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Japan's Masuoka wins second straight Dakar Rally

Posted: Sunday January 19, 2003 1:18 PM

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt (Reuters) -- Japan's Hiroshi Masuoka claimed his second Dakar Rally title in succession on Sunday after safely completing the 17th and final stage.

The 42-year-old Mitsubshi driver finished the timed section of the 56-kilometer stage around Sharm El-Sheikh more than eight minutes behind winner Finland's Ari Vatanen.

But Masuoka comfortably topped the overall standings, one hour 52 minutes and 12 seconds ahead of Jean-Pierre Fontenay of France.

Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel, who had led for most of the race until a calamitous 16th stage when he suffered a radiator leak and then hit a rock, was third.

Another Frenchman, Richard Sainct, won the motorbike section of the rally for the third time, adding to his victories of 1999 and 2000.

Compatriot Cyril Despres finished second while Italy's Fabrizio Meoni was third.

Masuoka's overall victory brought the 25th version of the rally to an end after 18 grueling days and 8,552 kms.

The event featured one death, that of Toyota's French co-driver Bruno Cauvy who died in a crash on the 10th stage.

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