2003 CCR


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FINAL COMMUNIQUE
9 June 2003    
Rallye ORPI Maroc - 2003 FIA Cross Country Rally Championship / Round 4

MITSUBISHI’S SOUSA TAKES WORLD CUP LEAD
Sousa second - Four Mitsubishi crews in top eight
Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
Carlos Sousa / Henri Magne
(9 June 2003)

Carlos Sousa and French co-driver Henri Magne, driving a Mitsubishi L200 Strakar, have claimed the outright lead in the FIA World Cup after finishing second in the Rallye ORPI Maroc. The Portuguese driver now holds a 25 point advantage in the Drivers’ Championship, having overhauled defending world champion Jean-Louis Schlesser in the provisional standings. The Portuguese Mitsubishi Galp TMN team also leads the FIA Teams' Championship. The event was won by Giniel de Villiers, the South African claiming his and the Nissan Pick-Ups first World Cup rally victory.


Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
Carlos Sousa / Henri Magne

The Rallye Maroc, the fourth round of the 2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, is another spectacular highlight in the eight round series. The five-leg rally started on Thursday 5 June and covered a mammoth 1,292 kilometres of competition over seven timed stages in a total distance of 1,718 kilometres. Starting in Erfoud, to the east of Marrakech, the route took the crews in a clockwise loop as far south as Ouled Driss before the traditional finish in the bustling city of Marrakech this afternoon. Breathtaking scenery and scorching temperatures are significant features of this north African rally; old mining trails, lunar landscapes, awesome dunes and breathtaking passes through the Altas Mountains all conspiring to make it one of the most varied and magnificent events in the series. Today’s final leg was however delayed after heavy overnight thunderstorms caused flash flooding in the Haute Atlas region, resulting in torrents of chocolate brown water cascading through arid wadis, rivulets and parched washaways.

While Mitsubishi Motors continue to develop the Dakar-winning Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution, the Japanese manufacturer’s hopes of maintaining its winning streak lay in the hands of L200 Strakar driver Carlos Sousa and four Pajero / Montero crews. Portugal’s Sousa - winner of the Baja Vodafone 1000 in his home country last month - started Rallye Maroc second in the series just 11 points behind Schlesser and determined to build on his impressive record of finishing all but one of the seven rallies he has previously contested in Africa.

The event started well and Sousa finished second to Schlesser’s Buggy in the opening leg. Two punctures in the longest stage of the rally, the 303 kilometre section from Erfoud to Ouled Driss on Friday, dropped Sousa to fourth in the stage, but the Portuguese driver nevertheless maintained second overall after two days of gruelling competition. Saturday proved a dramatic day both for Sousa and rally leader Jean-Louis Schlesser however. While the Mitsubishi L200 Strakar driver was seriously hampered by power steering problems and dropped over 43 minutes, Schlesser crashed his Ford-powered Buggy and, even though Nissan driver Giniel de Villiers won both of the day’s competitive sections and took the outright lead, Sousa still held on to second position. "Jean-Louis rolled his car in the dunes and about one kilometre further down the stage I broke the steering", added Carlos. "Straight away I realised it could be dangerous and at times I was forced to drive in first gear just to be able to make the corners. There was no way the damage could be repaired before the second section of the day so we had to carry on like that. There were several steep climbs, with tight hairpins through the mountains and long drops below; far from ideal and I dropped another 20 minutes and incurred road penalties". In contrast to Saturday’s misfortunes, Sousa won one of Sunday’s two competitive sections and took victory in today’s 123 kilometre stage to finish ahead of third-placed José-Marie Servia in the second Schlesser-Ford.


Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Andrea Mayer / Andreas Schulz

"There was no way that I could catch Giniel this morning and it was not worth taking any risks", said Sousa in Marrakech this afternoon. "At the start of the rally I would have been happy with second place, but I know I could have won this event without the power steering problems. Now I have an advantage in the World Cup though and that is fantastic for me".

Poland’s Lukasz Komornicki, who is competing in Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, made a slow start to the event, posting ninth fastest on the opening section. Sixth fastest in the longest section on Friday however moved him and co-driver Rafal Marton up the leaderboard into seventh, despite some overheating problems, before a fine performance on Saturday’s two stages catapulted them into fourth overall. "On the first stage we were stuck on top of a tricky sand dune", said the Pole, "but the second stage was very interesting. When you are driving as fast as possible on a narrow gravel track with drops of 100 metres on both sides it makes you concentrate very hard indeed!" The pair however slipped to fifth over the highly technical stages in the heart of the Atlas Mountains on Sunday and arrived in Marrakech maintaining their position.

Spain’s José-Luis Monterde, who is also running a Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, lost precious minutes in the opening leg suffering with a broken wheel, a problem with the rear tyre deflation system, a turbo fault and front puncture. Like Komornicki, he too then suffered from overheating problems on Friday, the day when the hot ’Cherghi’ winds whipped up, covering tracks and making the endless series of dunes seemingly invisible. Despite easing the pace to conserve the engine, he and co-driver Rafael Tornabell climbed to eighth and then set a blistering pace on the first competitive section on Saturday to finish third fastest in their Pajero. However, problems with the engine sub-frame prevailed in the following section of the day, losing them more than two hours, but the pair climbed to seventh by the finish in Marrakech today.

Germany’s Andrea Mayer, who was driving Hiroshi Masuoka’s 2002 Dakar Rally winning Pajero / Montero - her first outing in a factory-specification car - started the rally in fine fashion, fourth overall after the opening day. Andrea, who is part of Mitsubishi’s Young Driver Program, has however endured a frustrating event and arrived in Marrakech in 16th position, despite setting the third fastest time today. A flat tyre and navigational error on Friday combined with a broken front differential that left her and co-driver Andreas Schulz stranded in tricky sand dunes on Saturday dropped them down the order and into a position that fails to reflect the early form that saw them fifth overall after two days of competition. "Andreas Schulz decided to take me on a little sightseeing tour of the hills for a short time on Friday!" Andrea joked.


Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero
Nicolas Misslin / Jean-Michel Polato

Marseille based Nicolas Misslin and co-driver Jean-Michel Polato, in a Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero, held fifth position at the end of the opening day of competition and climbed to fourth overall in their ex-Jean-Pierre Fontenay Pajero / Montero by Friday evening. However the pair was forced to start from the back of the field on Sunday after an accident lost them time on Saturday. They finished 25th overall.

Commenting on the Mitsubishi drivers’ fortunes, Team Sporting Director Dominique Serieys said: "Carlos drove a very good rally and I am pleased he now has the advantage in the World Drivers’ Championship. The power steering problem cost him his chance of taking outright victory though. Andrea Mayer surprised me with her performance. She quickly adjusted to the factory-specification car and set some excellent times. It was disappointing that she had the front differential problem. It was a new component on her car and it has never let us down before. Nicolas Misslin was also competitive and this was a major boost for the customer team as the factory team continues to develop the new Pajero Evolution / Montero Evolution for Dubai and next year’s Dakar Rally".

Carlos Sousa will head back to Europe for the fifth round of the 2003 FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies. Sousa will be looking to consolidate his lead in the World Cup in his Mitsubishi L200 Strakar on Baja Espana (17-20 July), while Andrea Mayer is back behind the wheel of her Mitsubishi Pajero / Montero later this month when she contests Baja Germany.

FINAL OVERALL CLASSIFICATION

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Total Time Difference
1 G.DE VILLIERS / K.THORNER ZA/S NISSAN PICK UP 15.38.06  
2 C.SOUSA / H.MAGNE P/F MITSUBISHI L200 STRAKAR 16.20.54 + 42.48
3 J-M.SERVIA / F.BORSOTTO E/F SCHLESSER FORD RAID 16.55.04 + 1.16.58
4 Y.LOUBET / J.DUBOIS F NISSAN PICK UP 17.09.45 + 1.31.39
5 L.KOMORNICKI / R.MARTON PL MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 17.18.16 + 1.40.10
6 T.MAGNALDI / A.OLIVIER F PROTRUCK 18.09.37 + 2.31.31
7 J-L.MONTERDE / R.TORNABELL E MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 19.08.05 + 3.29.59
8 J.F.GUINOT / M.KROISS F/D MITSUBISHI CHALLENGER 19.25.59 + 3.47.53
9 J-P.STRUGO / P.LARROQUE F MERCEDES ML 430 20.10.07 + 4.32.01
10 P.BELMONDO / A.GUEHENNEC F NISSAN PATHFINDER 20.22.36 + 4.44.30
11 S.KIS / P.CZEGLEDI H NISSAN NAVARA 20.47.08 + 5.09.02
12 I.PATISSIER / B.IRISSOU F/AND VOLKSWAGEN MAXIBEETLE 21.02.38 + 5.24.32
16 A.MAYER / A.SCHULZ D MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 25.55.24 + 10.17.18
18 M.SAUKANS / D.ZARINS LT MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 26.38.28 + 11.00.22
20 J.NAGLIS / M.METERS LT MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 27.52.13 + 12.14.07
24 M.MIRANDE / S.GENIBREL F MITSUBISHI PROTO SIEM 28.57.22 + 13.19.16
25 N.MISSLIN / J-M.POLATO F MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 30.41.23 + 15.03.17
26 C.OLIVEIRA / M.P.COSTA-JORDAO P MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 33.52.12 + 18.14.06
31 L.ABLA / A.CHEDLY TN MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 37.31.22 + 21.53.16
Nationalities:
AND=Andorra/ D=Germany/ E=Spain/ F=France/ H=Hungary/ LT=Lithuania/ P=Portugal/ PL=Poland/ S=Sweden/ TN=Tunisia/ ZA=South Africa/
 
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