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PARIS - GRANADA - DAKAR 1998
Communique 9
LEG 8 : ZOUERAT - EL MREITI
Distance : 684 KM
Stage distance : 680 KM


EL MREITI
Thursday, January 8, 1998


FONTENAY PRAISES MITSUBISHI AFTER THE TOUGHEST DAY


After the toughest leg of the 20th Paris-Dakar so far, Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay celebrated an increased lead after eight days, praising his Team Off Road Express Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero as "The toughest car in the world!" as he arrived at the deserted Saharan outpost of El Mreiti today, January 8.

Almost eight hours of driving 680 km across wind-blown desert plains and seemingly endless waves of sand dunes, the Frenchman, co-driven by Gilles Picard, was relieved to arrive at El Mreiti at all, never mind with an extended lead.

The stage was the first part of a marathon leg, and drivers had to be careful not to damage their cars, as no airborne mechanics or parts would be waiting for them at El Mreiti - an isolated spot in the heart of the Sahara Desert.

Fontenay admitted: "I'm very tired. It was so difficult today. The first part of the stage was all dunes and the car was always sinking in the sand, and then it was a broken, rocky surface which was very hard on the car.
But, I am still the leader, which is important. It was very worrying, because we had a puncture just 15 km from the start, so we had to drive for 660 km with only one spare tyre! It was a hard day for my car, and I am very relieved to finish. This Pajero is the best and toughest car in the world!"

Fontenay had a double reason to celebrate as today also marked his son's fourth birthday.

Bruno Saby and Dominique Serieys also enjoyed a good run in their Team PIAA Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero, although they suffered two punctures only a few metres apart, and had to drive carefully through the rest of the section as they had no spare wheels left.

Saby explained: "We had two punctures within 500 metres of each other, and right at the start! So we could not push too hard."

Saby held on to second place in the overall classification, but praised the efforts of German lady driver Jutta Kleinschmidt who moved into third place today in her buggy.

Japanese ace and last year's rally winner, Kenjiro Shinozuka, was not as fortunate as his team mates however, and dropped to a provisional fourth place after becoming stuck in the sand for over an hour and a half in his Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Pajero.

There was good news, however, for Shinozuka's fellow countryman, Hiroshi Masuoka, who moved into fifth provisionally, from sixth, in his Team Mitsubishi Oil Ralliart Challenger/Montero Sport. Last night, Masuoka, who languished behind the buggies of Schlesser and Kleinschmidt said: "We are making up the time we lost at Chateau Lastours and I am not worried by the buggies. I think we can beat them."

Just 79 cars and 133 motorbikes started the stage today, and many more are expected to retire amongst the dunes in northern Mauritania during this evening. However, the Mitsubishi International drivers were reported to be going well, despite the tough conditions.

The impressive Mitsubishi FR415 4WD-RS truck driven by Gilbert Versino was also expected to cope well with the conditions after an excellent drive during the first seven days.
At Zouerat, Versino commented: "The only thing on the truck that has broken is an air filter bracket! That is amazing! The new suspension makes driving this truck very easy. We can drive over anything and not feel it. We have been able to drive consistently at our top speed, around 140 km/h. In a week's time, I hope we are in the same position."

Many of the competitors will have to sleep under the stars ...

 

 

 

 

SS8 - EL MREITI - 680 KM

1.J.P.FONTENAY/ G. PICARD MITSUBISHI Pajero 07.53.03 T2
2.J. KLEINSCHMIDT / M. STEVENSON BUGGY Original 08.03.52 T3
3.B.SABY / D.SERIEYS MITSUBISHI Pajero 08.06.20 T2
4.H.MASUOKA/ A.SCHULZ MITSUBISHI Challenger 08.27.50 T2
5.K.SHINOZUKA / H.MAGNE MITSUBISHI Pajero 09.27.52 T2
6.D. HOUSIEAUX / M. DOMINELLA NISSAN 09.46.39 T3
7.P. ALLIOT / J. DUBOIS NISSAN 9.48.47 T3
8.T. DE LAVERGNE / L. ARGUELLES NISSAN 10.52.49> T3
9.J.L. SCHLESSER / A.C. PAUWELS BUGGY Original 10.58.44 T3
...      

GENERAL CLASSIFICATION after SS8

1.J.P.FONTENAY / G. PICARD MITSUBISHI Pajero 23.13.46 T2
2.B. SABY / D. SERIEYS MITSUBISHI Pajero +00:14.27 T2
3.J. KLEINSCHMIDT / M. STEVENSON BUGGY Original +01.10.16 T3
4.K.SHINOZUKA / H.MAGNE MITSUBISHI Pajero +01.39.53 T2
5.H. MASUOKA / A. SCHULZ MITSUBISHI Pajero +01.46.59 T2
6.J.L.SCHLESSER / A.C. PAUWELS BUGGY Original +03.31.47 T3
7.P. ALLIOT / J. DUBOIS NISSAN +04.40.04 T3
8.D. HOUSIEAUX / M. DOMINELLA NISSAN +05.49.10 T3
9.T. DE LAVERGNE / L. ARGUELLES NISSAN +06.12.45 T3
10.M. PRIETO / F. GIL MITSUBISHI Pajero +06.59.26 T2


updated 20h30


Tomorrow, Friday, January 9, 1998
LEG 9 : EL MREITI - TAOUDENNI
Distance : 478 KM
Stage distance : 478 KM



Tomorrow's stage will almost certainly be one of the most memorable and decisive of the 20th Paris-Dakar. One hundred per cent new, this completely off-road stage threads it way through a lunar landscape with great seas of sand and steep, endless ranges of dunes. Perhaps the most spectacular part will be the decent through the sandy cliffs of the Agaraktem Pass before the final run into Taoudenni.


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Copyright 1998 by Mitsubishi Motors Corporation.