THE Cyprus rally championship kicked off last weekend with the East Safari Rally organised by the Famagusta Motor Club, starting and finishing in Paralimni.
Twenty-eight cars took part, and there was good support in the stages with plenty of fans turning out to see the action, which on this event is usually pretty fast, as the tracks used are almost all flat, so an ‘off’ is unlikely to do much damage – apart from to the crew’s time.
While it’s great to see grass roots support for the sport, which has certainly had its ups and downs over the years in Cyprus, I came away from the event thinking that safety issues need to be taken much more seriously.
It’s understandable that small motor clubs may have difficulty attracting volunteers to act as marshals, but when you have members of the public watching special stages it’s imperative that marshals are present to ensure that they are spectating from safe locations.
I went to a junction on the first special stage near Cape Greko and the only ‘official’ there was a solitary policeman using his car to block the access road. Two cars were already parked on the stage itself, and he did call headquarters to try and locate their owners to get them to move the vehicles. This eventually happened after the driver of the third safety ‘opening’ car exited his vehicle and called the stage start to delay releasing the first car until the parked cars were moved.
When I pointed out to the policeman that a great number of people were standing on the outside of the bend, in exactly the spot where a rally car was likely to drift, he asked them to move, but to no avail. Only after the first rally car got a bit too close for their comfort did they step backwards.
Next we had a group of half a dozen scramble bikers racing down the stage – they pulled off the road long enough for the next rally car to pass and then roared off after it down the special stage.
On Sunday we decided to watch a stage running close to the Larnaca-Ayia Napa highway. We weren’t sure exactly where it was, but had no problem finding it when we spotted about 50 cars parked on the hard shoulder of the motorway, along with a police car parked on the highway itself at the slip road!
Our last stop, on the way back to Nicosia, was at a stage running along the coast near Livadhia. It was stormy, raining and blowing, but as we approached the stage from a muddy side track I was impressed to see a marshal, shivering in his wet weather gear.
We stopped, just as a rally car roared past on the track ahead. Then a double cab arrived and the marshal waved him into the special stage.
When I asked why he had allowed a car onto a stage that was running he said: “It’s OK, he’s going to park a bit further up”.
Another double cab arrived and after the next rally car passed, he, too, was allowed onto the stage.
I turned round and headed for home, thinking that this sort of sloppy marshalling will one day cause a potentially serious accident, and needs to be stamped out as soon as possible.
I’ve driven myself on special stages and met spectator vehicles which shouldn’t have been there, and when you are racing with pace notes on a road that is supposed to be closed to all other traffic, a stray vehicle that you aren’t expecting can be the cause of a big ‘incident’.
I don’t wish to slam the organisers – I’m sure they did the best they could with the resources available – but we need other clubs to join in so that these events are properly manned, and make sure that marshals know a closed road means exactly that, until the ‘closing’ car has passed.
The event was won by Simos Galatariotis and Antonis Ioannou in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO 10. Second-placed Christos Demosthenous was disqualified after post event scrutineering for a problem with his brakes, and Andreas Tappos, who originally finished 8th was also disqualified because of his turbo (no other details were forthcoming).
East Safari Rally final results:
1 – Galatariotis Simos/Ioannou Antonis, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, 1:11:13.06
2 -Aantoniou Stavros/Pieri Demetris, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1:12:29.06
3 – Michalis Posidias/Fanos Christofi, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, 1:12:45.07
4 – Polykarpou Panikos/Winter Gerald, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1:12:54.82
5 – Costas Zenonos/Kyriacos Damianou, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1:13:04.98
6 -Alexandros Tsouloftas/Stelios Elia, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 7, 1:14:04.51
7 – Limniotis1/Michalis Sofokleous, Subaru Impreza, 1:16:03.51
8 – Michalis Iakovou/Pambos Iakovou, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 3, 1:16:46.22
9 – Paphitis George/Vasiliou Michalis, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, 1:17:02.50
10 – Marios Aspri/Chips Junior, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 10, 1:17:52:77