As the Paris-Dakar auto rally reached Dirkou,...

As the Paris-Dakar auto rally reached Dirkou, Niger, Ari Vatanen of Finland turned in the best time in the fourth timed leg, but his Peugeot teammate, Jacky Ickx of Belgium, remained overall leader.

The motorcycle division was canceled for the day due to the absence of a refueling truck 90 miles from the finish of Sunday’s stage--a 455-miles drive from Tumu, Libya to Dirkou in northeastern Niger.

The previous night, after the 358-mile Sebha-Tumu leg in Libya, Frenchmen Guy Frequelin and Philippe Wambergue, both driving Peugeot 205 Turbo 16s, and Briton Andrew Cowan in a Mitsubishi, protested the decision of the rally commissioner to assess them 3 hours worth of penalties for having missed a control point.

Frequelin, who was in third place in the overall standings, claimed that the control point was impossible to find, or not installed where the road book said it was supposed to be.


The grueling rally winds through Libya, Niger, Mali, Guinea and Senegal.

Race officials said 241 cars and 155 motorcycles began the rally, which is expected to finish on Jan. 13 in Dakar.

Last year six people died during the controversial rally, including three African spectators. Twenty-eight have died since the rally’s inception 11 years ago. No injuries have been reported so far this year.