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Masuoka Looks Certain to Win First Dakar Rally Title - 2002-01-13

Japanese driver Hiroshi Masuoka looks certain to win his first Dakar Rally title, after finishing the next-to-last stage Saturday with a 22-minute lead in the standings.

Belgian Gregoire De Mevius won the 165-kilometer timed section of the leg linking Kiffa, Mauritania and the Senegalese capital, Dakar, in one hour, 33 minutes and six seconds. Masuoka was second and countryman Kenjiro Shinozuka third.

Masuoka, who drives a Mitsubishi, leads titleholder Jutta Kleinschmidt of Germany by 22 minutes and one second in the race standings before Sunday's final stage, which is little more than a 31-kilometer victory lap.