MARLBORO UAE DESERT CHALLENGE (3-6 NOVEMBER)


1998 FIA WORLD CUP FOR CROSS COUNTRY RALLIES ROUND 7


 

PIAA Mitsubishi Dealer Team's Kenjiro Shinozuka Finishes Third Outright
Fontenay's Pajero Scores Overall Victory
Mitsubishi Clinches The Manufacturers Title!!


The last event in the 1998 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, the UAE Desert Challenge, finished in the city of Abu Dhabi on the 6th of November. It was the Pajero of Jean-Pierre Fontenay that took overall victory. Jean-Louis Schlesser was second and third overall was Kenjiro Shinozuka, with lady driver Jutta Kleinshmidt (Mitsubishi Pajero) taking fourth place. This means that Schlesser becomes the series champion with Shinozuka second in the points. However, with the amazing record of 6 victories from 7 events, Mitsubishi takes the Manufacturers title.

This rally started from Dubai on the 3rd of November and headed into the desert to the south of Abu Dhabi for the first leg of the four day competition. That day's competition saw the four vehicles of Fontenay, Schlesser, Shinozuka and Kleinshmidt all battling closely for the top positions. At the finish line of the day's course, Fontenay, who was testing his Pajero for the 1999 Granada-Dakar, had the best result over the 229.89 km of Special Stages with a time of 2 hrs. 33 mins and 3 secs. Second place was taken by Schlesser, and Shinozuka, who is carrying the hopes of Japan in his attempt to become the first Japanese to take the World Cup Title, was fourth after unfortunately getting lost.

The second leg on the 4th of November, this time in the dunes to the south-west of Abu Dhabi, covered a total distance of 469 km (442 km of SS) special stage and the top time for the day was Schlesser with Fontenay second and Shinozuka third. Shinozuka had got stuck just a short while after the start and lost 20 minutes getting out. However, once he got going again he took back 10 minutes from the leaders and ended the day with an overall gap to first place holder Fontenay of 30 mins. Even so, he now stood at third place overall, an improvement on the fourth place of the day before.

On the 5th of November's third leg of 430 km (SS 240 km), the misfortune that Shinozuka had put up with for the whole of the World Cup series decided to leave him alone and visit Schlesser. While Shinozuka drove well and had an on the whole trouble free time, Schlesser, after getting through the large dunes in the first half of the course, fell into a hole in the small camel grass covered dunes and got terribly bogged. Due to this he lost a lot of time, and at the end of the day the gap between him and the leading Fontenay had stretched to over 50 minutes. He had also lost second place to Shinozuka and now was third overall in the event. Fontenay was still in the top position, and Shinozuka, in second place and aiming for a come-from-behind overall championship victory, had improved his position for the third day in succession.

The last day really did live up to the name given to the event; The Desert Challenge. Dunes, vast, flat plains of desert, undulating waves of an ocean of sand ..... The UAE makes up part of the Arabian Rub al Khari desert and is very harsh on drivers and vehicles. "I have had a lot of sand experience, but but this desert this particular desert has every variation of sand and dsesrt that it is possible to have. Big high dunes, small continuous waves of dunes, areas of sand 'moguls', ... This is the first time I have experienced such a variety in one event," said Shinozuka. If Schlesser retired, and Shinozuka was able to win, he would get the championship by the smallest of margins. "Fast as possible with no mistakes," said Shinozuka of the way he would have to drive to get his goal. At the start of the 4th leg on the 6th of November Schlesser commented,"A top ten finish will give me the World Cup title, so I don't intend to do anything stupid."

On the high speed course of that day Schlesser was able to take back the 8 mins. and 14 secs. lead that Shinozuka had over him, and was also able to mark the fastest time of the day, and in doing so he also wrapped up the championship.

After the event he shook hands with Shinozuka. When Shinozuka saw that the T-shirt Schlesser was wearing had "1998 World Cup Champion" written on it he said,"Did you really have that much confidence? I could have won it you know!" "I know, I know, Shino," said Schlesser,"But have you heard the saying 'Small hunting dogs make the best hunters, because they catch the prey without killing it. I didn't know whether I was going to be caught by you right up until the last day!" The friendly rivals then posed together for the gathered cameramen and responded to their requests for pictures.

Fontenay had a steady and successful drive to an outright win on the event in his test of the Pajero for the 1999 Granada-Dakar. The car is in the middle of being improved for next year and was therefore entered in the T3 class but, "The car is almost completed. We had no particular trouble, and if we can reach our usual level of competitiveness I think we can aim for a place on the podium in the Dakar," he said of his ambitions for the Paris-Dakar.

Dealership Mechanics Comments

Naoki Hino (Kyoto Mitsubishi Motors Dealership)
"I saw a transmission change at the bivouac. It was done amazingly quick. I think they had already done a simulation of the change in their heads. I realized that the way we usually do a change has a lot of wasted time in it. When I get back to Japan I would like to use this experience to be able to rationalize and speed up my work in the workshop."

Toshiaki Kunii (Yamagata Mitsubishi Motors Dealership)
"When you get an enormous change in environment like the past few days, you wonder what you have done. Now I have finished helping with the rally and I think back over the last couple of days I feel like I have soaked in some of the surroundings and now I am at a bit of a loss, bewildered. In this environment the doing work quickly and with no mistakes is difficult, but the French mechanics who are used to the desert did it calmly and with no fuss. The Japanese dealership mechanics were also able to test themselves in the totally alien conditions I think. I believe that new ideas will come from this experience. I am very happy that I could have this experience and opportunity to take a look at myself and improve."


FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION

1. J-P.FONTENAY F MITSUBISHI PAJERO 13.46.31 T3
2. J-L.SCHLESSER F SCHLESSER ORIGINAL 14.23.23 T3
3. K.SHINOZUKA J MITSUBISHI PAJERO 14.36.22 T2
4. J.KLEINSCHMIDT D MITSUBISHI PAJERO 15.20.22 T2
5. Y.BILHILLI UAE NISSAN PATROL 17.09.16 T1
6. J-M.SERVIA E SCHLESSER BUGGY 17.38.13 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.