Al Mutawei chases fifth place in Turkish World Cup round


2004 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup
Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce, round 5

For immediate release
Friday, August 6th, 2004


Victory Team star fifth fastest on final Urgup loop;
Frenchman Saby holds lead as Schlesser wins stage

URGUP (Turkey): Dubai's Khalifa Al-Mutawei and French co-driver Alain Guehennec maintained their challenge for the lead in the FIA World Cup Drivers' Championship, after the fifth selective and the third and final loop section around the town of Urgup on the Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce on Friday morning.

The event is the fifth round of the 2004 Cross-Country Rallies World Cup and Al-Mutawei will now start the final two sections in sixth position in the overall standings after taking fifth place on the day's stage in his diesel-engined BMW X5 Rallye-Raid. But his excellent performance on the tricky section lifted him to within 1m 05s of his nearest rival Phillipe Gache, whom he beat on the day by 3m 42s.

After surviving a scare on the second loop stage around Urgup, when the Victory Team star nearly rolled his X5 out of the running, Al-Mutawei settled into a pace behind the leading Volkswagens and the stage winner Jean-Louis Schlesser on the fifth section and headed into Friday's mammouth 644 kms section between Urgup and Bokzir in contention to move ahead of Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel in the World Drivers' standings. The Dubai driver's goal is to make history by becoming the first Arab on record to win a world rallying title.

~Today was much better for me, after the big scare I had on the second loop stage when I damaged and nearly rolled the car out of the rally,~ said Al-Mutawei. ~Now I must make sure that I reach the finish. There are two stages to go - one long one and one short one - which will not be easy. I'm maybe too far behind to challenge for the podium unless someone has a problem, but I am in a position now which will give me the lead in the World Championship and that was the goal at the start of the week. If I hadn't lost so much time on the first stage with a flat tyre and the navigational problem, then I might have been able to push harder at this stage.

~These stages are narrow and it is difficult to pass. These are not closed roads like conventional rallies and you always have to drive on the side of caution in case you meet a member of the public, a farm tractor or a bike. This is on my mind, but it is the same for everyone. I beat Phillipe by over three minutes on the stage and I know that I can catch him now. The difference between fifth and sixth is three points and they could be crucial at the end of the season.~

Frenchman Bruno Saby and his co-driver Michel Perin ceded the stage win to Schlesser's two-wheel drive Buggy, but the former Dakar Rally winner still leads the event by 9m 45s. Schlesser's maiden selective win of the event lifted him above the Belgian driver Gregoire de Mevius into the runner-up position.

Jutta Kleinschmidt took her second successive fourth fastest time to remain in a similar place in the second Volkswagen, ahead of Gache's under-pressure SMG Buggy. Frenchman Dominique Housieaux maintained seventh position in the Ralliart Mitsubishi Pajero, although he slipped further behind Mutawei in the overall standings and now trails the Dubai driver by around 18 minutes.

Saturday's final selective heads out of Bozkir en route to the official podium and finish in Antalya. In a route of 325 kms, a mere 110 kms are competitive, but final sections of FIA World Cup events have often brought a sting in the tail for leading drivers. Only last year Stephane Peterhansel lost potential wins in Italy and Tunisia with mechanical problems in the final kilometres.

Positions after SS5 (top 7):
1. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Perin (F) Volkswagen Touareg 16h 05m 55s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 16h 15m 40s
3. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Jacky Dubois (B) Nissan Pick-Up 16h 20m 40s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 16h 29m 14s
5. Phillipe Gache (F)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (F) SMG Buggy 16h 51m 32s
6. Khalifa Al-Mutawei (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 16h 52m 37s
7. Dominique Housieaux (F)/Loic Fagot (F) Mitsubishi Pajero 17h 11m 05s

Positions on day's stage (top 6):
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Buggy 4h 09m 47s
2. Bruno Saby (F)/Michel Perin (F) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 13m 19s
3. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Jacky Dubois (B) Nissan Pick-Up 4h 17m 44s
4. Jutta Kleinschmidt (D)/Fabrizia Pons (I) Volkswagen Touareg 4h 20m 00s
5. Khalifa Al-Mutawei (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 4h 23m 44s
6. Phillipe Gache (F)/Jean-Pierre Garcin (F) SMG Buggy 4h 27m 26s


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Date issued: 06/08/2004

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