24 July 2004 - 20:05
Baja Espana - Sousa takes dramatic victory for Mitsubishi
Portugal's Carlos Sousa and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne took victory in the Baja Spain Aragon, the fourth round of the FIA Cross-Country Rally World Cup, which finished in Zaragoza, central Spain, on Saturday evening.
The defending FIA World Cup champions started first on the road through the opening selective section on Friday morning and were fastest on three of the four sections to eventually win the event by a margin of 1m 37s at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports-prepared Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution.
It was the Japanese manufacturer's fourth success on the rally since its inception in 1983, but the winning margin would have been much greater had Sousa not sustained a damaged rear tire on the fourth selective and ceded much of his hard-earned advantage to nearest rival Khalifa Al-Motaiwi.
The success marked Sousa's third successive victory on a European Baja event this year and gives him a commanding lead in the FIA European Baja Cup for Drivers, of which this was the third round of five. His car runs with additional support from Mitsubishi Portugal and Portuguese companies GALP, TMN and BPN.
"The objective at the start of last season was to win the World Cup and we achieved it," said Sousa. "This season I set out to win the European Baja Cup and I am on track to fulfil the goal. The team worked superbly this weekend. It was not an easy race, but we overcame the late problem and achieved the win. I just need to reach the podium on the next race and we are there."
Sousa now trails team mate and FIA World Cup series leader Stйphane Peterhansel by nine points in the FIA World Cup, although he will not compete in a full program of events in the series this season.
The MMSP factory driver was challenged throughout the weekend by Dubai's Al- Motaiwi in a diesel-engined BMW X5. The Victory Rally Team driver was second fastest on three of the four stages and fastest on the final section to take 22 valuable championship points in his own quest for a maiden world title. Frenchman Thierry Magnaldi was lying third in his Honda Buggy before retiring with transmission problems on the final stage.
The Baja Spain Aragon was held over two days of competitive selectives, each split into two sections and totaling around 1000 kms. The event finished in Zaragoza on Saturday. No fewer than 98 cars and 164 bikes started the rally.
Mitsubishi Motors Team, 25/07/2004