Baja Vodafone: Carlos Sousa in first after 1st day

The second stage of the 17th Baja Vodafone 1000, the only Cross Country World Car event, took place today. Under a burning sun, the pilots in this Clube Aventura organized event, faced two demanding rounds of the same Selective Sector, stretching...

The second stage of the 17th Baja Vodafone 1000, the only Cross Country World Car event, took place today. Under a burning sun, the pilots in this Clube Aventura organized event, faced two demanding rounds of the same Selective Sector, stretching for 530 kilometers. Along a very well received track, organized by Jose Megre's team, both luck and disaster struck over some of the competitors for the top spots. By the race's end the Cross Country World Cup winner, Carlos Sousa, driving the Portuguese debut of the Mitsubishi Pajero Evo, has finished comfortably in first place.

In fact it wasn't an easy day for many of the pilots aspiring to finish the Baja Vodafone 1000. Such were the cases of Miguel Barbosa (with a dramatic accident), João Ramos (differential), Rui Sousa (gear box), Luc Alphand (malfunction), Filipe Campos (engine), Marco Tempestini (alternator), Pedro Gameiro (malfunction), Alexandre Re (malfunction) and Andreia Toro (driving- train).

During the first Selective Sector, at a time when the fight for first place was at it's fullest, Luc Alphand seemed to be the most likely to threaten Miguel Barbosa's leadership. Feeling the pressure of the competition, Miguel Barbosa tried to gain some immediate distance from the French and suffered an impressive accident. After 192 kms the national champion was this way forced to leave the race, handing the leadership to Luc Alphand. Fortunately, the Mitsubishi pilot escaped almost unscathed but was still carried to Evora Hospital for a routine health check-up.

A bit further Rui Sousa also left the race. A gearbox failure forced him to stop, abandoning the fifth place he was in as well as any hope to finish the race. Meanwhile a fight for first place was being held between Luc Alphand, Carlos Sousa and the ever surprising Luis Costa after João Ramos gave up with differential problems. However, 10 kms from the first sector finish, Alphand's BMW refused to budge with unexpected ignition problems. The problem was partially solved around 30 minutes later allowing the pilots to drive the car as far as the assistance area. Lady luck really wasn't with this team. Some time later a mechanic malfunction grounded the BMW permanently and the team had to quit.

After that, first place was there for the taking and, calmly, that's exactly what Carlos Sousa did. With that argument solved, the remaining pilots concentrated on the fight for the remaining podium places. When all indicated those would be taken by Luis Costa (Toyota Land Cruiser) and Pierpaolo Larini (Mitsubishi Pajero) the Italian driver faced a mechanical malfunction near the end of the 2nd Selective Sector and abandoned the race. Khalifa Almutaiwei, oficial pilot for BMW took the chance and managed to take over second place, outrunning Luis Costa.

Also worth mentioning is the performance by Helder Oliveira who took his Nissan Pick up Navara to an impressive forth place using very steady driving. Closing the top five was Carlos Oliveira on Mitsubishi Pajero DID. On a footnote a reference to the Group 1 leader, Edgar Condenso, 16th on the overall, Manuel Russo's Hyundai Santa Fe (9th) and to the Tomaz Mello Breyner Trophy by Nissan contestants who placed four Nissan Navara amongst the top 10: Paulo Marques (6th), Nuno Pires (7th), Jose Pereira (8th) and Bernardo Villar (10th).

THEY SAID

CARLOS SOUSA: "I'm loving this fantastic car. On the faster stretches it's a huge difference from the previous car and, not being the most adequate to this kind of event - better for the African competitions - has a fabulous behavior, an impressive speed and only looks less effective on the brakes. In terms of the event, I sincerely believe my adversaries might have attacked too soon and might have not made the best effort management. As for me, I have been managing the event in the best possible way, especially from the moment my foremost adversaries started falling behind".

KHALIFA ALMUTAIWEI: "On the second round I was already more familiarized with the course, so it was easier and that showed on the clock. On the other hand I also feel more at ease with car each time and the possibility of achieving this second place pleases me a great deal, especially considering this could be decisive in terms of World Cup where I might, for now, step to the leadership. Considering my competitors, I didn't expect to achieve such a positive result here and that also leaves me naturally pleased".

LUÍS COSTA: I ran how I could but at some point I thought best to start planning and managing the race. The course is quite demanding and fast but very interesting. This could turn out to be a memorable result."

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About this article
Series Cross-Country Rally
Drivers Luc Alphand , Carlos Sousa , Paulo Marques , Miguel Barbosa , Bernardo Villar , Pedro Gameiro , Carlos Oliveira , Helder Oliveira , Rui Sousa , Filipe Campos