Frenchman Dominique Housieaux and co-driver Loïc Fagot finished sixth overall in the Rallye dOrient, the fifth round of the FIA Cross-Country Rallies World Cup, which finished in Antalya on Saturday. The event was won by the Belgian driver Grégoire de Mevius in a Nissan Pick-Up, but the outcome saw Dubais Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei move ahead
of Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports factory driver Stéphane Peterhansel in the overall FIA World Drivers standings with two rounds of the series remaining in the UAE and Argentina.
At the wheel of a Ralliart-prepared Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, the experienced Housieaux was in contention for a top five placing through the
opening two stages of the seven-day event, which was organized by René Metge Concept in conjunction with Tomsfed. In a total route of 3,105 kilometers, across a broad spectrum of landscape, competitive action totaled a distance of 1,839 kilometers.
Housieaux started well as soon as the rally headed into remote terrain between the Turkish capital of Ankara and the town of Urgüp. In sweltering heat he moved up to sixth position on the 286 competitive kilometer section over rutted piste, dry rocky terrain and past a salt lake, behind the revised factory Volkswagens of Frenchman Bruno Saby and Jutta Kleinschmidt, former World Champion Jean-Louis Schlesser and French racing driver Phillipe Gache in a pair of Buggies and the Belgian Grégoire de Mevius in a Nissan Pick-Up.
On the first of three loop stages around the town of Urgüp, Housieaux maintained his sixth position as the narrow and twisty roads in the
competitive 344 kilometer route climbed to altitudes of 2200 meters above sea level. He began the second loop section around 26 minutes behind the leading Volkswagen of Bruno Saby, who won the Dakar Rally with the factory Mitsubishi team and co-driver Dominique Serieys in 1993.
The 388 competitive kilometer section ran across arid plains, through agricultural terrain, via the Illara gorge, the Great Salt Lake and past
the scenic crater of a giant volcano. But Housieaux lost time with navigation and mechanical problems on the narrow, deceptive roads where it
was difficult to pass slower vehicles and he slipped behind the BMW X5 of Dubais Khalifa Al-Mutaiwei into seventh position. Saby had extended his overall advantage to 10m 20s over De Mevius, with Schlesser, Kleinschmidt and Gache completing the top five.
On the third and final 328 kilometer loop stage around Urgüp, Saby and co-driver Michel Perin ceded the stage win to Schlessers two-wheel drive Buggy, but the former Dakar Rally winner still led the event by 9m 45s. Schlessers maiden selective win of the event lifted him above the Belgian driver Grégoire de Mevius into the runner-up position. Jutta Kleinschmidt took her second successive fourth fastest time to remain in a similar place in the second Volkswagen, ahead of Gaches SMG Buggy, which was coming under pressure from Dubais Al- Mutaiwei in a BMW X5. Housieaux maintained seventh in the Ralliart Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero, although he slipped further behind Mutaiwei in the overall standings and trailed the Dubai driver by around 18 minutes.
The penultimate stage headed out of Urgup en route to Bozkir. The section was the longest of the entire rally at 644 kilometers, with 390 set
to test the surviving teams before the final section into Antalya on Saturday. The stage passed Mount Taurus, offered some relatively
straightforward navigation in the early sections, before the terrain became more difficult. The track ascended a large plateau between 2500 meters and 3500 meters above sea level and teams passed alpine-like terrain on the run into the stage finish in Bozkir.
The Belgian former Group N World Rally Champion Grégoire de Mevius finished second on the section behind winner Kleinschmidt and benefited from Sabys demise to take the overall lead, although the Namur driver only had the benefit of a 2m 03s advantage to take into the final section into Antalya. Schlesser set the third fastest time in his two-wheel drive Buggy. Behind Al-Mutaiwei and Gache, Ralliart privateer Housieaux was sixth overall.
Over the final 110 kilometer section, Housieaux avoided trouble to confirm sixth position in his Mitsubishi, as Schlesser won the stage and Al- Mutaiwei set the fastest time through the spectator stage in Antalya to cap a mixed weekend for Mitsubishi.