IRC: Al-Attiyah claims maiden IRC win in Cyprus
6 November 2010
Nasser Al-Attiyah has become the eighth different winner in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge this year after claiming victory on the mixed-surface FxPro Cyprus Rally, the twelfth and final round of the all-action 2010 IRC season, which finished in Limassol this evening (Saturday).
Al-Attiyah, from Qatar, moved in front when rival and fellow M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 driver Martin Prokop was slowed after his car suffered a broken driveshaft on stage ten. Despite the close attentions of Roger Feghali, at the wheel of a Skoda Fabia S2000, Al-Attiyah was able to hold on for his maiden IRC win following 236 kilometres of gruelling competition on the sun-baked stages through the spectacular Cypriot landscape.
The result means that M-Sport, which represents Ford in the IRC, secures third overall in the final IRC manufacturers' standings behind champion Skoda and runner-up Peugeot. Juho Hanninen, driving a Skoda Fabia S2000, was confirmed as IRC drivers' champion following his victory on RACMSA Rally of Scotland last month. His team-mate, Jan Kopecky, was second with Kris Meeke, the 2009 IRC champion, third for Peugeot UK.
In the IRC 2WD Cup, 22-year-old Briton Harry Hunt secured the points he needed to move ahead of Kevin Abbring and Rafael Tulio and win the title. Driving an M-Sport Fiesta R2, Hunt survived a trip into a ditch on Friday, a puncture on the penultimate stage and a spin on the last test to land his second victory in the category this season ahead of the Honda Civic driver Laszlo Vizin.
Al-Attiyah, a multiple Middle East champion, was always in contention on the Cyprus Rally and made the most of his experience of competing on the island to race into an early lead. However, the combination of two punctures and a ten-second time penalty for a reported jumped start on Friday let Prokop move into the lead on day one's penultimate stage.
But Prokop's challenge went awry when his Fiesta faltered early on stage ten and he lost more than three minutes, not long after he had extended his advantage over Al-Attiyah, who lost time in the dust clouds created by the slowing Prokop. Al-Attiyah's other cause for concern occurred when a minor transmission glitch occurred on Saturday morning, albeit without any serious consequences.
“It's been a very hard rally, but I'm very happy to have won my first IRC event,” enthused Al-Attiyah. “We had some problems, but I never gave up. It was not easy against Martin, because he was very fast so to have won is really fantastic.”
Feghali, making his IRC debut, impressed throughout the event despite nursing a bent rear suspension arm, the legacy of nudging a concrete retaining wall on Thursday night's Lemesos Super Special Stage. With no spare available, Feghali was forced to complete the remainder of the event with an ill-handling car but still managed to claim second overall.
“After the troubles yesterday, I'm very satisfied with second place and have to thank my team, my sponsors and my co-driver for everything they have done to help me,” he remarked.
Prokop had to make do with third although his capture of the final podium spot was briefly in doubt when he spun on the final Galataria stage live on Eurosport and Cypriot channel LumiereTV, which showed a total of four hours of live coverage from the event.
“I think without the problems I could have won and it was disappointing that I didn't,” he rued, “but I always knew Nasser would be difficult to beat. Now I look forward to the Golden Stage Rally.”
Czech Ford National Team team-mate Jaromir Tarabus finished fourth with Nicos Thomas the top Cypriot driver in fifth after overcoming gearchange and brake woes on Friday. Thomas' drive in a Peugeot 207 S2000 was the result of the close collaboration between IRC promoter Eurosport Events and rally organiser Cyprus Automobile Association.
Roman Kresta's low-risk strategy earned the Czech driver sixth overall in his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Kresta was the highest-placed driver in a traditional two-litre turbocharged Group N car.
Charalambos Timotheou took seventh from fellow Cypriot Constantinos Tingirides, who was slowed on the final day by a right-rear puncture, an anti-lag glitch and a minor off on the penultimate stage in his Ralliart Lancer.
Bryan Bouffier's bid to make up for the 25-minute delay he suffered on Friday morning ended when he broke his Peugeot's left-rear suspension on the first Galataria stage on Saturday morning, shortly after claiming his fourth stage victory of the rally. His efforts to complete stage two and the pace he showed thereafter earned him the Colin McRae IRC Flat-Out Trophy, which is handed to the driver who produces the most spectacular performance and best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend on rounds of the IRC.
Qatar's Misfer Almari won the Subaru Individual Award as the highest Subaru finisher in ninth overall to maintain his lead of the Middle East Rally Championship, which ran in conjunction with the main IRC event. Panikos Polykarpou completed the top ten in a Lancer. Burcu Cetinkaya limped to the finish in 14th overall with broken steering, following a final stage failure on her Peugeot Sport Turkey 207.
Daniel Oliveira restarted on Saturday morning but went no further than stage eleven after damaging his 207's steering. Like Oliveira, Franz Wittmann also retired on Friday but elected not to restart on Saturday.
The bulk of the Cyprus Rally participants will remain on the island to contest the inaugural Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally, which features a single mixed-surface 25-kilometre stage run twice. The contest on Sunday, 7 November carries a prize fund of 150,000 Euros.