Masuoka's Patience Pays Off With Desert Challenge Victory as Esteve Claims Bikes Triumph

Ullevålseter clinches world cross country rallying bikes title while UAE's Al Mutaiwie virtually assures himself of World Cup drivers' crown

Moreeb Hill, Liwa, UAE: Japan's Hiroshi Masouka ended his six-year wait for victory in the UAE Marlboro Desert Challenge today as Norwegian rider Pål Anders Ullevålseter celebrated one world championship triumph and the UAE's Khalifa Al Mutaiwie virtually ensured himself of another.

Winning the fourth and final competitive stage, Masuoka powered his Mitsubishi Pajero Montero Evolution to a 13mins 14secs overall win from Belgium's Gregoire De Mevius Nissan Pick-up, with Al Mutaiwie another 31 minutes away in third place in his BMW X5.

While both De Mevius and Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel can both mathematically beat Al Muwaitie to the drivers' crown in FIA World Cup for Cross Country Rallies, neither plan to contest the final round of the series in Argentina where Al Mutaiwie's title should be confirmed.

Ullevålseter became world bikes champion by finishing third behind Spain's new Desert Challenge winner Isidre Esteve and Poland's Marek Dabrowski. He was soon receiving mobile phone congratulations at the Moreeb Hill bivouac following today's 255-km final Nissan special stage won by the Spaniard.

While he must wait to be officially crowned in Argentina, Khalifa was draped in a UAE flag at the finish, and with a crowd of UAE nationals surrounding the car he said: "I've been waiting and working for this for six years. All that time I was looking for the right car, the right team and the right co-driver.

"Since the start of this season we have been aiming to win the title here in the UAE so I'm just glad to have finally achieved it. Am I going to Argentina? Why not? I've never been there before."

A beaming Masuoka said: "I'm absolutely delighted. It's taken me many years to win this rally, six years in fact. It has been tough at times but I have a great team and today our tactics worked. Stephane went out in front to clear the route for me and to offer support if needed in order to ensure victory."

De Mevius, who had been leading after the second leg, said: "Early on I did a sharp left turn and the car went on two wheels. From that point I decided to ease off in order to finish without any problem. I was dreaming for two days. We're all kids and we still think we can do it. However, the car is not new and we only have a small team. But today I did manage to pass quite a few cars."

Having seen his chances of a third successive win in the event destroyed by major first day problems Peterhansel finished a relatively happy man saying: "My job today was to open the road for my team-mate Hiroshi and help him win the Desert Challenge. As for me this was all about testing the new car. I think we have made a lot of progress and we are in a good position now for the Dakar."

Top Germany lady driver Jutta Kleinschmidt, third fastest on the stage in her Volkswagen Touareg said: "The dunes were softer than ever so I'm happy to finish without getting stuck. This is a very hard event. The heat plays havoc with the engine and parts. If you can survive here you are ready for Dakar where the dunes are not as tough. In Dakar I'd love to be at the front but we're not in the same league as Mitsubishi."

A jubilant Ullevalseter said: "It's good to finish all the races this season and be the world champion. Today was a short day for me and it was probably the least demanding of all the stages this week. It was quite easy for me as I just followed the first two riders and now I think it's time to party."

<pre> Provisonal leading positions after 4th special stage:

Auto 1. Hiroshi Masuoka, Andreas Schulz (J) Mitsubishi Evolution T2 14:05:57 2. Gregoire De Mevius, Jacky Dubois (BE/F) Nissan Pick Up T2 14:19:11 3. Khalifa Al Mutaiwei, Alain Guehennec (UAE /F) BMW T2 14:50:32

Moto 1. Isidre Esteve (ES) KTM 660 Rally 15:17:00 2. Marek Dabrowski (PO) KTM 660 Rally 15:25:19 3. Pal Anders Ullevalseter (NO) KTM 660 Rally 15:39:45 4. Jacek Czachor (PO) KTM 660 Rally 15:48:05 5. Tim Trenker (D) KTM Rally 15:56:44 6. Steven Blackney (GB) KTM 660 Rally 16:08:49 7. Sean Linton (GB) KTM 660 Rally 16:16:22 8. Mark Grams (D) Honda XR650 17:08:50 9. Fablo Fasola (I) KTM 660 Rally 17:42:13 10. Marek Podlipny (CZ) KTM 660 17:49:44

-totalcompr-