By Marios Michael
IT is well known that for years, many countries have used motorsport and its huge awareness-generating benefits to promote themselves as tourist destinations.
The examples are numerous: Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, the current Lotus F1 Team driver, who in 2011 signed with the Williams F1 team and brought with him the Venezuelan government’s funding.
The unforgettable ‘Visit Venezuela’ branding was seen across the world on the side of the Williams F1 car.
Which brings me to the title of the article. I have three individuals from the field of motorsport, individuals who were born and raised in Cyprus. Three names, three separate stories – Eftychios ‘Tio’ Ellinas, Vladimiros Tziortzis and Panikos Polykarpou.
Ellinas has already shocked the world with his on-track performances. He has won races in the GP3 Series (but just missed out on the title in 2013, due to misfortune) and won a test with the Marussia F1 Team at Silverstone. He then competed in the GP2 Series, the stepping stone to F1, for teams MP Motorsport and Rapax, leaving a great impression.
This season Ellinas announced that he will be racing for the Strakka Racing Team, in the Formula Renault 3.5 Championship which in 2013 was won by Kevin Magnussen (which opened the door for Magnussen to race for McLaren F1 in 2014).
Tziortzis tried for the first time a Formula Renault 2.0 at the Autodromo Riccardo Paletti track in Palma, Italy in 2014. The 18-year-old driver posted times very similar to the most experienced drivers in the official test, and drove in Sochi, leading the double race of Formula Russia.
Tziortzos scored a ninth and an eighth position, but most importantly, the rookie won the most flattering of comments from other teams.
It would be interesting to know why he has not been granted a Cypriot racing license.
Panikos Polykarpou started rallying in 2009, participating in the Cyprus Rally Championship and in 2011 he won the championship in a Mitsubishi Lancer, the youngest ever champion and he was then nominated for ‘Cypriot Man of The Year’ as a newcomer.
In 2014, with support from local Cypriot sponsors, Polykarpou took part in the FIA World Rally Championship Rally Portugal and Rally Poland, in a Citroen DS3 R3T, two admittedly difficult races, with Austrian co-driver Winter Gerald.
Polykarpou finished 41st in the overall standings in Portugal and 9th in his class, while in Poland was unlucky, after an accident while he was holding fifth position in his class and which prevented him from a very good result.
Last year, Polykarpou was backed by the Federation International Automobile (FIA) to represent Cyprus and won a fully administered and funded entry to the FIA Young Drivers Excellence Academy to support his motorsport career.
After three days of tests and evaluations hosted at the Yas Marina complex in Abu Dhabai Polykarpou impressed all with his mental, physical and PR friendly attitude. He has the skills to win, but the challenge now is for him to find the finances to compete in the full season of WRC.
Our state should, despite difficulties, study the relationship of ‘Cost v Gain’ and stand as a strong supporter to back the efforts of people such as these three athletes who love competing for their country, but who also have the ability to succeed and raise the flag of Cyprus high and benefit from the huge television coverage and media possibilities.
For once, stand by your promises and look at the problems, help to get better promotion for our country and raise once again the Cyprus flag in the world’s famous motorsport arenas.
Marios Michael is Organisational Coordinator for the Nicosia District Council of Symmaxia Politon, and for many years has been the commentator of the Formula One World Championship on television