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Schlesser regains Dakar lead

January 4, 2001

ER RACHIDIA, Morocco (AP) _ Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser regained the overall lead in the car category after winning the first African stage of the 2001 Dakar Rally Thursday.

As the race reached Morocco after an overnight crossing from southern Spain, rebels campaigning for an independent Western Sahara threatened again to ``resume arms″ if the Rally crosses into the disputed territory under Moroccan control as scheduled Sunday.

Schlesser, driving a self-designed two-wheel-drive buggy powered by a Renault engine, was timed in 1 hour, 12 minutes, 1 second, to win the 86-mile stage.

Another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Fontenay, was second at 1:15:52 in a Mitsubishi. Schlesser’s teammate, Jose Maria Servia, finished third at 1:19:06.

Mitsubishi driver Hiroshi Masuoka fell from first to seventh in the standings after finishing eighth Thursday.

In the motorcycle section, Frenchman Richard Sainct continued his domination, taking the fourth stage of the race in 1:16:01 on a KTM.

KTMs also finished second and third, with Chile’s Carlo De Gavardo the runner-up at 1:17:15, followed by Italy’s Fabrizio Meoni at 1:17:28.

Sainct, winner of the last two Dakar Rallys, leads the overall standings by 3:19.

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