Masuoka takes lead in Dakar Rally

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka, chasing a third successive Dakar Rally victory, took the lead on Tuesday.

Updated: February 25, 2007 10:05 IST
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Tuesday's sixth stage of the Dakar Rally - the 803 kilometres between Ouarzazate and Tan Tan in Morocco - included a 351-kilometre special stage. And it proved quite a handful for a number of the competitors, who were held up by - or caught in - some Moroccan mud flats. Finland's Ari Vatanen, a four-times Dakar winner who celebrated his 50th career stage win at the weekend, lost three hours in his Nissan when he stopped with a flooded engine after a water splash 117 kilometres into the stage. No such problems, though, for the Japanese Hiroshi Masuoka. Chasing a third successive Dakar Rally victory, Masuoka took 3 hours, 9 minutes and 40 seconds to complete the stage - and that moved him into first place, wresting the lead from Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel. Peterhansel, given a five-minute penalty on Monday for receiving a push, lost another seven minutes with a puncture a third of the way through the stage that became a car-breaker for some front runners. Peterhansel's Mitsubishi only managed fourth place, 7:52 slower than Masuoka. Overall, the Frenchman dropped to second place, 6:40 behind his Japanese rival. Another of those to suffer on Tuesday was Italy's former world rally champion Miki Biasion, who barrel-rolled his Mitsubishi at the 240-kilometre mark, ripping three wheels off his wrecked 4x4. Biasion and his co-driver were unhurt in the accident, but had to wait for assistance to see whether the car could be repaired enough to continue. Two minutes and 57 seconds behind Masuoka was the South African Giniel de Villiers, in a Nissan. That was good enough for second place on the day and moved de Villiers up to third overall, trailing Masuoka by 17:50. Spaniard Nani Roma was the day's fastest motorcycle rider, but he still trails countryman Isidre Esteve Pujol overall. Roma completed the stage in 3 hours, 32 minutes and 26 seconds, 2:25 faster that Esteve Pujol, in second. Australian Andy Caldecott was third. Overall, Esteve Pujol has a 1:54 lead over Roma and is 2:37 ahead of Frenchman Cyril Despres, in third. This year's 11,090.5-kilometre rally spans seven countries and ends on 18th January in the Senegalese capital, Dakar. Wednesday includes a 701-kilometre special stage between Tan Tan and Atar in Mauritania. (AP)

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