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.