Rallying: KTM riders shine in Spain

BAD WEATHER in Southern Spain yesterday forced organisers to replace the 115km first timed stage of the Dakar Rally with a 5km stage held on the same course as Thursday's prologue. Wind and rain prevented the field, which later embarked for a short crossing of the Mediterranean to Morocco, from battling it out in the hills of Andalucia.

The change was to the liking of Dirk Von Zitzewitz, the German KTM rider, as he gained his second consecutive stage victory in the motorcycle section on a muddy course after winning the prologue. KTM repeated their dominance with nine motorcycles in the leading 10 after placing placing eight machines in the first 10 of the prologue.

In the car section, the Spaniard Miguel Prieto pleased local fans with a fastest time of 5min 47sec, edging the race favourites, Kenjiro Shinozuka of Japan and France's Jean-Pierre Fontenay. The trio were driving Mitsubishis. Shinozuka and Fontenay, the 1997 and 1998 race winners respectively, were first and second in the prologue.

The race will start in earnest today, with the 654km second stage from Rabat to Agadir including a 100km timed section.

Mitsubishi, winners of the last two Dakar rallies, were confirmed as favourites to make it three in a row when Shinozuka won the prologue. Shinozuka and the Frenchman Henri Magne won in 5min 11sec on a muddy 5km timed section near Granada.

The Frenchman Jean-Louis Schlesser, in his Schlesser- Renault Megane, was second fastest and is likely to be a main threat to the Mitsubishis. Fontenay was third, with Mitsubishi placing six cars in the top 10.

DAKAR RALLY (Granada, Sp) First stage: Cars: 1 M Prieto (Sp) Mitsubishi 5min 47sec; 2 K Shinozuka (Japan) Mitsubishi +3sec; 3 J-P Fontenay (Fr) Mitsubishi +7; 4 J Kleinschmidt (Ger) Mitsubishi +10; 5 J M Servia (Sp) Schlesser +12; 6 H Masuoka (Japan) Mitsubishi +14; 7 G de Mevius (Bel) Nissan +15; 8 S Peterhansel (Fr) Nissan same time; 9 C Souza (Por) Mitsubishi +21; 10 S Servia (Sp) Nissan +22. Motorcycles: 1 D Von Zitzewitz (Ger) KTM 5min 25sec; 2 G Sala (It) KTM +5sec; 3 J Mayer (Germany) KTM +6; 4 J Roma (Sp) KTM s/t; 5 F Fasola (It) KTM +8; 6 R Sainct (Fr) BMW +10; 7 W Hutten (Neth) +12; 8 K Tiainen (Fin) KTM +13; 9 P Marques (Por) KTM +15; 10 A Perez (Fr) KTM +17.