21 September 2014
Cyprus Rally: ERC: Kajetanowicz is day one comeback king
Kajetan Kajetanowicz holds the overnight advantage on Cyprus Rally after a stirring fightback on day one of the ERC round.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz produced the ultimate comeback drive by cancelling a deficit of more than 30 seconds – and overcoming a ten-second time penalty – to lead round nine of the FIA European Rally Championship starting the final day of the CNP Asfalistiki Cyprus Rally.
The LOTOS Rally Team driver was 33.8s behind overnight leader Yazeed Al-Rajhi after he damaged the steering of his Ford Fiesta R5 on the Nicosia street stage on Friday. Penalised by ten seconds for leaving first service one minute behind schedule while his mechanics rushed to complete essential repairs, Kajetanowicz could have given up hope but, despite powersteering issues and a puncture, a succession of stage wins in the sweltering Cyprus heat moved him to within touching distance of Al-Rajhi starting the day-closing stage, which he duly won to lead into Sunday's six stages by 3.8s.
“I make a mistake yesterday but today was really good,” said Kajetanowicz, who is co-driven by fellow Pole Jarek Baran, I am happy with that, happy with my times and thank you to my team. They have been working well, the car is working fantastic and we are ready to fight tomorrow. I drove for the first time on Pirelli tyres and they are good.”
Al-Rajhi reckoned the performance of the Pirelli rubber on the tarmac sections had given Kajetanowicz a slight edge over his Michelin-shod Fiesta RRC. However, the Saudi said his tyres had performed better on gravel.
“Tomorrow is another day with more gravel and a big fight is expected,” he said, “He's a very fast driver and it's been a good battle today.”
Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari is the top Middle East championship contender in a strong third, one place ahead of Khalid Al-Qassimi, who lost time with a costly spin on stage four. Bruno Magalhães is a fine fifth on his first run on gravel in his Peugeot 208T16. But while the Portuguese was satisfied after the rally's opening nine stages, Craig Breen was a frustrated sixth after myriad mechanical issues slowed his similar 208T16 throughout the day.
Leading Cypriot Christos Demosthenous heads the ERC Production Car Cup category with Stavros Antoniou a mere 2.7s in front of Petros Panteli in another Mitsubishi Lancer. Vitaliy Pushkar is next up, but it was a tough day for the Ukrainian's title rival Martin Hudec. After overheating issues slowed him this morning, the Czech dropped more time in the afternoon when his Lancer suffered a broken front differential.
Zoltán Bessenyey leads the ERC 2WD category despite rolling his Eurosol Racing Team Hungary Honda Civic Type R on stage seven.
“It was a really small mistake,” Bessenyey admitted, “It was second gear, 40 kilometres per hour but we hit the front and rear on a bank and rolled. Thank-you to the crew of car 36 [Charalambos Charalambous and George Pouyioukas] as they stopped to help us get our car back onto its wheels so we could continue.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah's bid for a fourth Cyprus Rally win ended in disappointment when the Qatari failed to start Saturday's opening stage due to an engine overheating problem on his Ford Fiesta RRC, which had affected him through Friday's superspecial on the streets of Nicosia. The Middle East title contender was only able to start the event after a replacement ECU was flown from the UK. The original unit developed a fault during Thursday's Qualifying Stage, which left him and his Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini first on the road for leg one.
Jaroslav Orsák was also out prior to stage two. The Czech damaged his Fabia's right-rear suspension clouting a kerb on the Nicosia superspecial. With insufficient time to make repairs in the 15-minute service halt this morning, Orsák was forced to retire and won't restart on day two.
After going second fastest on stage one, Robert Consani was in sixth overall when his Peugeot 207 S2000 stopped on stage seven. Following Al-Attiyah's exit Antonín Tlusťák spent much of the day cleaning the road for his rivals behind. He's 13th overnight, three places ahead of Lászlo Vizin who was delayed by a puncture.
As well as leading round nine of the FIA European Rally Championship heading into Sunday's closing six stages, Kajetanowicz has moved ahead of Václav Pech to fourth overall in the ERC standings after bagging seven leg bonus points for his day-one heroics. He also heads the race to become the inaugural ERC Gravel Master with an eleven-point lead over Craig Breen.
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