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Wednesday, 2 January, 2002, 17:32 GMT
Fire ends Schlesser bid
Jean-Louis Schlesser's burnt-out Buggy
The remains of Schlesser's Buggy in the desert
Click here for results

Jean-Louis Schlesser's bid to win the Dakar rally with a diesel engine ended on Wednesday when his Kangoo car caught fire.

Schlesser, twice a winner of the gruelling event, was forced out during the 576km sixth stage from Er-Rachida to Ouarzazate in the Moroccan Atlas mountains.

"The car no longer exists, it was completely burned," race organiser Patrick Zaniroli said.

Frenchman Schlesser and his co-driver Henri Magne were unhurt. They were shuttled 338km to their camp by helicopter.


Today was a good special stage, sand dunes, everything that you are supposed to find on a Dakar
Hiroshi Masuoka
Race leader

Schlesser, who finished second last year behind bitter rival Jutta Kleinschmitt, was lying 11th overall in the cars section at the start of the stage.

The former sportscar racing driver had described switching from petrol to diesel as "his biggest challenge".

The Renault-engined "Schlesser Special" was less powerful than in previous years but he had hoped the lighter vehicle would make handling easier.

Mitsubishi driver Hiroshi Masuoka leads the standings after finishing third behind Nissan's Stephane Peterhansel and Mitsubishi's Kenjiro Shinozuka on Wednesday's stage, the first to feature crossings of sand dunes.

"It is a good start on the rally for me. I tried to keep myself not too confident, but after Atar we will attack," said Masuoka.

"Today was a good special stage, sand dunes, everything that you are supposed to find on a Dakar."

'Marathon' stage looms

Spanish rider Jordi Arcarons won the motorbikes section.

Some 300 cars, motorbikes and trucks are competing in the 9,436km trek through France, Spain and the northwestern Sahara desert.

The race finishes on 13 January in the Senegalese capital, Dakar.

On Thursday, competitors begin the first of two "marathon" stages, a 1,541m stretch through the Sahara from Ouarzazate to Zouerat in Mauritania.

There is an obligatory six-hour rest period at Tan-Tan in southern Morocco after the first half of the stage.


Overall standings after the sixth stage of the Dakar Rally between Er-Rachidia and Ouarzazate:

Cars:

1, Hiroshi Masuoka (Jap) Mitsubishi four hours 50 minutes and 16 seconds
2 Kenjiro Shinozuka (Jap) Mitsubishi 2:04 behind
3 Gregoire de Mevius (Bel) Nissan at 3:47
4 Jutta Kleinschmidt (Ger) Mitsubishi at 4:35
5 Jean-Pierre Fontenay (Fra) Mitsubishi 10:07

Motorbikes:

1 Joan Roma (Spa) KTM five hours five minutes and 48 seconds
2 Kari Tiainen (Fin) KTM 1:28 behind
3 Jordi Arcarons (Spa) KTM at 2:31

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Schlesser team press officer Chris Evans
"He was racing a new buggy so he knew there was a risk of shake-down problems"
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