Cyprus Rally: Ford preview

Ford targets 50th consecutive points finish in Cyprus Ford aims to create history on the Cyprus Rally (12 - 15 May) by extending its remarkable points scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship to 50 consecutive events. Since the ...

Ford targets 50th consecutive points finish in Cyprus

Ford aims to create history on the Cyprus Rally (12 - 15 May) by extending its remarkable points scoring record in the FIA World Rally Championship to 50 consecutive events. Since the championship was officially launched in 1973, there have been 410 world rallies and no other manufacturer has composed a run of successive points scores that exceeds 35 events.

The record-breaking sequence began on the Monte Carlo Rally in 2002. BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Toni Gardemeister and Jakke Honkanen and team-mates Roman Kresta and Jan Mozny carried the run to 49 when both scored points in Italy earlier this month. All 49 points finishes have been scored by the Ford Focus RS World Rally Car.

Gardemeister and Kresta are the two drivers with the task of taking Ford to its half century. The Cyprus Rally, round six of the championship, is the first of three consecutive hot weather, rough road events in the eastern Mediterranean. The Focus RS has built an awesome reputation on events where rocky gravel tracks and high temperatures require a crucial blend of strength, reliability and speed to be successful. It has won in Cyprus twice in the rally's five years in the championship.

The rock-strewn roads high in the Troodos Mountains above the rally base in Limassol are hard on cars. The three-day rally will offer some of the toughest conditions of the season where endurance is as important as outright pace. The speed tests are so twisty that straights simply do not exist and the rally is the slowest in the championship. Last year's event was won at an average speed of only 65.60kph.

This will be the fourth start in Cyprus for Gardemeister, who lies fifth in the drivers' championship and has scored on all five rounds so far this season. "Consistent scoring is the key to a good championship position but it's also important to ensure that some of those points finishes are podium places to claim high points," said the 30-yerar-old Finn.

"Cyprus is twisty, slow and rough and it's not one of my favourite events. It's important to drive straight and avoid breaking the car because there are many stones on the road that can inflict heavy damage. It's difficult to keep a smooth rhythm because the speeds are so low and there is always the temptation to push harder. The roads are quite flowing but if a driver pushes too hard then the car slides off line, it loses momentum and risks picking up punctures.

"Cyprus is hard on tyres. The roads are abrasive and there is so much acceleration out of corners that there is always the danger of excessive wheelspin. It's necessary to look after the tyres to ensure they are still working to the maximum towards the end of a group of stages. It's also important for an engine to have good torque to make the most from the constant acceleration," added Gardemeister.

Kresta, who claimed a career-best finish on the last round in Italy, has competed in Cyprus just once, in 2002 when conditions were unusually wet. "I have in-car video footage from that year and some of the stages are exactly the same as this year. Before I go out there I will watch the video and get my mind focused on the type of roads that we will experience," he said.

"The roads are rough and twisty and in places they are similar to the kind of stages we have just driven in Sardinia. It will be important to keep a smooth line because there are plenty of stones on the edge of the road. A good car for Cyprus needs good throttle response, good torque, good suspension and good tyres. The roads are hard on tyres but I think Michelin proved on the toughest stages in Sardinia that it has the rubber which will be good for Cyprus. It's a tough rally for drivers as well because the high temperatures mean it's hot in the car and the low speeds provide little air flow through the cockpit.

"The Focus is also well-suited to this kind of rally. It's easy to drive on the slower sections and you don't need an aggressive style, so there is not the risk of pushing too hard and losing the line and time," he added.

Team News

* M-Sport started work on building the first shell for the all-new 2006 Focus RS World Rally Car last week. Technical director Christian Loriaux expects it to be completed by the end of August. The concept design plans for the car were completed last month and 10 sets of roll cage tubes have also been manufactured. Loriaux said the timetable for the new car was 'pretty much' on schedule.

* Three privately-entered Focus RS cars will start. Antony Warmbold, who matched his career-best result with seventh in Sardinia earlier this month, and Henning Solberg will both drive M-Sport-built cars. Hungary's Balazs Benik will drive a 2002 specification Focus RS car run by Czech team JM Engineering.

* BP-Ford has nominated Michelin's Z pattern tyre for the event. Designed for a clear and hard surface, the Z tyre has a relatively compact tread pattern to ensure the maximum amount of rubber is in contact with the road for the best possible grip and traction. If the weather is wet or the roads have more loose gravel on them then expected, the team can cut the Z tyre to a ZA pattern. It is a more open tread, designed to penetrate the loose surface in search of firmer ground deeper down.

Rally Route

The special stages are identical to 2004, with much of the competitive distance based in the Troodos Mountains, north of the rally base in Limassol. All the action is centred around a new service park at the Palais des Sports on the northern edge of the city. After a ceremonial start in Limassol at 20.30 on Thursday, each of the three legs comprises two identical loops of three stages. The opening leg is the longest, covering a compact route in the very north of the Troodos, close to the Turkish border. The middle day is based further south, close to Mt Olympus and west towards the resort of Paphos. The final leg is the shortest, covering tests north-east of Limassol in the hilly and forested Machairas area. Drivers face 326.68km in a route of 1063.92km.


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About this article
Series WRC
Drivers Toni Gardemeister , Roman Kresta , Henning Solberg , Jan Mozny , Antony Warmbold , Balazs Benik , Christian Loriaux
Teams M-Sport