Sousa takes World Championship lead in Morocco
ORPI RALLY OF MOROCCO
FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, round 4
For immediate release
Monday, June 9th, 2003
Leg 5: OUIRGANE - MARRAKECH (Liaison 34 kms, Special 123 kms, Liaison 71 kms)
SOUSA TAKES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
LEAD WITH SECOND PLACE IN MOROCCO
Mayer third quickest today; De Villiers wins for Nissan
MARRAKECH (Morocco): Mitsubishi's Carlos Sousa moved into the outright lead of the FIA World Cup Drivers' Championship by finishing second overall in the Orpi Rally of Morocco, which finished in Marrakech today (Monday).
After losing their chance of taking outright victory in the five-day rally with power steering problems on Saturday, Portugal's Sousa and French co-driver Henri Magne stayed clear of problems over the final 123 kms stage into Marrakech to win the section and move 25 points clear of the defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser in the points' table at the wheel of a Mitsubishi L200 Strakar.
~After the power steering problem, second place was all I could realistically hope for,~ said Sousa. ~But it could have been much worse. Now I must look ahead to Spain and make sure that I have a good result. Spain is a very different race. Delays in the dust and a good starting position are crucial. I have finished second there twice before. A win would be perfect.~
The German duo of Andrea Mayer and Andreas Schulz finished with a flurry by taking the third fastest time in the final stage to climb back into 16th place. Frenchman Nicolas Misslin and co-driver Jean-Michel Polato eventually finished in 25th place overall in a customer Pajero* after dropping out of the top five on Saturday's following a time-consuming accident.
~I could have won the stage today,~ said Mayer. ~No-one was pushing that hard, but I caught Giniel de Villiers before the first passage control and followed in his dust to the finish.~
~Carlos drove a very good rally,~ said Mitsubishi's Team Director Dominique Serieys. ~I am very pleased that he now has a clear advantage in the World Championship.
~Andrea confirmed my faith in her ability. She quickly adjusted to her new car and set some excellent times. Nicolas was also competitive and this was a major boost for the customer team, as we continue to develop the new Pajero Evolution for Dubai and then next year's Dakar Rally.~
Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and Rafal Marton finished in fifth position in their classic Pajero after a second successive consistent performance, with Ralliart team mates Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell in seventh overall in a similar car.
The final stage combined the ascent of the Iki plateau and a run down on to the Tifermine plain, but was delayed for an hour because heavy thunderstorms on Sunday evening caused flash flooding in the Haute Atlas region, standing water and several scree falls.
While the official Mitsubishi Motors team now embarks upon a major test session with Miki Biasion, Stephane Peterhansel and Hiroshi Masuoka in Morocco in July, Sousa heads for the next round of the series in Spain next month, as he bids to win the World Drivers' title for the first time.
Positions on SS5 (top 5 only):
1. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 1h 39m 04s
2. Jose-Marie Servia (E)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Ford 1h 39m 54s
3. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 1h 40m 15s
4. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 1h 40m 21s
5. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero 1h 42m 34s
Positions after SS5 (top 5 only):
1. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Tina Thorner (S) Nissan Pick-Up 15h 38m 06s
2. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 16h 10m 54s
3. Jose-Marie Servia (E)/Francois Borsotto (F) Schlesser-Ford 16h 55m 04s
4. Yves Loubet (F)/Jacky Dubois (F) Nissan Pick-Up 17h 09m 45s
5. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero 17h 18m 16s
FIA World Cup Drivers' Championship - standings after round 4 (top 5 only - provisional)
1. Carlos Sousa (P) 80 pts
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F) 55 pts
3. Giniel de Villiers (ZA) 45 pts