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German Woman Captures Dakar Rally

January 21, 2001

DAKAR, Senegal (AP) _ Jutta Kleinschmidt of Germany on Sunday became the first woman to win the Dakar Rally, a grueling race of 6,658 miles that began in Paris on New Year’s Day.

Kleinschmidt and copilot Andreas Schulz unexpectedly overtook two-time winner Jean-Louis Schlesser. The Frenchman was given a one-hour penalty in the 20th and final stage for unsportsmanlike conduct.

In the motorcycle class, Fabrizio Meoni of Italy won his first Dakar title.

With the final stage little more than a 16-mile victory lap, Schlesser looked set for his third straight victory after staking a comfortable lead Saturday. But by starting that stage ahead of Japan’s Hiroshi Masuoka, the leader at the time, he was penalized by officials.

Masuoka finished second overall behind teammate Kleinschmidt, giving Mitsubishi a 1-2 finish and its sixth Dakar title.

Schlesser, driving a self-designed buggy, and Jose Maria Servia of Spain tied with the top time in the final stage. Kari Tianen of Finland won the stage in the motorcycle class.

The rally began in Paris with 133 motorcycles and 113 cars. Fifty cars and 77 bikes made it to the finish line at the resort town of Lac Rose, just outside Dakar.

The treacherous race covers covered vast expanses of desert. Early on, a land mine exploded, blowing off the foot of a Portuguese driver in a support car.

Rebel groups also threatened to take military action against the competitors because of a territorial dispute.

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