Nasser Al-Attiyah wrapped up season six of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with victory on a dramatic Cyprus Rally, while second place was enough for Andreas Mikkelsen to secure a second consecutive title.
Qatari Al-Attiyah started day two with a lead of more than 90 seconds over Mikkelsen, who had been delayed by a brace of punctures on Saturday. Although the young Norwegian, in a Škoda UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, fought back to a deficit of 49secs with a succession of stage wins, a double tyre deflation, caused by big hit on the spectacular Prodromi run on Sunday afternoon, ended his outside hopes of victory and enabled Al-Attiyah to cruise to his second IRC career win and the third for M-Sport's Ford Fiesta Regional Rally Car in this season's series.
“It's been a really fantastic weekend,” Al-Attiyah admitted, “Our plan was to finish without any punctures and this is what we did. Everything has been working well, the tyres, the car, me, the co-driver, the team, everybody has done a good job. Andreas was not so lucky and had some problems but this is part of the game – you need a lot of experience on this rally. I'm also leading the Middle East championship so now I'm very happy.”
Mikkelsen wrapped up his second consecutive IRC title alongside co-driver Ola Fløene, having started the event with an unassailable points advantage. The Norwegian handed Fløene the wheel of their Fabia for the rain-hit closing test, which meant he was one stage best short of making it 100 stage wins in the IRC.
“We've had two remarkable years with Škoda UK, who have given me the opportunity to get my international career on track and I am so thankful to them,” said Mikkelsen, whose charging performance earned him the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, “The IRC has been perfect for me and the team and now I hope I have proved everybody wrong who doubted me as being the right driver for this car by winning my second title.”
Toshi Arai finished third in his Subaru Impreza R4 STI to claim his - and the Japanese manufacturer's - maiden IRC podium, with Tommi Mäkinen Racing team-mate Jarkko Nikara taking a strong fourth. Sepp Wiegand fought back from his exit with broken steering on stage seven to finish fifth for Škoda Auto Deutschland after he demoted leading Cypriot driver Savvas Savva in the closing stages. German Armin Kremer took seventh with Hungarian László Vizin eighth in his Eurosol Racing Team Fabia.
Arai might not have been able to successfully defend his IRC Production Cup title this season, but he emerged from the Cyprus Rally victorious nevertheless following his first win of 2012. Driving a Subaru Impreza R4 STI, Arai took advantage when team-mate Nikara suffered significant delay on stage seven and controlled his sizeable lead to the finish. Savva finished third in class with Kremer fourth.
Andreas Aigner started the event in contention for the IRC Production Cup crown but a brake cylinder failure on stage two led to his retirement. He restarted on the second day and although he was quickest in class on five stages to finish in eighth place, it wasn't enough to give the Austrian the 22 points he needed to overhaul Renault driver Robert Consani, who captured the title alongside co-driver Nicolas Klinger, despite the French pair not being eligible for category points this weekend. Marco Tempestini and Vitaliy Pushkar were also in contention for the award but were in trouble early on.
With title rival Consani unable to restart on day two following the clutch failure that forced him out on day one, Harry Hunt just had to reach the finish to secure the IRC 2WD Cup for a second time. Despite missing the event through injury, Hunt's regular navigator Robbie Durant bagged the co-drivers' spoils. Young Cypriot driver Panikos Polykarpou finished second with Zacharias Manoli third for Honda.
Cyprus Rally - Top ten IRC positions (after SS13)
1. Nasser Al-Attiyah /Giovanni Bernacchini
M-Sport Ford Fiesta RRC 3h16m25.2s
2. Andreas Mikkelsen
/Ola Fløene ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 +3m35.3s
3. Toshi Arai /Dale Moscatt
Subaru Impreza R4 STI +10m07.1s
4. Jarkko Nikara /Jarkko Kalliolepo
Subaru Impreza R4 STI +12m42.1s
5. Sepp Wiegand /Timo Gottschalk
ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 +14m00.6s
6. Savvas Savva /Andreas Papandreou
Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX +15m45.1s
7. Armin Kremer /Klaus Wicha
Subaru Impreza WRX STI +16m52.4s
8. Lázsló Vizin /Gábor Zsiros
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +19m00.2s
9. Stavros Antoniou /“Chips Junior”
Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX +28m28.6s
10. Miklós Bujdos /“Zoli”
Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX +29m29.0s
IRC Production Cup:
Toshi Arai /Dale Moscatt (Subaru Impreza R4 STI)
IRC 2WD Cup:
Harry Hunt /David Moynihan (Citroën DS3 R3T)
IRC standings (after round 13 of 13) - Top ten*
1. Andreas Mikkelsen
2. Jan Kopecký
3. Juho Hänninen
4. Sepp Wiegand
5. Giandomenico Basso
6. Nasser Al-Attiyah
7. Yağiz Avci
8. Jarkko Nikara
9. Robert Consani
10. Toshi Arai
* best eight rounds to count
IRC Manufacturers standings (after round 13 of 13)
3. M-Sport Ford
IRC Production Cup standings (after round 13 of 13)
1. Robert Consani
2. Toshi Arai
3. Andreas Aigner
IRC 2WD Cup standings (after round 13 of 13)
1. Harry Hunt
2. Robert Consani
3. Martin Kangur
IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers' standings (after round 13 of 13)