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Saturday, 20 January, 2001, 23:06 GMT
Schlesser penalised after taking lead
Hiroshi Masuoka tries to pass Jose-Maria Servia
Hiroshi Masuoka (r) tries to overtake Jose-Maria Servia
Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser was penalised one hour for unsportsmanlike conduct after winning Saturday's penultimate stage of the Paris-Dakar Rally.

His victory had put Schlesser back into the lead from Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka.

But now that he and his team-mate Jose Maria Servia of Spain have both been penalised an hour, German driver Jutta Kleinschmidt will lead heading into Sunday's short final stage if the penalties are upheld.

Schlesser and Servia said late on Saturday that they planned to appeal against the decision by rally organisers.

Italy's Giovani Sala in action
Sala victorious on his KTM

Schlesser's victory came after he was involved in an incident which angered the Mitsubishi team, for which Masuoka drives.

Schlesser was due to set off on to the stage two minutes after Masuoka. But he and Servia, arrived at the start early, risking a time penalty.

Masuoka manoeuvred in front of Schlesser at the departure point, hitting the wing of the blue buggy. Jean-Pierre Fontenay stopped his Mitsubishi just millimetres from Schlesser's vehicle.

After the stage, Schlesser said: "We made a mistake with the time... I wasn't playing with the rules."

Masuoka, who left behind the two Schlesser Meganes, caught up on Servia and was almost involved in an accident in an effort to overtake him.

Masuoka's Mitsubishi then hit a tree stump damaging the rear left wheel, effectively ending his challenge for victory.

Lost precious time

Fontenay and co-driver Gilles Picard stopped to help Masuoka and his co-driver Pascal Maimon.

Maimon was angry at the tactics of the Schlesser buggies, and with Masuoka losing nearly three quarters of an hour, Schlesser calmly drove to victory leaving his rivals in his wake.

The punishment is Schlesser's second time penalty. He was docked one hour on the seventh stage when his self-designed Buggy was given an illegal push.

Earlier, Masuoka appeared to have lost his victory chance when he conceded precious time after suffering damage to the left rear wheel of his Mitsubishi 25 km into the stage.

Schlesser is bidding for a third straight win in the event, but the one-hour penalty would give Kleinschmidt a lead of three minutes over Masuoka and an advantage of around 24 minutes over the Frenchman if upheld.

In the motorcycle section, Italy's Giovani Sala on a KTM won this stage from Tambacounda, Senegal to Dakar.

This was a 564km stretch with a 217km special, but compatriot and team leader Fabrizio Meoni remained top overall.

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See also:

19 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Masuoka looks comfortable
14 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Masuoka in charge
13 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Schlesser rallies to victory
15 Jan 01 |  Motorsport
Schlesser keeps the pressure on
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