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PARIS - GRANADA - DAKAR 1998
Communique 12
REST DAY : GAO

GAO,
Sunday, January 11, 1998


MITSUBISHI PREPARES FOR SECOND HALF DOMINATION OF PARIS-DAKAR


The four leading Mitsubishi crews in this year's Paris-Dakar Rally, so far one of the toughest ever seen, are enjoying a welcome day of rest at Gao, on the banks of the mighty River Niger, today, January 11, in preparation for the remaining seven days of the event.

After an incredible three days of the first marathon section in the Sahara Desert with the competition beetween Mitsubishi, Schlesser, Toyota and Nissan -which saw nearly half of the original 349 competitors retire- Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard
lead by just 10m 42s in their Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero from team mates Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys in the Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero. Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and his German Navigator Andreas Schulz are third in the Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger/Montero Sport, while last year's winners, Japan's Kenjiro Shinozuka and Frenchman Henri Magne, are fourth in the Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero.

Said Fontenay after the first marathon section: "Wow it was hard! The sand was very soft and the camel grass gave the suspension a pounding. Although we are leading it is too hard to tell if we can hang on. There are some very hard stages still to come, including two more marathons."

Saby signalled his intentions by stating: "It was a very difficult three days through some very remote areas where we worried what would happen to us if we got stuck. But Jean-Pierre better watch out -
we want to win!"

Masuoka added: "It was one of the worst stages I have ever seen. We were lucky, though, and didn't get stuck. Some dunes were 30 metres high! The second half of the rally will be exciting."

Shinozuka reported: "We only got stuck in the sand twice, but once it was for over an hour and a half. It was hard digging all and I could feel time slipping away. I think there is still a long way to go to Dakar. This is the hardest rally of all, and sometimes experience wins."

At the half way point Mitsubishi is also looking extremely strong in the T1 category for near-standard cars, holding the top five positions. Team Mitsubishi International runner, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Strugo, holds first in his Pajero from second-placed Spaniard Vila Altimir in his Mitsubishi Montero.

Strugo commented: "The first day of the marathon was a catastrophe for us when we got lost and stuck four times. Luckily we had a one hour lead and everything went well on the second day and we made up time again. It was very hard. I have done 13 Dakars and every three or four years they give us a stage like this!"


French world ski champion Luc Alphand is also enjoying his first Dakar, revealing: "We drove for 2100 km in third gear - it was the only gear we had! I cannot believe how strong the Mitsubishi Pajero is to have survived. To be honest, I am surprised to get this far, but now I am hoping to get to Dakar."


Brazilian Kolberg, also driving a Mitsubishi Pajero, holds fifth in the T1 category, and revealed: "I was afraid that we wouldn't arrive at Gao. I was digging so much on the first day of the marathon section that my gloves were shredded."

Spaniard Miguel Prieto, driving a Mitsubishi Montero, holds ninth place overall, well within his target of reaching Gao in the top 10. He revealed: "We only got stuck once and had two punctures. we had no mechanical problems, and I did not think it was too hard."

Gilbert Versino is still going well in the Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS truck, although he lost the lead during the marathon section when he crashed down a dune on the second day of the marathon section and broke the steering.

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION at GAO

1.J.P.FONTENAY / G. PICARD MITSUBISHI Pajero 29:25:45 T2
2.B.SABY / D. SERIEYS MITSUBISHI Pajero +00:10:42 T2
3.H.MASUOKA / A. SCHULZ MITSUBISHI Challenger +01:41:09 T2
4.K.SHINOZUKA / H.MAGNE MITSUBISHI Pajero +01:43:22 T2
5.J.L.SCHLESSER / A.C. PAUWELS BUGGY Original +03:39:31 T3
6.P.ALLIOT / J. DUBOIS NISSAN +05:17:30 T3
7.T.DE LAVERGNE / L. ARGUELLES NISSAN +06:33:52 T3
8.D.HOUSIEAUX / M. DOMINELLA NISSAN +06:44:33 T3
9.M.PRIETO / F. GIL MITSUBISHI Montero +08:22:05 T2
10.B.HANCIAUX / J. LURQUIN NISSAN +09:08:33 T3
11.S.SERVIA / W. ALCARAZ NISSAN +10:09:56 T2
12.JP.STRUGO / B. CATARELLI MITSUBISHI Pajero +10:18:44 T1
13.R.VILA ALTIMIR/E. GONZALES CARPI MITSUBISHI Montero +11:02:49 T1
14.S.QUANDT / P. TIEFFENBACH MITSUBISHI Pajero +12:05:26 T1
15.C.SOUZA / P. REY MITSUBISHI Strada +12:06:00 T3
16.B.ANQUETIL / J. MORIZE NISSAN +12:07:06 T3
17.B.TEN HARKEL / H. DEN TOOM MITSUBISHI Pajero +12:08:26 T1
18.K.KOLBERG / P. LARROQUE MITSUBISHI Pajero +12:48:18 T1
19.T.ASAGA / H. ITO TOYOTA +14:12:38 T1
H.DE ROISSARD / T. CHATIN MITSUBISHI Pajero +14:36:31 T2
21.M.PLAZA PEREZ / A. AMOR CAMPO MITSUBISHI Montero +14:43:58 T1
...      
27.L.ALPHAND / A. DEBRON MITSUBISHI Pajero +18:14:38 T3
41.G. MARCY / C. GHAEM MITSUBISHI Pajero +30:13:31 T2
45.E.SMULEVICI / J. FALAISE MITSUBISHI L200 +40:06:32 T3
46.J.HARDY / F. BECART MITSUBISHI Pajero +41:55:39 T1
55.M.TOMOKAWA / A. ASADA MITSUBISHI Pajero +41:55:39 T1


Tomorrow, Monday, January 12, 1998
LEG 11: GAO - TIMBUKTU
Distance: 420 KM
Special Stage: 411 KM

After the traditional day of rest at the half way point of the rally, the remaining competitors will say goodbye to Gao and head for the near-mythical town of Timbuktu. It promises to be a short, easy stage to get the crews back into the swing of things, and it is certain to be enjoyable for those who have time to look at the scenery as they follow a route alongside the River Niger which winds its way majestically between dunes and mangroves.

MITSUBISHI OIL-PIAA-OFF ROAD EXPRESS-MICHELIN-HALF TIME/JT CORPORATION

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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.