New World Championship Wild Card
Cyprus Rally, September 8/10, 2000

Cyprus Rally was brought into the World Championship as a late replacement for China Rally, so is an unknown quantity for all the top teams. A well respected round of the European Championship, the event has more in common with the Acropolis in Greece than any other WRC round. It will present a tough challenge to cars and crews.

The terrain over which Cyprus Rallies runs is rough, dusty and very twisty. It is one of the slowest events in the European Championship calendar - last year the winner averaged only 58 kph (36mph). The heat of the mediterranean summer provides an in-depth examination of cars' cooling and transmission systems, tyres and suspension strength, while crews' stamina is also tested to the full. The organisers are understood to have replaced some of the slowest stages for the inaugural WRC event, but it is still expected to be one of the slowest rounds of the 2000 series.

The only driver with a "works" team to have finished there before is Armin Schwarz, who won the event in 1996 with Toyota. This year he debuts the latest evolution of the Skoda Octavia, which sports a new body shape, improved aerodynamics, better weight distribution, more power and improved traction. The Czech marque is still in its "preparatory" season before entering the full series, but has already scored points on four rounds.

Schwarz is unlikely to top the form guide for this rally - that honour will probably be accorded to Marcus Gronholm, winner in Finland and the new leader of the standings. But while he is clearly the driver of the moment, his car, the Peugeot 206, did not fare so well in the comparable Acropolis Rally. There, Gronholm rolled on the first leg and then retired on the second with broken suspension and an engine problem. If the car lasts, Gronholm should be in a top position. His team-mate Francois Delecour should also be in the points frame at the finish.

Richard Burns lost his Championship lead to Gronholm in Finland when he made an uncharacteristic mistake and rolled the Subaru - the last time he crashed was in Australia in '98. It was his third consecutive non-finish. In Greece, the previously fast and strong Impreza let him down, initially with damper problems and then with a failed turbo.

Burns needs a good finish if he is to maintain his challenge for the Championship. On Acropolis form his toughest opposition will be Ford, which took the top two places in Greece and now leads the Manufacturers series.

The Ford Focus has steadily improved both in terms of pace and reliability, and McRae's confidence will be strong, after his victory in Greece and second places in New Zealand and Finland. It took him to within two points of Burns and six of leader Gronholm in the Drivers standings. Team-mate Carlos Sainz is one of the most experienced drivers in the business and should be a force in the second Focus.

The Marlboro Mitsubishi Ralliart team is seeking a change in fortune after a run of disheartening mid-season results. The heavily revised Lancer showed improvement over the earlier version in Finland, posting better times than over the same stages last year, but reigning Champion Tommi Makinen was unable to consistently match the top times set by his fellow Finn Gronholm or, indeed, Richard Burns over the first leg. The team has experience of Cyprus conditions and has tested there, so will be well prepared, and if Makinen's and Freddy Loix's cars have a reliable run to the finish, they should pick up some points.

Rally route & format

Limassol on the southern coast of Cyprus hosts the rally, which adopts the now "standard" three loop format based on a central host city.

The first leg routes north to Troodos with nine stages in three groups - all servicing carried out at Troodos. The fifth stage is the longest of this leg, from Mylikouri to Monashilakas - almost 32 kms. Leg two includes eight stages in the same area as leg one, but with servicing at Paphos to the west of Limassol. A number of stages are repeated - stage two will be run twice again as stages 12 and 15. Leg three travels to the east of Limassol covering six stages with servicing in Limassol.

<pre> Friday 8th September Kms 08.00 Start - Anexartisias, Limassol 08.33 SS 1 - Alassa-Agios Therapon 6.22 09.06 SS 2 - Prastio - Pachna 11.06 09.49 SS 3 - Agios Nikolaos-Foini 11.3 10.22 SS 4 - Platres-Kato Amiantos 11.99 11.09 Service A - Troodos 12.17 SS 5 - Mylikouri-Monashilakas 31.87 13.10 SS 6 - Panagia-Selladi tou Stachtou 19.52 14.25 Service B - Troodos 15.08 SS 7 - Kourdali - Assinoua 14.92 15.39 SS 8 - Assinou-Nikitari 25.39 16.57 SS 9 - Xerarkaka-Stavroulia 12.89 17.47 Service C - Troodos 19.32 Leg 1 finish - Limassol. Leg 1 Total 9 SS - 145.16 kms

Saturday 9th September 08.00 Start leg 2 - Limassol 09.01 SS 10 - Platres-Saittas 11.48 09.39 SS 11 - Alassa-Agios Therapon 2 6.22 10.12 SS 12 - Prastio - Pachna 11.06 11.47 Service E - Paphos 13.10 SS 13 - Panagia-Selladi tou Stachtou 2 19.52 31.87 SS 14 - Mylikour i -Monashilakas 2 31.87 15.30 Service F - Paphos 16.48 SS 15 - Prastio - Pachna 3 11.06 17.31 SS 16 - Agios Nikolaos-Foini 2 11.30 18.04 SS 17 - Platres-Kato -Amiantos2 11.99 19.14 Service G - Limassol 19.59 Leg 2 finish - Limassol Leg 2 Total 8 SS - 114.5 kms

Sunday 10th September 08.00 Start leg 3 - Limassol 09.21 SS 18 - Vavatsinia- Mandra tou Kambiou 19.11 10.04 SS 19 - Agos Onoufrios - Agioi Vavatsinias 18.1 10.52 SS 20 - Lageia - Kalavasos 9.62 12.17 Service I - Limassol 13.47 SS 21 - Vavatsinia - Mandra tou Kanbiou 2 19.11 14.35 SS 22 - Machairas - Agioi Vavatsinias 13.19 15.18 Lageia - Kalavasos 2 9.62 16.18 Service J - Limassol 16.43 Finish - Limassol Leg 3 Total 5 SS 88.75 kms Stage total, 23 SS - 348.41 kms Total overall - 1227.82 kms