Hyundai hopes for better luck in Cyprus Only one week after Acropolis Rally, Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer prepare to head to Cyprus, the Mediterranean's third largest Island, for round...
Hyundai hopes for better luck in Cyprus
Only one week after Acropolis Rally, Hyundai World Rally Team crews Freddy Loix/Sven Smeets and Armin Schwarz/Manfred Hiemer prepare to head to Cyprus, the Mediterranean's third largest Island, for round seven of the FIA World Rally Championship, the second of two back-to-back hot and rough rallies, running from 20-22 June.
In Greece competitors saw temperatures soar well over 30°C and Cyprus will be equally hot. Although the roads may not be quite as rough as the previous event, the tight and twisty roads of the Troodos mountains keep speeds so low that the heat can play havoc with the world rally cars, especially the engine.
A Saharan-born storm discoloured the rally somewhat last year as it arguably presented some of the worst conditions seen in world rally history. Monsoon-like rains meant that crews were forced to plough their way through thick mud and roads that had turned into rivers - a far cry from the scorching conditions previously experienced on the Cypriot Island. With current weather providing sunshine and warm temperatures, the rally is set to return to the more traditional heat with familiar dry and dusty stages.
Armin Schwarz, who won the event in 1996, and co-driver Manfred Hiemer are keen to make a repeat performance of last year and score valuable points for the team. "I like Cyprus. It's a bit like Greece and in the past we have gone quite well on this type of rally. I think I'm quite good at fighting and saving the car in rough conditions - obviously we all like to go fast, but not so fast as to break the car," commented Armin.
"To win this event you need to stay away from problems with the car and with the tyres. If you can survive without suspension or tyre problems then you're half way there. If you get the right speed on the first day your starting position on leg two is good, then that will also be of benefit," he added. "I really hope the weather's not like last year - even though you have less problems with overheating it made conditions really difficult.
Belgian team-mates Freddy Loix and Sven Smeets are hungry to have a successful run in Cyprus. "There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to go well. I have set some good times there in the past, we know we have the speed, we just need to make sure we can avoid as much damage as possible to the car. I know it's hot like Greece but it's not as rough and ok I prefer to go on more flowing roads, but it shouldn't be a problem. For now I just know we need some points."
Hyundai newcomer Justin Dale and co-driver Andrew Bargery will also contest the Cypriot event, their first WRC outing in the Accent WRC", and are nominated to score points for the Korean manufacturer. Dale has undertaken a small testing programme in the UK but a win on round five of the Swedish Rally Championship in May, provided the best platform for the 32-year-old Brit to familiarise himself with his Hyundai.
"I'm very glad I got to do South Swedish Rally as I was able to build on my confidence in the Accent which is a new car to me," explained Dale. "I'm looking forward to Cyprus as it's my first WRC drive in the Hyundai, but I've only done gravel notes there before so Andrew and I will be making brand new pace notes. Taking this into consideration, my plan is to get mileage in the Accent. Obviously I want to set some reasonable times along the way but I also want to get to the finish."
Sven Smeets, co-driver to Freddy Loix, explains some of the key issues that need to be considered for the Cyprus Rally: "Cyprus is always described as one of the hot and rough rallies, like Acropolis. It is hot but it's not as rough as Greece. The main thing about Cyprus is that it's twisty.
"Considering temperatures are high, when you are driving such twisty roads overheating can be a problem. When you can't get as much natural airflow you need to rely on mechanical assistance as well to drive air through the radiator. The engine performance suffers if its temperature rises above the optimum operating temperature. But if you reduce the ALS it will generate less heat and this would be done in service by making some mapping changes to the engine. We can also make basic changes from inside the car but most has to be done by the engineers. Revised mapping of the engine's performance can also help to reduce the temperature of the engine coolant to save damage to the internals.
"The rally can be rough in places and it is never smooth, it's just that the rocks are not as big as in Greece but I think that is because the roads are just in a better condition.
"There are also quite a lot of water crossings. It just depends on the weather on the run-up to the rally as to how many water crossings there are. If it has been dry they are more like ditches which can be very hard on your suspension as the nose of the car goes first into the ground, so you have to be careful.
"We have a few new stages this year I think, but to honest, it's quite a young rally as it stands now so none of the stages are very familiar to anyone. Still, we have gone well before on new stages so maybe we can use them to our advantage again this year."
Leg one features only two repeated special stages, one of which is the longest of the rally at 38.32km. As always leg two is a long day with crews tackling 158 competitive kilometres over eight special stages high in the Troodos mountains, north of the Limassol rally HQ base. The third and final leg features a group of three stages that are run a second time in the afternoon, to cover the final 82.86km of competition. Crews reach the Limassol finish ramp at 15:20hrs on Sunday 22 June. Cyprus is GMT+3hrs.