Cyprus Rally preview

Sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, third round in the FIA Teams' Cup. CHARACTER OF THE EVENT Run on gravel roads which are traditionally more twisty and slower than others in the series. For the purposes of the Group N Cup ...

Sixth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, third round in the FIA Teams' Cup.

Run on gravel roads which are traditionally more twisty and slower than others in the series. For the purposes of the Group N Cup rules, which require participation in a rally outside Europe, this event is considered as 'Outside Europe'. With 341.40km of high speed sections, this rally is the shortest in terms of special stage distance. Last year's event was won at 64.11kph, the slowest winning speed of any World Rally Championship event.

Held this time in early summer rather than at its traditional early autumn date, to move the fixture close to the Acropolis Rally two weeks later. All the stages used on the Saturday and Sunday will be run twice, to encourage spectators to stay in one location all day.

Tommi Makinen still leads the FIA World Drivers' series, now five points in front of Carlos Sainz. Mitsubishi retain the Manufacturers' lead eight points in front of Ford. Gabriel Pozzo is well ahead in the FIA Production Cup (Group N) while equal leaders in the Teams' Cup are Toyota Castrol Team Denmark (Henrik Lundgaard) and Team Toyota Castrol Team (Pasi Hagstrom).

In the Teams' Cup the number of contenders is now down to nine out of the 11 who originally started the season. The latest withdrawal is by the Polish driver Janusz Kulig. FIA rules say that competitors must take part in all rounds of the series. Kulig has withdrawn in order to concentrate on his national Championship series, in which he is currently lying second.


Tommi Makinen, Car7, Freddy Loix Car 8, Katsuhiko Taguchi Car 19

This is Ralliart's second three-car appearance this year. Team engineer Bernard Lindauer: "Once again we have been unlucky with our testing conditions. We are having to rely on our experiences from last year's event without hot weather checking this year". First works drive for Taguchi.

FORD MOTOR COMPANY Ltd (2nd - 36 points)
Carlos Sainz, Car 3, Colin McRae, Car 4, François Delecour, Car 17

After his trapped nerve problem in Argentina, Carlos expects to be fit for Cyprus, though he cut short a test session on rough roads in Chateau Lastours last week. The session was mostly for Safari durability: Delecour said "I have been coming to Chateau Lastours for 15 years and I have never done so many kilometres without a car breaking down before. The Focus is incredibly strong!" New cars for Sainz and McRae.

TEAM PEUGEOT TOTAL (3rd - 20 points)
Marcus Gronholm, Car 1, Didier Auriol, Car 2, Harri Rovanpera, Car 16

Debut appearance of the newly homologated third version of the 206 World Rally Car, featuring improved weight balance and principally a new turbo. This changes the torque characteristic and enables the use of a five speed gearbox which has been tested on early events by Rovanpera. The team hopes to forget their miseries in Argentina. Team manager Jean-Pierre Nicolas: "Everything went wrong, starting from the fog on the first day. So many things happened to us that had never happened before". HF Grifone are running a car for sometime works driver Gilles Panizzi.

SUBARU WORLD RALLY TEAM (4th - 16 points)
Richard Burns, Car 5, Petter Solberg, Car 6, Toshihiro Arai, Car 18

In anticipation of high ambient temperatures on the event, Prodrive's Human Resources personnel will attend to the crews in the days before the rally. They will ask them to replicate the strenuous activities expected on the rally. The team will also introduce a new range of clothing supplied by motorsport specialists. New cars for Burns and Solberg.

Kenneth Eriksson, Car 9, Alister McRae, Car 10, Piero Liatti, Car 20

First time a fully works three car entry from Hyundai. Chief engineer Nick Clipson: "The third car means we will need to take another six technicians and another engineer. The logistics stage level will be unaltered. Cyprus was well placed in the season to enter another car. It is not the most expensive event in the calendar, and for us the event offers the advantage of not placing a premium of maximum performance".

SKODA MOTORSPORT (6th - 6 points)
Armin Schwarz, Car 11, Bruno Thiry, Car 12

Team Director Pavel Janeba: "We are eagerly awaiting the next three events, each of them are rallies which place more emphasis on stamina than speed". This will be Bruno Thiry's first time on this event, but codriver Stephane Prevot won as Richelmi's co-driver in 1999. "Perhaps this time we should swop seats...", suggested Thiry!

AUTOMOBILES CITROEN (not competing here - 0 points)

Thomas Radstrom finished second in a recent test rally in Portugal, beaten by local driver Rui Madeira in an ex-works Focus. The Xsara WRCar was prepared in Acropolis-style heavyweight specification and Radstrom found he was unable to match Madeira's pace. "When (team director)

Guy Frequelin told me this was the car I was to drive on the Acropolis, I decided not to take any risks". Regarding the Saxo: no decision is expected to be taken about possible changes to technical specification on Super 1600 cars before the Acropolis Rally, second round of the Championship.

The organisers have a fully subscribed entry of 80 crews, including 28 local entries. Last year there were 52 starters, with many fewer local drivers. Clerk of the Course Takis Kyriakides: "Last year a lot of our top drivers wanted to go out and watch the professional drivers - this year they all want to drive themselves!"

Skoda Auto report that Dr Jens Pohlmann, the company's development chief injured in the regrouping control crash in Argentina, is now out of intensive care and was expected to be taken to his home country Germany this week.

Two unusual entries have come from Britain. Firstly Neil Wearden drives a Peugeot 206 WRC under a new promotional sponsorship scheme set up to encourage younger drivers. Secondly Mark Higgins, the Ford works driver whose planned British rally programme this year has not yet begun because of foot-and-mouth disease, drives a Group N Mitsubishi. They were third and second respectively in the 2000 British series.

There are no fewer than eight Peugeot 206 WRCs on the entry list!

Five of the six works teams have entered three rather than two cars teams, never so many before under the present regulations.

Who is Katsuhiko Taguchi? Just as we have become accustomed to frequent entries from Toshihiro Arai comes another works Japanese driver. 29 year old Katsuhiko Taguchi was the 1999 FIA Asia-Pacific Rally champion but has not previously been seen outside that region in rallying before. He has been rallying left-hand drive cars for nearly two seasons, ready for this opportunity! His first-ever rally was in New Zealand: until last week he had never rallied in Japan at all. This is the only planned works team drive for him at this time.

Both Arai and Taguchi are travelling to Cyprus after contesting the Alpine Rally in Japan. This event was the first time foreign owned cars or any World Rally Car had been permitted to rally in that country. The event was won by Arai in a works Subaru, Taguchi slid off the road in the rain.

-www.worldrallychampionship.com -www.fia.com

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Series WRC
Drivers Tommi Makinen , Colin McRae , Carlos Sainz , Freddy Loix , Mark Higgins , Toshihiro Arai , Richard Burns , Harri Rovanpera , Gilles Panizzi , Didier Auriol , Marcus Gronholm , Petter Solberg , François Delecour , Alister McRae , Armin Schwarz , Thomas Radstrom , Henrik Lundgaard , Kenneth Eriksson , Guy Frequelin , Jean-Pierre Nicolas , Stéphane Prévot , Piero Liatti , Katsuhiko Taguchi , Rui Madeira , Gabriel Pozzo