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PARIS - GRANADA - DAKAR 1998
Communique 8
LEG 7 : SMARA - ZOUERAT
Distance : 614 KM
Stage distance : 494 KM

ZOUERAT,
Wednesday, January 7, 1998


FONTENAY HITS THE FRONT AS MITSUBISHIS LEAD INTO THE SAHARA



The trio of Mitsubishi Pajeros leading the 20th Paris-Dakar continued their winning ways deep into the Sahara Desert today, January 7, although there was a change of rally leader as French pair Jean-Pierre Fontenay and Gilles Picard moved in front in their Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero.

Despite a troublesome gearbox, it was last year's rally winner, Japanese ace Kenjiro Shinozuka,
who won the tough 494 km stage which introduced the desert for the first time this year. Driving the Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero and co-driven by Henri Magne, Shinozuka won the stage by over three and a half minutes from Fontenay, although he remained in third place overall.

Previous rally leaders, Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys, dropped to second place after losing fifth and sixth gears in their Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, although they still managed an impressive third fastest on the stage.

Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka and his German navigator Andreas Schulz, were still holding a strong sixth place overall, hoping to try and catch the two buggies in fourth and fifth, driven by Schlesser and Kleinschmidt respectively, over the coming week.

Any problems encountered were not sufficiently serious to worry the leading Mitsubishis, however, as they stormed into Mauritania for the first time this year along part of the ancient trading route between Morocco and Timbuktu. Most of the driving was completely off road, with nothing
to guide the drivers but their navigators with their compasses. The massive sand dunes posed the biggest hazard and most were relieved as they pulled into the iron ore mining town of Zouerat were temperatures were cooled to 25 degrees Celsius by the Harmattan - the Sahara's winter wind, which cast a haze over the bustling mining town.

Fontenay played down his success today, stating: "It was not a very important stage - all cars can go fast on this type of route. It was good, but tomorrow it starts to get more difficult."

Shinozuka had a slightly different view, commenting: "The dunes were very difficult, some of them soaring up at a 60 degree angle."

Saby, who had been plagued by transmission problems, added: "We also had a puncture 120 km before the finish."

French World Ski Champion Luc Alphand was in much better spirits, however, holding a steady line in the top 20 in his Mitsubishi Pajero. He said: "I am having so much fun - maybe too much! I don't like to be beaten, and that might get me into trouble. I might try and go faster next week. My confidence is building, but I also want to finish!"

Portuguese driver Carlos Souza was delighted with the performance of his Mitsubishi Strada, holding ninth at Zouerat. He said: "This race is about tactics.
Yesterday, I had Pescarolo pushing me for about 100 km which put me under pressure. But my next goal is to get in front of the Nissans, but there are three marathon stages to come and risking the car by driving too hard would be stupid."

Frenchman Jean-Pierre Strugo is still doing magnificently in his near-standard Mitsubishi Pajero, leading the T1 category and provisionally moving into the top 10 at Zouerat. The South African pairing of Woolridge and Bruce who were having a good run in their T1 Mitsubishi Pajero, enjoyed their first attempt at the Paris-Granada-Dakar.

In the truck class, the legendary French crew headed by Gilbert Versino were still leading the category last night by a healthy margin in their Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS truck.

Servia stopped to help Wambergue (Toyota) who had an oil leak. Pescarolo (Protruck) also had problems, beeing stuck in the sand.


 

SS7 - ZOUERAT - 494 KM

1.K.SHINOZUKA MITSUBISHI Pajero 04:07:02 T2
2.J.P.FONTENAY MITSUBISHI Pajero 04:10:40 T2
3.B.SABY BUGGY Original 04:13:06 T3
4.J. KLEINSCHMIDT BUGGY Original 04:18:08 T3
5.H.MASUOKA MITSUBISHI Challenger 04:21:31 T2
6.J.L.SCHLESSER BUGGY Original 04:24:37 T3
7. P. ALLIOT NISSAN 04:48:16 T3
8.C.SOUZA MITSUBISHI Strada 04:51:27 T3
9.D. HOUSIEAUX NISSAN 04:55:29 T3
10.JP.STRUGO MITSUBISHI Pajero 04:59:03 T1
11.B.HANCIAUX NISSAN 05:01:46 T3
12.H.PESCAROLO PROTRUCK 05:14:30 T3

 

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS7

1.J.P.FONTENAY / G. PICARD MITSUBISHI Pajero 15:20:43 T2
2.B. SABY / D. SERIEYS MITSUBISHI Pajero +00:01:10 T2
3.K. SHINOZUKA / H. MAGNE MITSUBISHI Pajero +00:05:04 T2
4.J.L. SCHLESSER / A.C. PAUWELS BUGGY Original +00:26:06 T3
5.J. KLEINSCHMIDT / M. STEVENSON BUGGY Original +00:59:27 T3
6.H. MASUOKA / A. SCHULZ MITSUBISHI Challenger +01:12:12 T2
7.P. ALLIOT / J. DUBOIS NISSAN +02:44:20 T3
8.B. HANCIAUX / J. LURQUIN NISSAN +02:44:25 T3
9.C. SOUZA / P. REY MITSUBISHI Strada +02:45:40 T3
10.J.P. STRUGO / B. CATARELLI MITSUBISHI Pajero +03:12:46 T1
11.H. PESCAROLO / J. BOUSSIER PROTRUCK +02:26:29 T3
12.D. HOUSIEAUX / M. DOMINELLA NISSAN +03:55:34 T3

 

Tomorrow, Thursday, January 8, 1998
LEG 8 : ZOUERAT - EL MREITI
Distance : 684 KM
Stage distance : 680 KM

The 20th Paris-Dakar starts in earnest at Zouerat in the heart of the Sahara with the start of the first Marathon section tomorrow. For three days the remaining competitors will have to survive without the support of airborne mechanics and will virtually have to fend for themselves. The leg itself will be a mixture of fast tracks and "ergs" which are like vast seas of sand with plenty of dunes. During tomorrow and the following two days we are sure to see plenty of action at the front of the field!


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





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