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PARIS - GRANADA - DAKAR 1998
Communique 16
LEG 14 : TIDJIKJA - ATAR
Distance : 394 KM
Stage distance : 358 KM


ATAR
Thursday, January 15, 1998

MITSUBISHIS CONTINUE TO LEAD THROUGH MAURITANIA
ON PARIS-DAKAR RALLY


Through some of the roughest and most spectacular terrain in the Sahara Desert in Mauritania, the four leading Mitsubishis in the Paris-Dakar continue their domination of the world's toughest rally, with French crew Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard out in front in their Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero.

Yesterday's stage from Nema to Tidjikja, reckoned to be the one of the hardest ever in the history of the Dakar, knocked out almost a quarter of the surviving competitors. Today, just 46 cars took the start, but many who began today's stage were technically over their time limit when they started. Today's 358 km competitive section to Atar offered little respite for the battered men and machines who continue to strive to meet the challenge of reaching Dakar in one piece.

High temperatures and tough navigation added to their discomfort as the survivors cut a swathe through the moonscape scenery of the Adrar Plateau before crossing the spectacular Saharan sand dunes at Chinguetti. However the leading four crews in their ultra-reliable Mitsubishis had few problems in reaching their objective at Atar in plenty of time, although they admitted it wasn't easy.

Fontenay reported: "It was a hellish stage - it was very slow and very rocky. It was bumpy for the entire 348 km and it took us seven hours! Crazy!
The navigation was very hard too as there were no tracks to follow. We stopped just once to help Bruno when he got stuck."

Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys, who lie second in their Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero have now admitted defeat in their battle with Fontenay and Picard, although they did close the gap with the leaders slightly today by almost four minutes. But Saby did have one frightening moment when a woman threw a stone and smashed his windscreen 50 km into his journey to Atar. "Maybe she is a Fontenay fan!" he joked. "It was incredible. Why did she do it? I was lucky this was such a slow stage and it didn't matter too much. I think this was the hardest stage of any Dakar - we only managed to average 50 km/h."

Driving the Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero in third place, Kenjiro Shinozuka and his navigator Henry Magne were relaxed enough at Atar to crack a joke at Stage Director Patrick Zaniroli's expense. "That was a Zaniroughly stage!" laughed Shinozuka. "It was incredible. We were driving in first and second gear the whole time. We got stuck once, right in front of a crowd of journalists and none of them helped! We had just one puncture today,
two kilometres from the end of the stage so we just drove on to the finish on the wheel rim."

In fourth place, Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and his German navigator Andreas Schulz reported no problems in their Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger/Montero Sport, and like the rest of the top drivers are now holding position and driving carefully to reach Dakar.
French World Downhill Ski Champion Luc Alphand, who drew so much praise for his driving skills over the past few days, is still in the race to Dakar in his Mitsubishi Pajero, despite earlier reports today that he had retired. Co-driven by Arnaud Debron, the Downhill Champion arrived late in the morning at the Tidjikja overnight halt, and restarted the stage to Atar late in the afternoon.
The Team Mitsubishi International drivers, especially those who have been dominating the T1 category for near-standard cars, led for most of the rally by Frenchman Jean-Pierre Strugo in his Pajero, are reported to be going well, although all privateers are running very late behind the modified T2 and experimental T3 vehicles which are better equipped for these punishing stages.

Spanish driver Prieto survived today's rigours to finish the day in ninth place in his Mitsubishi Montero, well within his target of reaching Dakar in the top 10, while Portuguese driver Carlos Souza, also in a Mitsubishi Strada,
set an excellent stage time of eighth quickest, taking him to 12th in the provisional standings.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SS 14 - ATAR - 358 KM

1.B.SABY MITSUBISHI Pajero 06:32:28 T2
2.K.SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI Pajero 06:34:27 T2
3.J.P.FONTENAY MITSUBISHI Pajero 06:36:08 T2
4.D.HOUSIEAUX NISSAN 07:48:23 T3
5.H.MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger 08:00:45 T2
6.J.L.SCHLESSER BUGGY Original 08:23:07 T3
7.J.KLEINSCHMIDT BUGGY Original 08:24:06 T3
8.C.SOUZA MITSUBISHI Strada 08:38:22 T3
9.T.GAZZONI NISSAN 08:39:40 T3
10.B.TEN HARKEL MITSUBISHI Pajero 08:45:41 T1
11.S.QUANDT MITSUBISHI Pajero 08:45:41 T1
12.A.ASAI ISUZU 08:49:15 T1
13.M.PRIETO MITSUBISHI Montero 08:53:38 T2
14.T.DE LAVERGNE NISSAN 08:58:21 T3
15.P.ALLIOT NISSAN 09:10:14 T3

 

 

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS14

1.J.P.FONTENAY / G. PICARD MITSUBISHI Pajero 57:11:53 T2
2.B.SABY / D. SERIEYS MITSUBISHI Pajero +00:42:32 T2
3.KSHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE MITSUBISHI Pajero +01:58:03 T2
4.H.MASUOKA / A. SCHULZ MITSUBISHI Challenger +04:53:04 T2
5.J.L. SCHLESSER / A.C. PAUWELS BUGGY Original +08:12:17 T3
6.P.ALLIOT / J. DUBOIS NISSAN +11:06:45 T3
7.D.HOUSIEAUX / M. DOMINELLA NISSAN +11:45:49 T3
8.T.DE LAVERGNE / L. ARGUELLES NISSAN +12:08:21 T3
9.M.PRIETO / F. GIL MITSUBISHI Montero +15:54:22 T2
10.B.TEN HARKEL / H. DEN TOOM MITSUBISHI Pajero +22:03:21 T1
11.S.QUANDT / P. TIEFFENBACH MITSUBISHI Pajero +22:21:26 T1
12.C.SOUZA / P. REY MITSUBISHI Strada +27:27:17 T3
15.J. KLEINSCHMIDT / M. STEVENSON BUGGY Original +32:16:17 T3



Tomorrow, Friday, January 16, 1998
LEG 15: ATAR - BOUTILMIT
Distance: 493 KM - Special Stage: 456 KM


The next and final marathon section of this year's Paris-Dakar starts tomorrow with a 456 km stage through the "Valley of Wonders", so-called because it is said to contain some of Mauritania's most beautiful landscapes. The first 200 km will be very spectacular, but after that it's back to the desert and unmarked plains where accurate navigation will play a crucial role. The toughest part comes at the end with a blast along a rough, rocky dry river bed that stretches for almost 25 km. Competitors will need to be careful through here as there will be no airborne mechanics at Boutilmit to repair any damage!


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


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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.