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 Wednesday, 1 January, 2003, 20:09 GMT
Rally gets under way
Hiroshi Masuoka in his Mitsubishi on the way to winning the 10th stage of the Paris-Dakar Rally
Defending champion Hiroshi Masuoka is racing again
Paris-Dakar Rally favourite, Japan's Kenjiro Shinozuka, got off to a flying start when he won the 1km sprint in France.

Shinozuka, the 1997 winner, clocked the fastest time in one minute and 43 seconds in a Marseille park as Nissan underlined their ambitions to claim victory in Sharm el Sheikh on 19 January.

Other leading contenders filled the top 10 places.

Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, a six-time winner in the motorcycle section, was one second adrift of Shinozuka in a Mitsubishi.

Three other Mitsubishis, driven by Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka, Italy's Miki Biasion and Frenchman Jean-Pierre Fontenay, took the next three placings.

They were closely followed by the Buggies of Jean-Louis Schlesser and Jose-Maria Servia.

The first timed section of the rally is not taken into account in the overall standings and will only be used to determine the starting order of Thursday's second stage from Narbonne to Castellon.

In the motorcycle section, France's Cyril Despres was fastest in 1:39.

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