Sousa takes second place in Argentina

Por Las Pampas Rally
2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, round 7 of 8

For immediate release
Saturday, September 6th, 2003


FIA World Cup showdown set for Dubai; Schlesser wins in Argentina

CORDOBA (Argentina): Mitsubishi Motors Portugal team driver Carlos Sousa and co-driver Henri Magne finished second overall in the Por Las Pampas Rally, the penultimate round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, which finished near Cordoba, today (Friday).

After five gruelling stages across barren, rocky terrain in Central Argentina, the Portuguese driver finished 4m 55s behind arch rival and defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser in his Ford-engine Buggy.

Sousa began the five-day event a mere four points behind the defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser and last year's winning co-driver Jean-Marc Lurquin. But the Mitsubishi driver now heads to the final round of the series in the UAE next month needing to beat his main rival and hope that the outcome of a forthcoming FIA appeal is positive if he is to win the FIA Drivers' title for the first time.

~It was a hard race,~ admitted Sousa. ~Jean Louis is not easy to defeat. I did make a mistake in leg four and that kept me from fighting all the way. I liked the stages, but I'm sorry that I didn't win.~

At the wheel of a Mitsubishi Strakar L200 with support from TMN and Galp, the Mitsubishi pair finished the opening 215 kms section from the ceremonial start at the Plaza San Martin in downtown Cordoba to the overnight halt at Mina Clavero in first place overall.

Behind Sousa, Frenchman Schlesser held second place in his Buggy. Frenchman Jean Pierre Strugo occupied third position in a Mercedes ML430, but Poland's Lukasz Komornicki retired his rented Toyota with a turbocharger failure 15kms before the end of the leg.

Schlesser redressed the balance on the second leg where a tricky section was run twice. Bikes and cars ran close together and this made it difficult for Sousa to overtake or gain any advantage. ~I could not make headway and then I got lost for a time near the fourth passage control on the first loop and Schlesser managed to take the lead,~ said Sousa.

On the third leg between San Lorenzo and Serrezuela, Sousa found it increasingly difficult to overtake his French rival. He managed to catch the Buggy, but was unable to overtake over the narrow tracks where several large rocks were thrown into the path of the chasing Sousa by the wheels of Schlesser's Buggy.

~It was a difficult section,~ said the recently-crowned FIA Trophy for Drivers of Bajas Champion. ~There was no way that I could find a way through without taking too many risks.~ Schlesser finished the section with a 4m 11s overall advantage over his rival, with Strugo a distant third in a T1 Mercedes.

On the penultimate stage around the Sierra Grandes and on to a crossing of the Copacabana River, Schlesser managed to extend his overall advantage over Sousa. During the stage Sousa arrived at a closed gate. It was opened and closed, as per the regulations, but Schlesser decided to push it down with his car to save time. His actions were later put before a panel of Stewards and a time penalty was imposed. Schlesser managed to pass Sousa in a river bed, but it had been a frustrating day for the Mitsubishi Portugal team.

~I had a terrible day,~ said the Portuguese. ~Driving first wasn't beneficial for me. I wasn't able to achieve a lead on the first part. On the second we had to cross a river bed and my car had some problems, so Schlesser overtook me easily.~

Schlesser hung on over the final section into Santa Rosa de Calamachita to take victory and a 16-point lead in the series. Frenchman Jean-Pierre Strugo was third in his Mercedes ML430 and the Argentinean driver Patxi Otano was fourth overall in a Mitsubishi Pajero*.

Organised by the All-Terrain Organisation of Argentina, the sixth Por Las Pampas Rally returned to the Cordoba province in Central Argentina for the first time in three years. Fifteen cars, 14 bikes and a pair of quads started out from Cordoba last Monday.

This year's five-day event took place across barren and rugged terrain near Mina Clavero, in the same region used by the round of the FIA World Rally Championship earlier this year. Mina Clavero hosted the first ever Por Las Pampas Rally in 1998. In a total route of 2207 kms, 1805 kms were competitive.

Por Las Pampas Rally (final positions after leg 5):
1.SCHLESSER, Jean Louis/LURQUIN, Jean M F/B Schlesser Ford Raid 22h14m49s
2.SOUSA, Carlos/MAGNE Henri P/F Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 22h19m44s
3.STRUGO, Jean Pierre/FERRY Ives F/F Mercedes ML 420 27h04m46s
4.OTA—O, Patxi/SANTOS, HÈctor RA/RA Mitsubishi Pajero* 27h27m58s
5.OTA—O, Patxi/SANTOS, HÈctor RA/RA Mitsubishi Pajero* 27h27m58s
6.GOMES, Pablo Luis/PANZUTO Carlos RA/RA Toyota SR5 31h57m21s
7.MANSILLA, Jorge/PEREYRA, CÈsar RA/RA Toyota 35h01m28s
8.SEVESO, Manuel/UTRERA, Pablo RA/RA Mitsubishi L 200 36h01m30s
9.VAGNINI, Leonardo/JEROMIN, Mauricio RA/RA Suzuki Vitara 39h12m43s
10.CHACARERO/BLAZQUEZ, Angel RA/RA Mitsubishi Montero 75h57m42s

Provisional FIA World Cup Drivers' Championship positions (unofficial):
(subject to FIA appeal by Mitsubishi Portugal+)
1. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F) Schlesser-Ford 159 pts+
2. Carlos Sousa (P) Mitsubishi 143 pts+, etc


Date issued: 06/09/2003

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