IRC Cyprus Rally preview : The challenges
Intercontinental Rally Challenge, round 11 of 11
The fifth season of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge is set for a thrilling climax in Cyprus next week (3-5 November) when five drivers go head to head for the prestigious crown.
Juho Hanninen, Jan Kopecky, Freddy Loix, Andreas Mikkelsen and Thierry Neuville are all in the battle for the prestigious IRC title, which will be fought out on demanding mixed-surface stages live on Eurosport, the IRC’s media partner.
Peugeot France driver Bryan Bouffier has scored sufficient points to be in title contention but he completed his 10-event IRC campaign on the previous round in Scotland and will not be competing in Cyprus, leaving his five rivals to chase the honours.
The Cyprus Rally, which joined the IRC schedule for the first time in 2010, is unique compared to other IRC rounds in that it features asphalt and gravel stages with several runs including a combination of the two surfaces. This places a huge onus on driver skill and car set-up with competitors having to cope with compromised levels of handling and grip.
Cyprus used to be synonymous for its punishing tight and twisty rock-strewn gravel tracks but the inclusion of asphalt and smooth loose-surface roads has increased average speeds. However, the event remains a tough test for both crew and car with high ambient and ground temperatures adding to the challenge.
While last year’s Cyprus Rally was based around Limassol, this season’s event has switched to Pafos on the west of the picturesque Mediterranean island, which is famed for its stunning views and picturesque landscape.
The competitive action gets underway with an all-asphalt superspecial stage through the streets of Pafos on Thursday evening (3 November), with two repeated stages run on Saturday and three repeated tests run on Sunday. Service is located in Pafos on the shores of the Mediterranean.
In addition to counting as the final round of the main IRC, the Cyprus Rally will bring the curtain down on the new-for-2011 IRC Production Cup, plus the IRC 2WD Cup. All crews contesting the Cyprus Rally will be in contention for the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which is awarded to the most spectacular driver who best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend.
The Cyprus Rally serves as a precursor to the Cyprus Golden Stage Rally, which takes place on Sunday 6 November over a 20-kilometre mixed surface stage, the Golden Stage, run twice. Shown live on television around the world, a combined prize fund of 150,000 Euros is on offer to the various leading and category finishers and a thrilling battle for glory is expected between the IRC regulars and several local stars.