, driving in the dust of slower cars, but it is much better now. We have a clear road and can go faster. The Pajero handles very well in these conditions and we have had no problems at all."

While the Thai pair moved to ninth place, fellow Mitsubishi Pajero driver, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Strugo, who is co-driven by Bruno Cattarelli, was delighted with his current eighth place overall and first in T3.1 (4WD Category). He said: "Everything is going very well for us. For the past few days I would say it has been perfect."

Spanish pair Miguel Prieto and Carlos Mas who, like Strugo, had performed so well in last year's Dakar, were disappointed with their position in their Mitsubishi Pajero after a series of unfortunate delays. Prieto explained: "We had a puncture yesterday, but then today, just five kilometres from the end of the leg, we tried to pass a motorbike by going off the track. But when we tried to get back on the track we nearly hit a small tree and got stuck on the ditch. We tried to dig the car out for 20 minutes, and then Jean-Pierre Cassegrain stopped and pulled us out with his Pajero." Of the other Mitsubishi privateers, Team Manager for Mitsubishi's customer vehicles Karl Ille said: "They all seem to be going very well - very few problems except for one or two. The cars seem to be very reliable."

However, Portuguese girls Ceu Lima and Isabel Robalo, also in a Pajero, were worried about a split sump and resulting oil leak. "We will have to change it," said Lima. "But that means we can no longer compete in the Marathon class and just be classified in T1." French pair Henri de Roissard and Serge Ducoutoumany suffered a rear puncture near the end of today's leg.

One of the most satisfying stories from the Dakar so far has been the performance of the two Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS trucks which have been storming through the Sahel sweeping all before them. Both arrived in perfect condition in Tahoua. Akio Suehiro, Manager - R&D, Vehicle Research Department, Office of Truck and Bus Development Engineering at Mitsubishi Motors Corporation reported at Tahoua: "Mechanically, the trucks are completely perfect. Three or four days ago Gilbert Versino's truck was delayed when it took him and his crew over an hour to change a tyre that had exploded. Normally, it takes just 10 or 15 minutes, but because the tyre had shredded so badly it made it very difficult. But everything is going very well otherwise. We are learning a lot about the trucks in these conditions and know how to make some improvements for next year. However, the most important purpose for them on this event is to provide assistance to the Pajeros in T1 and T2, and challenging for the first place in T4 category is not as important. So, from this viewpoint everything is very good."

105 cars and trucks restarted from Menaka this morning after a night under the stars with a much reduced Bivouac, the main body of the rally staying in Gao for an extra night and heading straight to Tahoua today.



SS7 /EC7 MENAKA - TAHOUA 381 KM

Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@
1 - JP FONTENAY MITSUBISHI PAJEROT2 03:20:31
2 - K. SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI PAJEROT2 03:22:40
3 - B. SABY MITSUBISHI PAJEROT203:23:38
4 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT SCHLESSER ORIG T3.2 03:41:18
5 - H. MASUOKA MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER/MONTERO SPORT T2 03:46:42
6 - P. SIRIWATANAKUN / T. SUVANARAT MITSUBISHI PAGEROT2 03:49:44
7 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI PAGEROT3.1 03:50:47
8 - S. SERVIA/G. PICARD NISSANT2 03:50:59
9 - M. TRAGLIO / M. DOMINELLA (I) NISSANT2 03:53:57
10 - D. GUEDES NISSANT2 03:57:30



GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS5 / CLASSEMENT GENERAL après EC5

Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@ Å@Å@
1 - K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE (J/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 30:35:36
2 - JP. FONTENAY/B. MUSMARRA (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROT2+00:00:21
3 - B. SABY / D. SERIEYS (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJERO T2 +00:05:14
4 - H. MASUOKA/A. SCHULZ (J/D) MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER/MONTERO SPORTT2+01:49:25
5 - S. SERVIA / G. PICARD (SP/FR) NISSANT2 +03:22:11
6 - J. KLEINSCHMIDT / J. BOUTAIRE (D/FR) SCHLESSER ORIGT3.2 +03:57:30
7 - M. TRAGLIO / M. DOMINELLA (I) NISSANT2 +04:02:39
8 - JP STRUGO / B. CATARELLI (FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROT3.1 +04:12:00
9 - P. SIRIWATANAKUN / T. SUVANARAT MITSUBISHI PAJEROT2 +04:50:57
10- E. ARGAZZI/R. ARGAZZI (IT) NISSANT2 +05:35:15
11- C. SOUZA/P. REY (POR/FR) MITSUBISHI PAJEROT1 +06:02:31


Tomorrow, Saturday, January 11, 1997
Leg 8: Tahoua (Niger) Agades
Special Stage: 575km

The final leg of the first half of the 1997 Dakar will take the competitors to Arlit tomorrow, a small Uranium mining town north of Agades. Over 80 per cent of the competitive section will be in arid desert, with dunes for the first time. From Arlit, they will drive a new liaison section down to Agades for the overnight Bivouac to bring the rally back on schedule after earlier route changes.


MITSUBISHI OIL - PIAA - OFF ROAD EXPRESS - MICHELIN



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Copyright 1996 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.