M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver Martin Prokop holds the lead on the FxPro Cyprus Rally, the twelfth and final round in the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, following the opening leg.
Overnight leader Nasser Al-Attiyah had held the advantage after six runs, despite being hindered by having to clear the loose surface stones on the gravel sections this morning. But the combination of a 10-second time penalty for a reported jump start plus two punctures on the penultimate test allowed Prokop, who is starting his first IRC event of the season, to move ahead.
Prokop's advantage now stands at 12.1s and represents a significant reversal in fortune for the Czech driver after a troubled start to the event.
He was two minutes late leaving first service to allow his mechanics to replace a broken front-left driveshaft, which failed on Thursday night's opening Lemesos Super Special Stage and was handed a 20-second penalty as a result.
He also said his choice of soft-compound tyre compromised grip on the tarmac sections and reduced traction on gravel.
“I've tried to do my best all day to make up for the penalty,” Prokop said. “It was not easy to catch Nasser because he is a very fast driver but I am very pleased to be leading even though I will have to do the same tomorrow to keep Nasser behind me.”
"It was not easy at the start cleaning the road but it got better for the second pass,” Al-Attiyah added. “The puncture was bad luck and we had to take it easy because of this. But tomorrow is another day and I will have to push very had."
Roger Feghali meanwhile is third in the sole Skoda Fabia S2000 on the event, a remarkable feat considering the Lebanese is nursing a bent left suspension arm, which he damaged on Thursday's first stage. With no access to a spare, Feghali says he has been unable to attack due to the handling imbalance, which caused a spin on the penultimate stage shown live on Eurosport
and Cypriot channel LumiereTV.
“Of course my aim was to beat these guys,” said Feghali, “but to be third on my first time on gravel in this car is not bad, especially because I don't have much experience of this car. I am competing against guys in proper teams with proper budgets so I have to be happy.”
Jaromir Tarabus completes a strong day for the Czech Ford National Team in fourth after reporting a trouble-free start to his Cyprus Rally. The event marks only the second time that the Fiesta driver has driven on gravel stages.