THE tenth and final round of the European Rally Championship, and fifth round of the Middle East Rally Championship, the CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally takes place this weekend, starting from Limassol seafront on Friday evening.
Fans are in for a thrilling weekend and drivers are gearing up for a shot at some big prize money.
Three days of racing, on gravel and tarmac and both during the day and at night, will culminate with the Cyprus Tourist Organisation-sponsored ‘Love Cyprus Golden Stage’ where crews will fight for a share of €60,000 prize money on the last two special stages.
Thousands of fans are also expected to gather on both sides of the Green Line in central Nicosia on Saturday afternoon to watch the Super Special Stage which will be identical to last year’s – starting near the Finance Ministry and taking crews around the municipal gardens and into the moat near the Ledra Palace for a section in northern Nicosia before returning, again near the Ledra Palace, to the finish near the Supreme Court.
It should be noted that all the roads in the vicinity of the Super Special Stage will be closed from around lunchtime, and there will be a knock-on effect for traffic in all of central Nicosia.
The rally’s Clerk of the Course, Nayia Kontopoulou said: “For many months now the Cyprus Rally organisation has been working tirelessly to ensure another successful rally. This year’s rally has three main ‘highlights’. Friday night will see the return of Night Special Stages while the Nicosia Super Special Stage will take place on Saturday, the 8th of October, in the afternoon. Moreover, the crews will have the chance to compete for a hefty financial prize during the ‘Love Cyprus Golden Stage’ which will be comprised of the last two Special Stages.”
As last year, the Rally HQ will be based in the Filoxenia Conference Centre, while the Service Park will be situated on Evangelos Florakis street in Nicosia, right by the police headquarters, where fans can see the cars, the drivers and their service crews at close quarters.
Participants from Europe and the Middle East will battle it out with Cypriot crews: a total of 55 crews will be competing, of which 39 are running under the Cyprus flag. The top two seeds – Russian Alexey Lukyanuk and Latvian Ralfs Sirmacis (who was runner-up in the ERC Junior competition in his debut season) – will be battling for the runner-up position in the ERC standings, with just two points currently separating them.
Both are likely to fight for every second, and their battle should make for a thrilling race. The ERC title has already been clinched by Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz, who gained a loyal following on the island after his flamboyant driving here last year.
Castrol Ford Team Turkiye has four cars in the entry list led by two-time Turkish champion Murat Bostanci, who is on a full ERC3 programme this season. He’ll be joined by Bugra Banaz and Umit Can Ozdemir, with Rauf Denktash in a fourth team car.
Lambros Athanassoulas of Greece is seeded number 3, with Hungary’s David Botka in car number 4.
The Cypriot challenge is headed by Christos Demosthenous (car number 7) and Costas Zenonos (car 8).
Drivers running in the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) include Khalid Al-Suwaidi (18) from Qatar, and Rodolphe Asmar (19) from Lebanon.
Spectators can find maps of the route on the rally website: www.cyprusrally.com.cy