MARLBORO UAE DESERT CHALLENGE (3-6 NOVEMBER)


1998 FIA WORLD CUP FOR CROSS COUNTRY RALLIES ROUND 7


 

PIAA Mitsubishi Dealer Team's Kenjiro Shinozuka Second Overall!!
Fontenay's Pajero Still Holding Fitst Place Outright

The fifth of November saw the last round of the 1998 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, the UAE Desert Challenge, enter the third day of four days of competition in the Rub al Khali desert south of Abu Dhabi. The third leg was on a course of 430 km, of which 240 km was Special Stage, and at the end of the day it was the Pajero of JP Fontenay that had maintained first position overall. Shinozuka is now second outright. JL Schlesser, who has been competing for the top position with Fontenay since the beginning of the rally, fell into a hole that appeared in the small dunes and lost a lot of time before being able to get out. He ended up more than 50 minutes behind Fontenay and is now in third position.

The sea of sand that is the Rub al Khali desert gets unbearably hot at around 11.00 am. The breeze of the earlier morning hours stops and the strong sun begins to beat down on the desert sand so that there is a searing heat in the dunes of about 40 degrees. The sand itself is much hotter though, and you can't even sit down on it with out getting burnt.
In a rally like this you start to remember this year's Tunisia rally, an event which saw the tragic death of 5 competitors from dehydration and heat stroke.

In a long rally like this even a driver with a robust and well prepared car can strike disaster. You never know who, when and where will bad luck strike. It is the amount of misfortune that decides events like this. Today it was Schlesser that had Lady Luck desert him. In the series so far she has smiled on him at almost every event, to such an extent that you would think the championship had been created for him.
While his rival Shinozuka got punctures or bogged and lost time that made the difference between winning and losing, Schlesser seemed to float along in his own cloud of good fortune.

But, today was different. After getting through the large dunes in the first half, he fell into a hole in the camel grass covered small dunes and stopped. "It's just like what happened to me on the Paris-Dakar. You can't even call them dunes, they are so small. Anyway, Schlesser fell into a hole between a couple of these sand bumps. You don't think it will take much to get out, but actually it takes a lot of time and effort to extricate yourself from a situation like that. Even Schlesser sometimes has a patch of bad luck. It comes sometimes, and can't be helped." said Shinozuka with a wry grin.

She has done the Paris-Dakar 8 times, 4 on a motorcycle and 4 in four wheeled vehicles. She has actually completed the Dakar on a motorcycle, a feat that shows how tough she is, but after the second leg that finished today even she didn`t get out of her car smiling. It will be the dunes on the third leg that will be the deciding factor in the competition.

Shinozuka has lost many times in the series so far because of getting stuck or having punctures. This time it was Schlesser's turn to get stuck and see the distance between himself and the leader, Fontenay, widen due to a lack of luck. It seemed as if the good luck of the season had been taken away at one stroke.

Tomorrow is the last day of the event. The course is of 447 km with 246 km of SS, and then to finish the event there is a 2 km Super Special Stage in Dubai itself.

On the third leg there was a surprise in the results when local driver Rashid Bin Gurab came in 2nd overall for the day, a result that means he jumps to 5th overall for the event. Was this local knowledge, or was it a case of being able to use a short cut to achieve this result? In the Tunisia Rally Schlesser used a short cut he learnt from a local to put a decisive gap between himself and Shinozuka, but this time it was Bin Bin Gurab that did it.
"We used the set course. I simply can't believe that this guy is here," said Mitsubishi team manager Ullrich Brehmer.

There are check points on the way to the finish in the rally, but between the check points the path you use is free. The organizers try to place the check points so that short cuts can't be used, but in this case it didn't stop the local driver from taking the advantage.In addition, there was the following comment from an eye witness, "He drove the course flat out." "I don't recall being overtaken, he was just there when we got to the finish. I don't think he followed the course," was the comment from Shinozuka. We wonder what sort of performance that Bin Gurab, the Arabian Desert Speedster, will give tomorrow, and how he will achieve it.....

3rd Leg Comments
Kenjiro Shinozuka
"Tomorrow is also desert. I have no idea what is going to happen, but I am just going to drive as fast as possible to the end."

Hiroyuki Sasaki (Dealer Mechanic)
"Chasing the rally in the service car we got bogged constantly. We got stuck so many times. We got out of one, and then were almost instantly bogged again. It was just a repetitive bog. I have had a lot of experience with getting stuck in snow, but sand is totally different to snow. As far as equipment goes, I helped change a transmission and usually we use a jack for that job, but here it was all done with 'people power'. I am amazed at the practical resourcefulness of the French mechanics. I am particularly surprised at the number of ways that it is possible to use one screwdriver!"


OVERALL CLASSIFICATION AFTER LEG3

1. J-P.FONTENAY F MITSUBISHI PAJERO 10.25.52 T3
3. K.SHINOZUKA J MITSUBISHI PAJERO 11.08.59 T2
2. J-L.SCHLESSER F SCHLESSER ORIGINAL 11.17.13 T3
4. J.KLEINSCHMIDT D MITSUBISHI PAJERO 11.44.38 T2
5. R.BIN GURAB UAE LAND ROVER 12.24.33 T3
6. Y.BILHILLI UAE NISSAN PATROL 13.22.37 T1
7. P.ALLIOT F NISSAN PATROL 13.28.09 T3
8. J.LUIKKONEN FIN LAND ROVER 13.35.48 T3
9. J-M.SERVIA E SCHLESSER BUGGY 13.38.13 T3
10. G.MARCY F NISSAN PATROL 13.56.15 T3

Nationality: F=France/ FIN=Finland/ D=Germany/ P=PORTUGAL/ J=Japan /UAE=United Arab Emirates


 

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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.