Sousa and Magne win Baja Greece
2003 BAJA GREECE
For immediate release
Sunday, June 29th, 2003
MITSUBISHI'S SOUSA WINS BAJA GREECE
First win for Sousa outside Portugal; five stage wins for Mitsubishi driver
KARPENISI (Greece): Mitsubishi's Carlos Sousa and French co-driver Henri Magne won the Baja Greece, the third round of the FIA Trophy for Drivers of Bajas, in their Mitsubishi Galp TMN Strakar L200 on Saturday (June 28th).
The event marked the first victory for Sousa outside his native Portugal and placed him in a commanding lead in the FIA Trophy for Drivers of Bajas.
Sousa and Magne led from start to finish over the boulder-strewn 580 kms, three-day route through the mountaineous region of central Greece and were fastest on all five off-road special stages, despite the intense heat of a Greek summer and a flat tyre near the end of the third stage.
Sousa is the current leader of the 2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies Drivers' Championship after his second place in the recent Orpi Rally of Morocco and this victory was a useful test and a major confidence boost prior to his next world championship outing in Spain in July.
Organised by the Greek Club 4x4 Ekali, the event kicked off with a short Prologue to determine starting order for the opening stage on Friday. Sousa beat his nearest rival Joao Ramos, from Portugal, by six seconds and was never headed from then on.
The Portuguese driver beat Valter Benazzoto's Peugeot 604 Raid by 1m 53s in the first of three loops through the 99.76 kms opening test and bettered his time of 1h 50m 38s on the subsequent two occasions. By the end of Friday's stages he had built up a 5m 40s advantage over his nearest rival, despite running for over 10 kms in the third stage with a flat tyre.
Sousa resumed on Saturday where he left off on Friday to take the fastest time in both the fourth and fifth specials, beating the Italian Riccardo Colombo by 3m 30s in the fourth section and Silvio Grazioli by 5m 03s in the final test - Sousa knocking five seconds off his first stage time into the bargain.
~I started the race very cautiously,~ said Carlos. ~We had fitted some new brakes to the car and I wanted to bed them in properly. But I found a good pace and began to speed up. The tracks were very narrow, extremely rough and often potholed with deep trenches.
~It was difficult to throw the car around so I drove carefully. The average speed was very slow. The heat was intense, but we had no problems with this. It was good to win away from Portugal, especially over such tricky roads.~
Italy's Lorenzo Codeca finished second overall, albeit 15m 58s behind Sousa, in his Mitsubishi Pajero 3.5 V6 and Portugal's Helder Oliveira was third in a Nissan Patrol GR.
Based at Karpenisi in the Evritania region of central Greece between Pireus and Patra, the event attracted 38 starters, including Sousa's main Portuguese rivals Filipe Campos and Bernardo Vilar. Campos retired his Toyota early on with transmission problems.
Final positions after SS5 - top 5 only:
1. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 8h 58m 21s
2. Lorenzo Codeca (I)/Fabio Ferro (I) Mitsubishi Pajero* 3.6 V6 9h 14m 19s
3. Helder Oliveira (P)/Jose Ribiero (P) Nissan Patrol GR 9h 19m 35s
4, Silvio Grazioli (I)/Antonio Vannini (I) Suzuki Grand Vitara 9h 26m 51s
5. Riccardo Colombo (I)/Stefano Fabiano (I) Nissan Patrol GR 9h 38m 18s