FIM title goes down to the wire in UAE Desert Challenge

UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge
2003 FIA and FIM World Cups, final round

For immediate release
Saturday, October 11th, 2003


Caldecott and Dabrowski submit late entries; Sousa given late boost

DUBAI (UAE): The outcome of the 2003 FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship will be decided across the sands of the UAE, when Spain's Joan Roma lines up against twice UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge winner Cyril Despres, Poland's Marek Dabrowski and Australian Andrew Caldecott in a dramatic showdown.

Spaniard Roma remained in contention for the title after winning the recent Rally of Egypt and heads for the United Arab Emirates knowing that he needs to finish ahead of both Despres and Dabrowski to snatch the title. Roma is one of the most talented enduro riders in the world and has achieved notable successes in Morocco and Tunisia on his twin-cylinder KTM.

He finished second overall in the UAE Desert Challenge in 1999, but his most-publicised sporting moment was losing a potential victory in the 2002 Dakar Rally, as the event neared its conclusion and crossed into Senegal for the final stages.

Several leading riders entered the final round of the FIM World Cup as soon as the Egyptian event had been completed last week. One of those is the experienced South African rider Alfie Cox on a mono-cylinder KTM, although he is not in contention for the FIM title.

Alfie has been so close to winning both the Desert Challenge and Dakar rallies in recent years. He finished third overall here in 1998 and 1999 and was the runner-up last year. A winner of several Dakar stages in recent years, the South African will be determined to continue his preparations for the gruelling African classic with victory in the UAE. That first major win cannot be too far away.

He is joined on the strongest-ever FIM entry by the promising young Australian Andrew Caldecott. A former winner of the Australian Safari Rally, Caldecott became a prominent force after his impressive rides in Tunisia and Morocco earlier this year on a privately-run KTM and led the FIM World Championship before the recent Rally of Egypt.

Marek Dabrowski is another late entry on his Team Orlen KTM. The Pole has been a regular competitor on rounds of the Cross-Country series this year and joins Frenchman Francois Flick as a late entrant. Dabrowski finished fourth overall in Egypt and has a chance of taking the FIM world title. Italy's Fabrizio Meoni will not make the trip to the UAE after the Austrian KTM team changed its programme.

~In terms of quality we probably have the strongest ever entry for the motorcycle and cars sections of the UAE Desert Challenge,~ enthused Mohammed Ben Sulayem. ~It is a great boost for us to know that both the FIM and FIA world titles will be decided here on the final round.~

Defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser had expected to arrive in Dubai for the event with a commanding lead in the FIA World Drivers' Championship for cars. But his advantage was the subject of an FIA International Court of Appeal by Mitsubishi Portugal into an incident which occured in Turkey back in August and deprived Portugal's Carlos Sousa of possible victory.

The appeal was heard in Paris last Tuesday (October 7th) and Schlesser was duly disqualified from the Rallye d'Orient Cappadoce in Turkey. This handed victory on the event to Mitsubishi's Carlos Sousa, who now heads for the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge with a commanding 41-point lead over his French rival. The two will go head-to-head when competitive action gets underway with a Prologue stage, near Dubai, on Monday, October 20th. Schlesser needs to win the event and hope that Sousa fails to score more than three points.

This year's UAE Desert Challenge is being held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defence.

FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies - Cars
Positions before UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge*
1. Carlos Sousa (P) 155 pts
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F) 114 pts
3. Jean-Pierre Strugo (F) 84 pts
4. Lukasz Komornicki (PL) 66 pts, etc
*45 pts for winner of UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge

FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship - Motorcycles
Positions before UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge*
1. Cyril Despres (F) 61 pts
2. Marek Dabrowski (PL) 58 pts
3. Joan Roma (E) 57 pts
4. Fabrizio Meoni (I) 48 pts
5. Andrew Caldecott (AUS) 47 pts, etc
*25 pts for winner of UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge


For further information about this year's event, contact the Marlboro UAE Desert Challenge office, PO Box 1714, Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Tel: + 971 4 2669922 Fax: + 971 4 2666996 or E-mail: rallyuae@emirates.net.ae

For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge press officer, Tel: + (9714) 3995203, Fax: + (9714) 3994149, Tel: + 44 7831 123153
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com

Date issued: 11/10/2003

For further information or assistance please contact:

NDP Publicity Services
Holly House, Station Road, Newport,
Shropshire TF10 7EN United Kingdom

Tel/Fax: +44 (0) 1952 825001
Mobile: + 44 (0) 7831 123153 (UK)

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