Despres and Peterhansel victorious in UAE Desert Challenge

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

For immediate release
Friday, October 24th, 2003



Tearful Dabrowski second in FIM series;
~Best Desert Challenge yet~ say teams

DUBAI (UAE): Frenchmen Cyril Despres and Stephane Peterhansel repeated last year's successes by claiming outright victories in the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge, which finished at the DIMC in Dubai this afternoon (Friday). Portugal's Carlos Sousa clinched the FIA World Cup Drivers' Championship.

The French pair had controlled proceedings in their respective motorcycle and car classes since the second of four stages across the remote deserts of the UAE. Despres' third successive win in the final round of the FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship also earned him the world title on a KTM. Main rival Joan Roma retired injured at the end of the first day.

Peterhansel's victory for the Mitsubishi Motor Sports team was a major confidence booster for the Frenchman after three disappointing races earlier this year. He will now attempt to win the Dakar Rally for the first time in a car in January after six wins on a Yamaha.

~It is fantastic for me to win the World Championship,~ said Despres. ~I did not think that would be possible after breaking my collar bone before. It was the best Desert Challenge ever for me. A great route and a quality competition, who pushed me all the way.~

South African Alfie Cox won the first of today's two stages on his way to yet another second place and a delighted Marek Dabrowski was third. ~I started crying two kilometres from the end of the stage, because I knew I had finished second in the World Championship,~ said Dabrowski. ~My dream was a top six position.~

~It will probably sink in a couple of days that I am World Champion,~ said Sousa, the FIA Champion ~But this has been a team effort and I thank Mitsubishi and my mechanics. The driver is only the face at the front of the team. I owe special credit to my mechanics, because they worked through the night in Turkey and Argentina on my car. This rally here was the most difficult round of the championship without doubt.~

Arch rival Jean-Louis Schlesser finished strongly after earlier delays to take second overall. Belgian Gregoire de Mevius was third in a BMW X5. The leading local driver was eighth-placed Obaid Bin Hathboor in his Liberty Rally Team Chevrolet Tahoe.

~I offer my congratulations to Cyril and Stephane for their victories and to Carlos Sousa for winning the world title for the first time,~ said Mohammed Ben Sulayem, chairman of organising committee.

~I would also like to thank all our marshals, officials and members of the media for their efforts during this week's event. We have been proud to welcome international competitors from 28 countries to race across the sands of the UAE and hope to see them all back again next year.~

Today's section offered two special stages. The opening 202 kms section began at Thanwaniyah. South Africa's Alfie Cox and Frenchman Luc Alphand set the fastest times in their respective FIM and FIA categories, although Alphand's recurrent clutch problems had already put him out of overall contention. Italian biker Loris Volpato crashed his Yamaha 450 heavily and sustained a rib injury.

The route then past Nahel Town and the 191.25 kms final competitive stage finished by the Emirates Road, near Jebel Ali South. In a total route of 1934 kms, 1462 kms were competitive. Mohammed Ben Sulayem flagged cars over the finish ramp at the DIMC.

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

Final overall positions after Leg 4 - Bikes (unofficial - top 7)
1. Cyril Despres (F) KTM 660 Rally 16h 24m 09s
2. Alfie Cox (ZA) KTM 16h 30m 08s
3. Marek Dabrowski (PL) KTM 660 Rally 16h 34m 22s
4. Jacek Czachor (PL) KTM 660 Rally 16h 43m 30s
5. Pal-Anders Ullesvalseter (N) KTM Rally 16h 55m 54s
6. Andrew Caldecott (AUS) KTM 660 17h 11m 01s
7. Francois Flick (F) KTM 660 17h 40m 34s

Final positions - Cars (unofficial)
1. Stephane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution 15h 19m 20s
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F)/Jean-Marie Lurquin (F) Schlesser-Ford 15h 35m 09s
3. Gregoire de Mevius (B)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 16h 29m 51s
4. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi L200 Strakar 16h 30m 05s
5. Andrea Mayer (D)/Andreas Schulz (D) Mitsubishi Pajero 17h 34m 47s

FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies - (unofficial final positions)
1. Carlos Sousa (P) 173 pts*
2. Jean-Louis Schlesser (F) 147 pts
3. Jean-Pierre Strugo (F) 84 pts
4. Stephane Peterhansel (F) 67 pts
5. Lukasz Komornicki (PL) 66 pts, etc
* denotes FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies World Drivers' Champion (subject to new Schlesser appeal -lodged October 24th, 10.20am)

FIM Cross Country Rallies World Championship - (unofficial final positions)
1. Cyril Despres (F) 86 pts*
2. Marek Dabrowski (PL) 74 pts
3. Joan Roma (E) 57 pts
4. Andrew Caldecott (AUS) 56 pts, etc
* denotes 2003 FIM Cross Country Rallies World Champion


For further media information:
Neil Perkins, NDP Publicity Services, UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge press office, Dubai International Marine Club, Dubai, UAE, Tel: + (9714) 3994673, Fax: + (9714) 3994149, Mob: + (971) (050) 5594369
E-mail: NDPPublicity@compuserve.com
www.ndp-publicity.com/press releases

Date issued: 24/10/2003

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