Sousa aims to extend World Cup lead in Spain
2003 BAJA SPAIN ARAGON
For immediate release
Thursday, July 17th, 2003
MITSUBISHI'S SOUSA AIMS TO EXTEND
FIA WORLD CUP LEAD IN SPAIN
Mayer and Monterde enter in Ralliart Pajeros
ZARAGOZA (Spain): Mitsubishi's Carlos Sousa and co-driver Henri Magne take part in the Baja Spain, the fifth round of the 2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, this weekend (July 18-20th). Sousa will be hoping to extend his 25-point lead in the FIA Drivers' Championship.
The Portuguese driver finished second overall in the recent Orpi Rally of Morocco and moved ahead of the defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser in the overall points standings. With support from Mitsubishi Portugal, Galp and TMN for his Mitsubishi Strakar L200, Sousa will start alongside his arch rival on Friday's evening's Prologue, near Zaragoza.
The result of this traditional opening section will determine which driver begins first on the road in the gruelling special stage to be held in searing heat and dust on Saturday.
~Avoiding the dust and paying attention to the right starting order are absolutely critical on this rally,~ said Sousa, who also leads the FIA Trophy for Drivers of Bajas after his recent victory in Greece.
~You must obtain a good start position, because the dust is thick and there are limited places to pass on the very narrow tracks. Last year I lost a lot of time trying to pass the slower bikes and cars. It is quite a tactical race and it will be very hot. There is no room for error or even the slightest mistake.~
Both Sousa and Schlesser face stiff competition from the BMW X5s of Grégoire de Mevius and Baja Germany winner Luc Alphand and the Nissan Pick-Ups of Marc Blazquez, Yves Loubet and the former Mitsubishi driver Kenjiro Shinozuka. The veteran Japanese driver is marking his return to international competition for the first time since his serious accident in this year's Telefonica Dakar Rally: Shinozuka won the Paris-Dakar Rally with Mitsubishi in 1997.
While Sousa aims to extend his lead in the World Drivers' Championship, Spaniards Jose-Luis Monterde and Rafael Tornabell will tackle the event in a Ralliart-prepared Mitsubishi Pajero. Both team members finished third overall last year behind Schlesser and Sousa.
Germany's Andrea Mayer again teams up with twice Dakar-winning co-driver Andrea Schulz in a second Ralliart Mitsubishi Pajero. Mayer, who now has a contract with Mitsubishi Motor Sports, has entered the diesel-engined Pajero in which she tackled the Dakar and Baja Italy events earlier this year. She finished fifth overall in this year's Optic Rally of Tunisia in a classic Pajero.
~I took part once before in Spain with a bike in 1999,~ said Andrea. ~But this is my first time in a car. It is going to be very hot and dusty. The stages are long, twisty and tiring. The race is only one day and there are two assistance points and a refuelling point, but it is one of the most demanding events of the year.~
Mitsubishi has won the Baja Spain on no less than three occasions; Jean Da Silva took successive wins in 1986 and 1987 and the former FIA Asia-Pacific rally champion Kenneth Eriksson won the event in 1991. The last five Bajas have been won by the Schlesser-Raid team, with defending champion Jean-Louis Schlesser taking no less than four victories.
The traditional prologue begins at 17.30 on Friday evening, near Zaragoza, with the first pass through the special stage starting from 07.45 on Saturday morning. Around 800 kms of competitive action draws to a close on Saturday evening and is followed by the ceremonial finish in Zaragoza on Sunday.
FIA World Cup Drivers' Championship - standings after round 4
1. Carlos Sousa - Mitsubishi (P) 80 pts
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser - Schlesser-Ford (F) 55 pts
3. Giniel de Villiers - Nissan (ZA) 45 pts
301. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Dominique Comolli (F) Schlesser-Ford Raid
302. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
303. Jean-Pierre Strugo (F)/Jean-Pierre Aujoulet (F) Mercedes ML 430
304. Jose-Luis Monterde (E)/Rafael Tornabell (E) Mitsubishi Pajero
305. Yves Loubet (F)/Jacky Dubois (F) Nissan Pick-Up
311. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5
312. Kenjiro Shinozuka (J)/TBA Nissan Pick-Up
315. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Phillippe Tiefenbach (D) BMW X5
327. Luc Alphand (F)/Arnaud Debron (F) BMW X5
399. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero