CC Al Mutawei begins Por Las Pampas challenge in Argentina
2004 FIA Cross Country Rally World Cup
7th Por Las Pampas Rally, round 7 of 7
For immediate release
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004
DUBAI'S AL-MUTAWEI BEGINS ARGENTINA RALLY CHALLENGE
Victory Team star starts countdown to world title;
20 cars take start of event in Cordoba city centre
LA CUMBRE (Argentina): Dubai's Khalifa Al-Mutawei and French co-driver Alain Guehennec began their challenge for victory in the 7th Por Las Pampas Rally in Argentina by taking part in a timed Prologue stage, near the town of La Cumbre in the Punilla district. This kick-started the five days' of action on Monday evening in South America, where Al-Mutawei hopes to confirm his credentials as an FIA World Champion. The event finishes in La Cumbre on Friday afternoon.
After finishing third overall in the UAE Desert Challenge, Al-Mutawei made the decision to enter the long-distance event to ensure that he becomes the first Arab rally driver in history to take an FIA World title this weekend. He heads into the five selective sections through some of the remotest landscapes in Argentina with a 32-point lead in the seven-event series and lines up in a field of 20 cars in the province of Cordoba.
~The Prologue is always used on these long-distance events to determine the starting order of the cars,~ said the Victory Team star. ~This is my first visit to Argentina and I have been impressed with the friendly reception from officials, competitors and members of the public.
~There are some competitive amateur drivers here, but none of the factory teams I faced in the UAE Desert Challenge last month. This week it is a matter of me concentrating on my own performance and ensuring that I finish the rally. Then, perhaps, the celebrations can start.~
Based at La Cumbre for the first time, the Por Las Pampas Rally is being organised by the OTTA (All Terrain Organization of Argentina). Al-Mutawei lined up on the Prologue against the highly-rated Russian driver Sergei Shmakov in a Toyota Landcruiser, Andres Memi in a Mitsubishi Pajero, Matias Deni in a Nissan Pathfinder, Fernando Godoy in an Izusu Trooper, a team of three Chilean cars preparing for the 2005 Dakar Rally and a host of lesser known South American drivers.
Scrutineering took place in Cordoba on Sunday, with the 6.04 kms Prologue stage kicking off at the Pro Racing Circuit in Malagueño on Monday evening after the ceremonial start at Plaza San Martin at 10 hrs local time in Cordoba on Monday morning and a 90 kms road liaison section.
Tuesday's opening loop stage passed around La Cumbre, through remote mountaineous country and rural farmland and offered 450 competitive kilometres in a compact route of 500 kms.
On Wednesday, the second leg again loops around the town of La Cumbre and offers 640 competitive kilometres in an arduous 800 kms section. In a total secret route of 2019 kms, 1666 kms will be competitive and around 25% rely on GPS navigation.