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2004-05-10 11:21

Portugal's Carlos Sousa and Andorra-based co-driver Henri Magne in their Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution

Sousa is the reigning FIA World Champion for Cross Country Rallies and began the event as the top seed at the wheel of a Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports Team Pajero/Montero Evolution for the first time.

After setting the third fastest time through Friday's 11 km Prologue stage, near Evora, the Lisbon-based driver trailed BMW's Luc Alphand and Portugal's Miguel Barbosa through the first selective section after being blocked behind a slower car.

Both Barbosa and Alphand hit trouble before the end of the stage and Sousa headed into the second selective 15m 50s ahead of his nearest rival, the Italian Pierpaolo Larini in a Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero.

Sousa has won the event on four occasions in the last five years and extended his advantage on the repeat run through the stage to start the final stage with a sizeable lead. He went on to win the event for the fifth time in six years by the margin of 34m 12s.

Dubai's Khalifa Al-Motaiwi was second overall in a BMW X5, but the Mitsubishi driver Miguel Barbosa retired his Mitsubishi L200 after an accident.

"This was a fantastic opportunity for me to get behind the wheel of the new car for the first time," said Sousa. "The Evolution handles more like a conventional rally car than my L200 and this took time to get used to. But I was delighted with my performance."

"This was an excellent result for Carlos and for Mitsubishi," said MMSP's Team Director Dominique Serieys. "He has been away from the team for six months and did a very professional job. He drove a perfect race. We had no problems at all with the car. The only disappointment over the weekend was the accident for the young driver Miguel Barbosa."

Sousa's car ran with additional support from Mitsubishi Portugal and Portuguese companies GALP, TMN and BPN.

The event was organised by the Clube Aventura Portugal and was based at Evora, south of Lisbon.

17th Baja Portugal - Final positions (Top 6):

1. Carlos Sousa (P)/Henri Magne (AND) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero Evolution 7h 56m 27s
2. Khalifa Al-Motaiwi (UAE)/Alain Guehennec (F) BMW X5 8h 30m 39s
3. Luis Costa (P)/Arnaldo Marques (P) Toyota Landcruiser 8h 33m 47s
4. Carlos Oliveira (P)/Ana Oliveira (P) Mitsubishi Pajero/Montero 8h 41m 56s
5. Paulo Marques (P)/Filipe Palmeiro (P) Nissan Pick-Up 8h 44m 12s
6. Jose Barraco Pereira (P)/Rui Fernandes (P) Nissan Pick-Up 8h 48m 19s

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