Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-Attiyah produced another dominant performance to storm to a win at the Cyprus Rally.
This victory saw the Qatari enter the record books by winning this event five times, overtaking Sebastien Loeb’s previous record of four wins.
After an eventful first leg on Saturday for most drivers, al-Attiyah drove a measured race yesterday to ensure the top spot of the podium. “It was fantastic. I am really happy to have completed the rally, it is nice to be in the championship. Huge thanks to Matthieu, to my team, to everyone,” said al-Attiyah after the win.
The Qatari, driving the Ford Fiesta R5, had started yesterday’s leg with a comfortable 3 minute and 19 second lead ahead of second-placed Alexandros Tsouloftas. Al-Attiyah knew that if he drove a steady race he would be able to beat the Citroen DS3 of Tsouloftas. And that’s exactly what he did.
His case was helped by the fact that Tsouloftas suffered two punctures, dropping him out of the top ten and leaving Simos Galatariotis in the runner-up slot, almost five minutes adrift of the Qatari.
Nikolay Gryazin and Kajetan Kajetanowicz both rejoined the race after going out on Saturday’s first Leg and set the pace on the first 4 stages but were so far down the field they posed no threat.
The final two stages – dubbed the Love Cyprus Golden Stages – were a special test with a €24,000 prize money incentive – to be distributed between the fastest driver over both stages, the fastest Cypriot driver and the quickest driver in a two-wheel-drive car.
Al-Attiyah clocked fastest over the first Golden Stage, beating Kajetanowicz by just 1.4 seconds, and the Polish ace responded with a fastest time on the final stage, but the difference between him and al-Attiyah was 1.1 seconds – and when the times for the two stages were added together he missed the €10,000 prize by 0.3 seconds!
Meanwhile Tsouloftas, who was now lying 10th and had nothing to lose, pulled out all the stops to finish the stage 4.1 seconds in front of Timotheou.
He added another 2.1 seconds to the difference from Timotheou on stage 14, and perhaps the €7,000 for fastest Cypriot on the Golden Stages will be some compensation for him missing out on top Cypriot overall and a podium finish.
Christos Demosthenous won the ERC2 category, and victory in ERC3 – and the €7,000 for fastest Golden Stage two-wheel-driver was claimed by Turkey’s Ümitcan Özdemir.
© Gulf Times Newspaper 2019