WRC

Cyprus Rally: Round five preview

Being run as a WRC event for the fifth time, the Cyprus Rally was originally introduced to the calendar in 2000 as a replacement for the 555 Rally of China. Presenting drivers with a series of twisty, rock-strewn stages similar to those used in ...

Being run as a WRC event for the fifth time, the Cyprus Rally was originally introduced to the calendar in 2000 as a replacement for the 555 Rally of China. Presenting drivers with a series of twisty, rock-strewn stages similar to those used in nearby Greece, the event has become renowned as one of the toughest in the Championship. Scorching temperatures, thick dust and rutted roads combine to make driving conditions difficult and both car and driver will face an arduous challenge.

Based largely on rocky tracks high in the Troodos Mountains, the event's stages are among the narrowest and twistiest in the Championship. In these conditions cars are expected to record average speeds of just 67kph, barely half those recorded on smooth gravel rallies, such as Rally Finland. The low speeds mean less airflow for the car's cooling systems, and with May temperatures in Cyprus likely to be around 30°C, it's usually one of the toughest events for mechanical components and tyres.

This year's event sees the rally service park move 2km west of Limassol Port, while Rally HQ will be based at the Four Seasons Hotel. Following the ceremonial start on Thursday evening, the rally will begin in earnest on Friday when crews travel 63km to the start of the longest test of the event, the 38.32kms stage from Lagoudera. Each of the three Legs comprises six stages (a group of three repeated), making a total of 326.68 competitive kilometres. The winning car is expected to cross the finish ramp in Limassol at 1414hrs on Sunday.

Technically, the nature of the stages that twist and turn their way across the isle of Aphrodite pose a real challenge. Not only are they rough, slow and twisty, but they are also covered in a deep top-covering of gravel which the competing cars tend to brush aside first time through, producing a much clearer line for the second run, a phenomenon that changes the picture significantly. The prevailing heat is another important consideration, especially since the exceptionally low average speeds of the stages limit the flow of cooling air to the engine and inside the car.

Meanwhile shipping delays with the vessel which is bringing rally cars, tv equipment and other support vehilces to Cyprus has been delayed by a storm. Arriving late many teams had to find alternative vehicles to complete pre-event recce in (going over the stages to make notes). Delays should not effect the event.

Citroen

Rally of Cyprus, a event renown for its tough test of man and machine alike and the Citroen team of Sébastien Loeb and Carlos Sainz will be hoping to exploit the Citroen Xsara's reputation for strength and durability.

Sébastien Loeb / Daniel Elena: "It's very slow and narrow. We rarely get into third gear," says Sébastien Loeb. "You're always holding yourself back. So it's not the most exciting of events, but a championship has to have a bit of everything. It's therefore natural that there is an event like Cyprus!"

Carlos Sainz / Marc Marti: "Cyprus marks the start of the toughest phase of the championship. It's here that the Xsara's robustness will make a difference and demonstrate its full potential."

Ford

Ford BP Rallye Sport enters traditionally its strongest phase of the FIA World Rally Championship leading both the manufacturers' and drivers' series. The Cyprus Rally is the first of three consecutive hot and rough events in the eastern Mediterranean, conditions in which the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car has excelled in recent years. The Focus has built an awesome reputation on events where rock-strewn gravel tracks and searing temperatures require a crucial blend of strength, reliability and speed to be successful. The car has won twice in Cyprus in the rally's four years in the championship.

Markko Martin / Michael Park: "Finding the right rhythm is so important in Cyprus," he said. "The roads are slow and twisty and a driver must find the right balance between speed and aggression. It's a totally different approach from the previous round in New Zealand and it can be quite frustrating. Because the roads are slow, there is often the feeling of not driving fast enough. But if you push too hard, you risk sliding off the line and losing time. Grip is important in Cyprus when the roads are dry and twisty. There are many turns and so the car is accelerating and braking all the time. As a result the rally is quite demanding on tyres, especially if the weather is very hot," he added.

Francios Duval / Stefan Prevot: "It's a tough rally for drivers, co-drivers and cars," he said. "I enjoy the twisty roads but maybe this rally is just a little too slow for me. I think it's possible for me to finish in the top five. It's not necessary to attack hard on the first day because many cars will find trouble and a cautious approach can pay off.

"Our start position on the first day is not too bad. I think to start 10th or 12th would be perfect if the conditions are dry. We are fifth but that is OK. It's difficult to drive when there is a lot of gravel on the road and it's hard to stop the car when the road isn't clean," he added.

Peugeot

The fifth showdown of the 2004 season takes teams to the twisty gravel mountain stages of Cyprus which recently celebrated its entry into the European Union. Marcus Grönholm has already won this event once - with the Peugeot 206 WRC in 2002 - and he will be aiming to repeat that success this time round with the new 307 WRC. Harri Rovanperä, whose programme includes all this year's loose surface rounds, is also in a confident mood as he heads for the Mediterranean island following his strong showing in April's Rally New Zealand.

Marcus Gronhölm / Timo Rautiainen: "To be quite frank, Rally Cyprus is not one of my favourite events. I find faster events more fun. Here you get the impression that it's just one slow corner after another, and the heat is suffocating. Even so, I will be looking for a top result. The whole team has worked extremely hard over the past weeks and we have made significant progress with the car. I think the 307 WRC is an all-round car that is capable of being quick on every type of surface, fast or slow."

Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen: I am very happy to see my programme confirmed for the rest of the season. It seems like everything is going well at the moment. At the end of April, we tested at Château de Lastours in the south of France and that was very positive. The team has put in a great deal of work and we should be in a position to fight at the sharp end in Cyprus."

Subaru

Three weeks after Subaru claimed it's 40th WRC victory by winning Rally New Zealand, the team moves to the Mediterranean for round five the Cyprus Rally. Last year, Petter won the event by a margin of 4 minutes 14 seconds. Fresh from his sixth WRC victory in New Zealand, the reigning World Champion will be aiming to achieve a similar podium result on this year's rally. Finnish driver Mikko Hirvonen has contested the Cyprus event once before. Finishing sixth in 2003, this was the event that saw the young Finn score his first WRC Driver points. This year he will be aiming to secure more Championship points, while gaining experience of the hot, gravel event in an Impreza WRC2004.

Petter Solberg / Phil Mills: "It's a shame I missed some days testing in the run up to this rally due to a small muscle strain injury that I picked up in New Zealand. But, the most important thing was to be fit for Cyprus and so the team took the decision for me to rest, which was the best plan. The set-up during testing felt good, but there were more things we could have done if I'd been able to continue. But, that's just how it is sometimes. I'm looking forward to the next three events. I've always done well in Cyprus and that keeps the pressure up to do well again this year, which is a good thing."

Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen: Although I learned a lot during Rally New Zealand, it was quite a difficult event for me. I struggled to find a driving rhythm I was happy with on the first day but, after that, things got better. I spent two days trying to learn as much as I could about the car and adapted my driving style so it was less aggressive, which seemed to pay off. Comparing my tyre wear in Mexico to that in New Zealand, it was much less on the second event. I'm learning new things all the time and also managed to collect more points for the team in New Zealand. Cyprus, of course, will be very different to New Zealand. I think my driving style suits faster events, but there are three rough, twisty rallies coming up and that's an area I need to improve on, so it will be good for me. The Subaru is very strong on this type of surface too, which is a positive. It will be important for me and Jarmo to take good pace notes in Cyprus. All the corners are slow and look the same, so you need to ensure you mark some differences in the notes so you recognise them all."

Mitsubishi

Round five of the 2004 FIA World Rally Championship takes the Mitsubishi Motors Motor Sports WRC team to the island of Cyprus for the fourth of eight consecutive loose surface events. Here, the all-French crew of Gilles and Hervé Panizzi will be joined by Finnish team-mates Kristian Sohlberg and Kaj Lindström in the second Lancer WRC04 for the first of three events hosted in the eastern Mediterranean.

Gilles Panizzi / Herve Panizzi: For the team this will be another completely different rally and maybe one of the most difficult for us", commented Gilles. "We are working a lot on many parts of the car and there is progress with the engine, gearbox, brakes and controlling the temperatures, but we still need to make some big improvements to the dampers for this event. We will see; it is going to be a very hard one I think especially on such a rough and slow event. Physically it is tough with the heat, but if we can get the car to the same level as my fitness, then I will be very happy!"

Kristian Sohlberg / Kaj Lindstrom: "This is going to be a special rally and we have to approach it a bit differently to all the other events we have done. Maybe we won't try to go flat out all the time; I think we will try to be a bit more cautious and look after the car as I think many will retire as it is so rough. By being careful we have a good chance to get many points. For me, the car was a big improvement in New Zealand and I was very confident. Although we didn't get many kilometers and the rally is totally different, hopefully it will feel the same".

Junior WRC / Production WRC
This event is not a round of the Junior WRC or Production WRC

Weather Forecast
Weather is expected to remain fine during the event with temperatures in the 20's (celcius). Windy conditions may be experienced Saturday and Sunday.

Event Statistics

- Cyprus switched to summer time (GMT+3) on the last Saturday of March. It is therefore necessary to take away one hour from the times indicated below to obtain Continental European time (GMT+2).

- The Cyprus Rally was promoted to World Championship status in 2000 when it was called in to replace the China Rally. The 33rd running of the event will therefore be its fifth as a WRC qualifying round.

- The rally is based in Limassol (Lemesos), the island's principal port and second-largest city. The stages use the twisty roads that wind their way through the Troodos Mountains.

- Total route length is 1,146.42 km, including 326.68 km divided into 18 special stages (9 different stages to be covered twice each).

- Shakedown takes place on Thursday May 13th from midday to 2:00 p.m., near the Stavrovouni Monestary, 60 km from Limassol.

- The start ceremony (Thursday May 13th, 8:30 p.m.) is held on Limassol seafront.

- The rally's single service park is located near Limassol's new port.

- The tyre quota in Cyprus is sixty covers per driver. In accordance with the regulations, teams chose their two tread patterns four weeks before the start. The make-up of drivers' individual choices (tyres are identified by a bar-code) has to be communicated by the Monday before the rally.

- To counter the phenomenon of hanging dust if there is no wind, the organisers have decided to allow a gap of 3 minutes between each car.

- The programme of each of the three legs is identical: a loop of three stages to be covered once in the morning and once in the afternoon.

- The total length of Leg 1 (Friday May 14th, 7:00 a.m. until 9:45 p.m.) is 406.40 km, of which 121.78 km will be against the clock. The day's stages are 'Lagoudera-Spilia' (same as 2003), 'Kourdali-Asinou' (same as 2003) and 'Asinou-Agios Theodoros' (the start of one of 2003's stages).

- Saturday's leg (May 15th, 413.20 km, including 109.56 km in stages) starts at 7:45 a.m. and finishes at 9 p.m. The stages are: 'Platres-Saittas' (same as 2002), 'Foini-Koilinia' (same as 2003) and 'Galatareia-Pentalia' (start used in 2003, the end is different).

- The final leg (total length 327.68 km, 95.34 km in stages) starts at 5:15 a.m. and finishes at 2:14 p.m. on Sunday May 16th. The day's stages are 'Vavatsinia-Mandra Kambiou', 'Macheras-Agioi Vavatsinias' and 'Kellaki-Foinikaria'. All three were used in 2003, although the middle part of 'Vavatsinia-Mandra Kambiou'has been modified.

-fia/wrc-

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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Carlos Sainz , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , Sébastien Loeb , Hervé Panizzi , Timo Rautiainen , Kristian Sohlberg , Michael Park , Daniel Elena , Mikko Hirvonen , Marc Marti , Risto Pietilainen , Jarmo Lehtinen , Markko Martin , Kaj Lindstrom
Teams Citroën World Rally Team