By Rosie Ogden
Qatar’s Nasser al-Attiyah raced into the record books today with a measured drive on the final Leg of the Cyprus Rally that secured him his fifth winner’s laurel on this event, overtaking Sebastien Loeb’s previous record of 4 wins.
After a drama-filled first Leg yesterday, today proved uneventful.
Having set out this morning with a comfortable 3 minute, 19 second cushion between his Ford Fiesta R5 and the Citroën DS3 R5 of second placed Alexandros Tsouloftas, race leader al-Attiyah took the sensible course and drove steadily to consolidate his first place.
It’s never easy for a rally driver to be disciplined enough to keep his pace down but Nasser knew that victory was his if he stayed out of trouble “we are trying to maintain good concentration, it is not easy, we cannot go very slow” he said after the second stage of the day, where Tsouloftas had 2 punctures and dropped out of the top ten, leaving Simos Galatariotis in the runner-up slot, almost five minutes adrift of the Qatari.
Nikolay Gryazin and Kajetan Kajetanowicz both rejoined the race after going out on Saturday’s first Leg and set the pace on the first 4 stages but were so far down the field they posed no threat.
The real battle of the day was between the top Cypriot crews: seven local drivers were in the top 10 at the start of the day, with less than three minutes between 2nd placed Tsouloftas and 10th placed Posedias.
Two passes through the stages at Yeri and Avdelero saw all the Cypriots jockeying for every precious second, and as they returned to Nicosia regroup in the early afternoon Galatariotis held second place, just 10.2 seconds in front of Panikos Polykarpou who had over a minute separating him from fourth placed Christos Demosthenous.
The final two stages – dubbed the Love Cyprus Golden Stages – on the south east coast of the island were a special test: €24,000 prize money was to be distributed between the fastest driver over both stages, the fastest Cypriot driver and the quickest driver in a 2-wheel-drive car. They had to decide whether to go flat out for the cash and risk a tricky moment that might drop them down the overall leaderboard, or find a compromise between speed and caution.
Al Attiyah clocked fastest over the first Golden Stage, beating Kajetanowicz by just 1.4 seconds, and the Polish ace responded with a fastest time on the final stage, but the difference between him and al-Attiyah was 1.1 seconds – and when the times for the two stages were added together he missed the €10,000 prize by 0.3 seconds!
Meanwhile Tsouloftas, who was now lying 10th and had nothing to lose, pulled out all the stops to finish the stage 4.1 seconds in front of Timotheou. He added another 2.1 seconds to the difference from Timotheou on stage 14, and perhaps the €7,000 for fastest Cypriot on the Golden Stages will be some compensation for him missing out on top Cypriot overall and a podium finish.
Christos Demosthenous won the ERC2 category, and victory in ERC3 – and the €7,000 for fastest Golden Stage two-wheel-driver was claimed by Turkey’s Ümitcan Özdemir.
Final Results (provisional)
1 Al-Attiyah N. / Baumel Matthieu Ford Fiesta R5 02:31:44.3
2 Galatariotis S. / Ioannou Antonis Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X 02:37:56.3
3 Polykarpou P. / Winter Gerald Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 02:38:03.8
4 Demosthenous C. / Laos Pambos Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 02:39:24.7
5 von Thurn und Taxis A. / Degandt Bjorn Škoda Fabia R5 02:40:06.6
6 Panteli Petros / Christodoulou K. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 02:41:20.8
7 Savva Savvas / Papandreou A. Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 02:41:39.4
8 Antoniou S. / Pieri Demetris Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX 02:42:16.4
9 Tsouloftas A. / Elia Stelios Citroën DS3 R5 02:43:47.5
10 Denktaş Rauf / Derviş Bora Ford Fiesta R5 02:44:21.7