Sousa loses victory in Turkey Rally by four seconds
Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce
2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, round 6 of 8
For immediate release
Saturday, August 16th, 2003
MITSUBISHI'S SOUSA LOSES VICTORY
IN TURKEY RALLY BY FOUR SECONDS
Mitsubishi Portugal lodges FIA appeal against Schlesser;
Komornicki finishes third in Ralliart Pajero
URGUB (Turkey): Mitsubishi's Carlos Sousa missed out on extending his advantage in the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, when he finished second overall in the seven-day Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce, which finished on Saturday (August 16th) in Turkey.
The Portuguese driver finished a mere four seconds behind the defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser and his French rival duly moved two points ahead in the FIA World Drivers' Championship, subject to a forthcoming FIA appeal.
But the outcome of the event was marred by an incident on the penultimate stage where Schlesser was alleged to have driven one particular section without using the route assigned in the official road book. Mitsubishi Portugal lodged a protest to the organisers about the Frenchman's actions.
The protest was thrown out by rally officials on the grounds that there was insufficient evidence against Schlesser's Buggy. Mitsubishi Portugal duly lodged an official protest to the FIA and Sousa is now awaiting the outcome of a forthcoming FIA meeting where the matter will be discussed in more detail.
~In the interest of the future of the sport it is important that we follow the rule book and take this situation to the FIA,~ said Mitsubishi's team manager Dominique Serieys. ~It was a fantastic race and very exciting. But this problem needs to be resolved in a professional and sportsmanlike manner.~
With additional support from TMN and Galp for his Mitsubishi Portugal-backed L200 Strakar, Sousa and his French co-driver Henri Magne led for the opening two days, after setting the fastest time on the Prologue and the first 243 kms special stage last Monday.
Schlesser won the 317 kms special on Tuesday to move within 24 seconds of the leading Mitsubishi. The defending World Champion then moved ahead of Sousa on the third stage.
The two-horse race resumed on Thursday and Sousa regained the advantage. He held a 78 second lead heading into the final two stages on Friday and Saturday. But Schlesser managed to set a faster time on the penultimate section, despite not passing Sousa on the assigned route, and began the final leg 2m 33s ahead of the Mitsubishi.
Sousa won the final section by 2m 29s, but lost the potential win and the chance to extend his championship lead by a mere four seconds after over 18.5 hours of competitive driving.
~I started well by winning the Prologue and the first stage,~ said Sousa. ~It was always going to be a race between myself and Jean-Louis and he managed to regain some time on the next stage. Then he moved into a four-minute lead. I tried everything to improve our performance and even closed the air hatches on the roof for better aerodynamics.
~On Thursday I was running well and we could see his dust in the distance. I had a flat tyre before the second passage control, but we passed him. He had stopped to change a tyre and I regained the lead.
~It was very close and we managed to pull ahead again on the fifth stage. Jean-Louis somehow managed to set a faster time than me on the penultimate stage and I started the last section over two and a half minutes behind. He didn't pass me on the stage. It was extraordinary. The event was a real lesson for me!~
Sousa and Schlesser finished well clear of the chasing pack and the nearest competitors were Poland's Lukasz Komornicki and co-driver Rafal Marton, who finished third overall in a Ralliart France-prepared Mitsubishi Pajero.
They held third position for three days, despite sustaining a flat tyre on day two. The Poles lost time with a navigational error, which dropped them behind Eric Vigoroux, but they regained the final podium place on the last stage.
~We had been running well behind Carlos and Jean-Louis and then decided to follow (Phillipe) Gache's Pro Truck on the fourth stage,~ said Komornicki. ~I should have known better, because we took the wrong track and Eric Vigoroux moved ahead of us.~
French racing veteran Phillipe Gache was fourth overall in a Ford Pro Truck and Janis Naglis finished eighth overall in a privately-run Mitsubishi Pajero.
The Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce was run entirely on gravel sections and features loops in and out of the town of Urgub in the Cappadoce region of Turkey. It was organised by the veteran French driver Rene Metge and attracted a starting list of 29 bikes, 15 cars and 5 trucks.
Sousa and Schlesser now resume their two-way battle for the FIA World Drivers' Championship on the Por Las Pampas Rally - the penultimate round of the series - in Argentina in September.
Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce (positions after leg 7): SUBJECT TO FIA APPEAL
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marc Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford Raid 18h 42m 33s
2. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (F) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 18h 42m 37s
3. Lukasz Komornicki (PL)/Rafal Marton (PL) Mitsubishi Pajero 21h 12m 48s
4. Phillipe Gache (F)/Bruno Catarelli (F) Ford Pro Truck 21h 22m 24s
FIA World Drivers' Championship - after 6 rounds - SUBJECT TO FIA APPEAL
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser - Schlesser-Ford (F) 114
2. Carlos Sousa - Mitsubishi (P) 112