The penultimate round of the 2019 FIA European Rally Championship has started today in Cyprus. While the Champions in the junior categories of the series were determined at the previous round in the Czech Republic, we will see the outcome of the struggle for the overall title in two final stages. Two contenders for victory came to the Cyprus Rally with a small difference in the number of points: Chris Ingram from the UK has 108 points, while Alexey Lukyanuk has saved 107 points for him.
The Cyprus Rally that is difficult in its character is promised to be complicated for the championship leaders by the fastest racers on the planet. Nasser Al-Attiyah, two-time world rally champion and winner of all kinds of prestigious cross-country competitions, has set a new record this season and plans to win the 15th FIA Middle East Rally Championship that will take place as part of the Cyprus Rally. Lukasz Habaj will also keep Ingram and Lucas in good shape – the Pole has headed the classification of the series just recently, but at the moment he is in third position in the overall standings. In addition, Mikko Hirvonen arrived on the island – he is a multiple winner of the FIA WRC rounds and repeated bronze and silver medalist of the World Series. The entry list has an impressive number of R5 vehicles – there are 17 racing cars. The event is attended not only by the Arab rally world representatives, but also by participants from South America – Brazilian Paulo Nobre and Chilean Emilio Fernandez.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “This is our fourth time in Cyprus, but we see these special first-ever – the route is 90% new for us. And, basically, there are mountains, which means there will be hairpins and constant turns. The longest straight sections are not more than one hundred meters; everything else is a very twisted track. There will be a rocky surface, dusty, narrow. The average speed at the recce was 30 km/h in a prepared car. Our friend Dimitri “Dimi” Morozov, who lives here in Cyprus, helped us out and gave his two “recce” Suzuki cars. “Dimi” has been fond of rallying for a long time and is seriously engaged in it. He has two competitive Suzukis and two for the recces. Unfortunately, he doesn’t participate in this race, but he helped us with a car equipped with a sports suspension, sports seats, gravel tyres – it has made life very easy for us, as our rental car couldn’t stand it. But the Cyprus Rally is going to be interesting: it’s hot, the special stages are long, and three of them are about 20 kilometers of winding roads”.
Free practice took place on Friday morning, immediately after which the drivers went through the qualification stage. Here, in Cyprus, being the best in terms of the qualifying SS results is more important than ever, because the winner can determine the starting position for tomorrow that plays a big role at this route. The first fifteen finishers were honored to participate in the ceremony of starting positions choice, and the Qatari driver Nasser Al-Attiyah was the first to do it. The Qatari chose the 15th of 15 proposed options: by his start time, the crews will clean the track from stones and gravel and it will be much more comfortable to drive. Alexey Lukyanuk chose the 14th position.
The race route totals 683 kilometers on dirt, gravel and asphalt roads in the vicinity of the cities of Nicosia and Larnaca, while 200 kilometers will fall on special stages. The service park and the rally headquarters are located in Nicosia, but the start and finish will take place on the coast, in Larnaca.
Online results: https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/