IRC Cyprus Rally preview : The competitors

12th and last round of the IRC championship

By Franck Drui

31 October 2010 - 07:44
IRC Cyprus Rally preview : The (…)

Andreas Mikkelsen will start the FxPro Cyprus Rally on the back of his strong run to second place on Rally of Scotland earlier this month and will be a firm contender for his maiden Intercontinental Rally Challenge victory in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000. The 21-year-old from Norway has impressed mightily throughout the season and is determined to finish 2010 with a podium.

Nasser Al-Attiyah has enjoyed plenty of success in Cyprus in the past by winning the country’s Troodos Rally on seven occasions. Armed with a Fiesta S2000, the Qatari made his IRC debut on Rally Argentina in March and will be aiming to make his most of his experience of the island’s gruelling terrain alongside Italian co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini.

Martin Prokop will also rely on Fiesta technology when he makes his first IRC start of the season. The Czech has sampled the Cypriot stages in the past, winning the Junior world championship event in the country in 2009. Jaromir Tarabus will partner his countryman in the Czech Ford National Team at the wheel of a similar Fiesta.

Franz Wittmann returns to IRC action after missing the last two events in Italy and Scotland. The Austrian, 27, visited the Cyprus Rally in 2006 when it counted towards the world championship and has fond memories of the island and its punishing stages. Despite showing plenty of pace this season in his Interwetten Racing Peugeot 207, Wittmann has been frequently out of luck and is still chasing his first points of the campaign.

Joining Wittmann in the ROMO Motorsporttechnik outfit will be Frenchman Bryan Bouffier, who has concluded a one-off deal to drive for the German squad in a second 207. Bouffier came close to winning Barum Czech Rally Zlin in August and is relishing the mixed-surface stage format in Cyprus. Buoyed by her first IRC points in Scotland, Burcu Cetinkaya will be aiming to add to her tally in her Peugeot Sport Turkey 207.

Daniel Oliveira scored his first IRC points back in his native Brazil in early March. He has recruited Bruno Magalhaes’ co-driver Carlos Magalhaes to partner him in Cyprus aboard his Stohl Racing 207. Team boss Manfred Stohl finished second on the Cyprus Rally in 2006 and will be anxious to offload his experience onto his young charge.

Cypriot Nicos Thomas holds the record as the youngest winner of the Cyprus Rally, a feat he achieved as a 20-year-old in 2007. Now 23, Thomas has got his hands on a Peugeot 207 and will be an unknown quantity as he adapts to the Super 2000-specification machine. Thomas is one of several leading local drivers in action. Others include current Cypriot champion Constantinos Tingirides and Charalambos Timotheou. Both will drive Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancers.

With the IRC title-winning Skoda Motorsport team not competing in Cyprus, Lebanese driver Roger Feghali will be responsible for upholding the Czech manufacturer’s honour in his Fabia S2000. Feghali is better known as an asphalt specialist but has some experience driving on gravel.

Misfer Almari is one of several Subaru Impreza drivers in action in Cyprus. Hailing from Qatar, Almari leads the Middle East Rally Championship and will be a contender for the Subaru Individual Award, which is handed out to the leading Subaru finisher by the Japanese manufacturer on rounds of the IRC.

With Kevin Abbring and Rafael Tulio not competing in Cyprus, Harry Hunt knows that a points’ finish will be enough to secure the IRC 2WD Cup title. The trio are tied on 20 points each although Hunt might be hard-pushed to land a maximum score against Hungarian Honda Civic drivers Janos Puskadi and Laszlo Vizin.

Cyprus is the final event of the 2010 IRC season and will determine third place in the overall IRC manufacturers’ ranking. The manufacturers’ title in the IRC 2WD Cup is also still up for grabs and the outcome will be determined in Cyprus.

All IRC awards will be presented at the end-of-season ceremony in Limassol on the evening of Sunday 7 November. The event is being jointly organised by Eurosport Events and the Cyprus Automobile Association. IRC champions Juho Hanninen and Mikko Markkula, runners-up Jan Kopecky and Petr Stary, and third-placed crew Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle are among those set to attend.


Motorsport news