2003 WRC

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10 -16 August 2003 6 legs (2945.46 km) 7 Special Stages (1575.38 km)
Komornicki claims final podium position for Mitsubishi
Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
C. Sousa / H. Magne
Mitsubishi L200 Strakar driver Carlos Sousa claimed second position in the Rallye d’Orient Cappadoce which finished in Ürgüp today (August 16), the Portuguese narrowly missing out on victory by a mere four seconds after a neck-and-neck battle lasting seven days. Defending World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser took maximum points in the event, the sixth round of the FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, however an appeal by Mitsubishi Portugal over an alleged infringement by Schlesser leaves the final result in the hands of the FIA Court of Appeal.

Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
C. Sousa / H. Magne

The 2003 Rallye d’Orient Cappadoce was hosted in Ürgüp, in central Turkey, and took competitors on 29 bikes, in 15 cars and five trucks over a mixture of dusty, rocky and fast terrain in the Cappadoce region of the country. The battle for victory was always going to be between Sousa and Schlesser, the TMN and Galp supported Mitsubishi driver leading the series by ten points as the pair went into the sixth of the eight-round 2003 World Cup. After trading the lead all week, Schlesser ultimately crossed the line in first position to take a two-point advantage in the series, but the Frenchman is alleged to have crossed one particular section without using the route assigned in the road book.

Carlos Sousa, and co-driver Henri Magne, started the event in fine form, winning the opening 4.43 kilometer Prologue and claiming honors in Monday’s first long stage of 243 kilometers. Arch rival Schlesser then took over the advantage on Tuesday, the Frenchman fastest in the 317 kilometer stage around Kaygari, although still trailing Mitsubishi’s Sousa by 24 seconds in the race for outright victory. The fast nature of Wednesday’s third leg gave the advantage to Schlesser, the top speed of the Buggy aiding his charge and the Frenchman took the lead by just over four minutes.

Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
C. Sousa / H. Magne

A determined Sousa nevertheless reclaimed the lead on Thursday, the Portuguese driver reeling in the minutes to take the outright advantage by over a minute with just two stages remaining. The two-horse race resumed Friday with Schlesser claiming the stage victory and retaking the lead, leaving the pair split by just 2 minutes and 33 seconds going into the final stage of the event. Fighting for honors, Sousa set the fastest time but lost out on the Rallye d’Orient victory, his stage advantage of 2 minutes and 29 seconds just four seconds short after more than eight and a half 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, where the Buggy was faster. Then he had the advantage of an open track on the next stage and managed to move 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 the fourth stage on Thursday I was running well and we could see his dust in the distance. I had a flat tire before the second passage control, but then we passed Jean-Louis. He had stopped to change a tire and I regained the lead".

Mitsubishi L200 Strakar
C. Sousa / H. Magne

"It was very close, very exciting 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. It was so close at the end - just four seconds. But the event was a real lesson for me", concluded Sousa.

Both Schlesser and Sousa finished well ahead of the chasing pack, but Mitsubishi driver Lukasz Komornicki, co-driven by Rafal Marton, claimed third position in his Ralliart France prepared Pajero / Montero. The pair held third for most of the event, despite a puncture on the second day, and only dropped to fourth following a navigational error.

"We had been running well behind Carlos and Jean-Louis and then decided to follow (Phillipe) Gache’s Pro Truck on the fourth stage", commented Komornicki. "I should have known better, because we took the wrong track and Eric Vigouroux moved ahead of us". The Pole nevertheless reclaimed third position when Vigouroux hit mechanical problems near the start of the final stage.

The FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies resumes on the Por Las Pampas Rally in September, the penultimate round of the series taking the crews to Argentina for the only round hosted in the Americas.

(Subject to confirmation by the FIA)

  Driver / Co-driver Nat. Car Gr. Total Time Difference
 Jean-Louis SCHLESSER / Jean-Marie LURQUIN F/B  Buggy Schlesser Ford X202 4X2 2 18.42.33   
 Carlos SOUSA / Henry MAGNE P/F  MITSUBISHI L200 STRAKAR 2 18.42.37  + 4 
 Lukasz KOMORNICKI / Rafal MARTON PL  MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 2 21.12.48  + 2.30.15 
 Philippe GACHE / Jean-Pierre GARCIN F  Ford Protruck Ranger 4x2 2 21.22.24  + 2.39.51 
 Andris DAMBIS / Ainars PRINCIS LT  OSC Oscar 2 21.34.06  + 2.51.33 
 Sergey SHMAKOV / Stanislas ORLOV RUS  Buggy Honda HRV 4x2 2 21.54.48  + 3.12.15 
 Andris LUKSTINS / Ivars KRAUKLIS LT  OSC Oscar 2 22.19.00  + 3.36.27 
 Janis NAGLIS / Valdis PURVINSHI LT  MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 2 22.23.55  + 3.41.22 
 Bernard DHONT / Jean-Claude KAKET F  Buggy Honda HRV 4x2 2 22.42.25  + 3.59.52 
10   Balazs SZALAY / Zsolt REVEZS H  Chevrolet Blazer 2 23.21.14  + 4.38.41 
11   Jean-Pierre STRUGO / Pascal LARROQUE F  Mercedes ML430 1 23.48.27  + 5.05.54 
12   Ali VURAL AK / Guray KARACAR TR  Mercedes ML 55 AMG 2 26.38.49  + 7.56.16 
13   Henry de ROISSARD / Elodie METGE F  Nissan Terrano 2 29.54.32  + 11.11.59 
14   Eric VIGOUROUX / Alexandre WINOCQ F  Chevrolet Protruck 4x2 2 32.25.57  + 13.43.24 
15   Maris SAUKANS / Didzis ZARINS LT  MITSUBISHI PAJERO / MONTERO 2 41.41.24  + 22.58.51 
Nationalities: B=Belgium/ F=France/ H=Hungary/ LT=Lithuania/ P=Portugal/ PL=Poland/ RUS=Russia/ TR=Turkey/