Day two report: ERC victor Al-Attiyah is Golden with record Cyprus win
Nasser Al-Attiyah has become the fourth different driver to prove he's got talent of the event-winning variety by winning round four of the FIA European Rally Championship with top spot in Cyprus today.
In doing so, Qatar's famous motorsport all-rounder is now the most successful driver in the history of the Cyprus Rally with five wins compared to the four notched up by multiple world champion Sébastien Loeb.
Al-Attiyah, who follows Bruno Magalhães, Alexey Lukyanuk and Kajetan Kajetanowicz by winning in this year’s ERC, snatched the lead from Nikolay Gryazin on stage three and capitalised on his experience of the demanding Cypriot stages – held in punishing ambient temperatures exceeding 30 degrees centigrade – to take a comfortable victory ahead of local drivers Simos Galatariotis and Panikos Polykarpou, who were not eligible for ERC points.
“There really is no secret to our success, we tried to do our best,” said the Autotek Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5 driver, who was co-driven by Frenchman Matthieu Baumel and also scored maximum FIA Middle East points. “We had good luck and I feel sorry for the other drivers because we had a really big fight altogether. But maybe the experience we get from here and everywhere we compete helps us and I am happy to win five times the Cyprus Rally. Thank you to all the support from my country, our government and our team who made this possible.”
Al-Attiyah underlined his dominance with a dramatic victory on the Love Cyprus Golden Stage, beating Kajetanowicz by 0.3s to win 10,000 euros in prize money.
Alexandros Tsouloftas was in a strong second place after nine stages when he suffered a double puncture on the 23.43-kilometre Cytanet Avdelero run this morning, losing more than 10 minutes and any hopes of a podium finish. “There was a big rock in the road and we got two punctures,” the young Cypriot driver explained afterwards. “It was a sharp stone in the line, I couldn’t avoid it, it could have cost us our lives.” Tsouloftas was handed the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his efforts in P9 overall and was also the top local on the Love Cyprus Golden Stage to pick up a cheque for 7,000 euros.
With Tsouloftas substantially delayed, Galatariotis and Polykarpou moved into the top three overall with Christos Demosthenous taking fourth and ERC regular Albert von Thurn und Taxis a fine fifth on his Cyprus Rally debut in only his first full season of rallying.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz restarted on Sunday following his stage-six crash on leg one to claim seven bonus points for winning today’s second leg. The LOTOS Rally Team driver will head to his home event in Poland 14 points behind Magalhães in the battle to become European champion. Magalhães, who crashed at the same right-hand turn as Kajetanowicz and Murat Bostanci, was unable to re-join the action on day two due to the damage inflicted when he rolled his SEAJETS ŠKODA Fabia Fabia off the road and onto Bostanci’s Castrol Ford Team Turkey Ford Fiesta R5, which was also beyond immediate repair.
Having been thwarted by mechanical issues on day one, Gryazin returned on Sunday and overcame brake and power issues to add to his opening-stage win for Sports Racing Technologies with two further stage bests. Antonín Tlusťák was also back competing on Sunday after his broken steering-enforced retirement on Saturday. The Czech was classified P23, six places behind Charalambos Timotheou, the experienced Cypriot competitor who was driving a Fabia R5 in competition for the first time for Motorsport Italia. Rauf Denktaş battled back from rolling on the final morning to finish P10 overall on his ERC debut.
ERC2: Demosthenous wins at home as Melegari takes title lead
While Christos Demosthenous celebrated top-scoring in ERC2, Zelindo Melegari is the new leader of the category after four rounds. The Italian was the third eligible driver home, one place behind Petros Panteli Sergei Remennik was on course to finish fourth despite myriad issues but dropped out in the closing stages stuck in third gear. Simos Galatariotis and Panikos Polykarpou ultimately set the pace among the production class drivers but having not applied for ERC priority status they were not eligible for points.
ERC3:Özdemir takes victory following controlled drive
Ümitcan Özdemir claimed his maiden ERC3 success for Castrol Ford Team Turkey with a controlled drive ahead of fellow Fiesta R2 drivers Deniz Fahri and İsmet Toktaş. Buǧra Banaz fought back from his stage-three off to finish fourth in class and score some crucial championship points. Russian Peugeot driver Artur Muradian, a stage winner on Sunday, and Cypriot veteran Christos Mannouris were both unable to go the distance. Zacharias Manoli was the fastest two-wheel-drive contender on the Love Cyprus Golden Stage and received 7,000 euros in prize money.