McRae and Sainz venture into the unknown The sun-kissed holiday island of Cyprus will provide little opportunity for relaxation in the Ford Martini World Rally team next week. The FIA World Rally Championship leading team journeys to the ...
McRae and Sainz venture into the unknown
The sun-kissed holiday island of Cyprus will provide little opportunity for relaxation in the Ford Martini World Rally team next week. The FIA World Rally Championship leading team journeys to the Mediterranean for what is expected to be one of the most gruelling events of the 14-round series.
Intense heat and incredibly twisty mountain roads littered with boulders threaten to make this 10th round a demanding test for man and machine. However, Ford Martini drivers Colin McRae and Nicky Grist and team-mates Carlos Sainz and Luis Moya and their Ford Focus World Rally Cars need have little to fear from the Cyprus Rally (8 -10 September), having taken first and second places with a crushing display in similar conditions on June's Acropolis Rally in Greece.
The Cyprus Rally, a replacement for the originally scheduled China Rally, is making its first appearance in the series. All the leading drivers, including McRae and Sainz, will tackle the event for the first time and consequently nobody can count on the advantage of previous experience.
That could be to Ford's benefit, as McRae and Sainz attempt to consolidate the team's leadership in the manufacturers' standings and McRae, third in the drivers' table, sets his sights on a repeat of his 1995 world title.
"Right now I know very little about the rally," admitted 32-year-old McRae, whose recent form of a win and two second places in the last three rallies has promoted him back to the top of the British driver rankings. "All I know is that it's going to be very twisty and it's going to be very hot. I believe the temperature will be even higher than it was in Greece and because the roads are so tight and the speeds relatively low, there will be little airflow to cool us or the engine.
"Because the roads are rough, reliability will play a big part and I don't think the fastest driver and car will necessarily win. The rally will be more about judging the correct pace and knowing when to attack and when to be cautious. That's frustrating for a driver because you have to drive to the limits of the car and tyres rather than the limits of yourself but that's all part of the sport," added McRae.
Twice world champion Sainz, like McRae, will test in Cyprus before the recce starts. "It's crucial for us to test on roads that are representative of the rally so that we can make decisions on car set-up and tyre compounds," said the 38-year-old Spaniard. "It's always interesting to tackle a new rally and because Cyprus hasn't been included in the championship before it means none of the top drivers has a clear advantage.
"The difficulty will come in that all drivers must write pace notes for the complete rally. With only two passages allowed over each stage in practice it means you have one opportunity to write the notes and one to check them.
"In such situations you must be accurate and because we have no previous experience, there'll be a greater reliance on the notes during the event than usual," added Sainz.
Ford Martini team director Malcolm Wilson is relishing the opportunity of defending the team's championship lead in Cyprus. "We've put together a good series of results in recent rallies thanks to the consistency of Colin and Carlos and the performance of the Focus. Cyprus bears the same characteristics as the Acropolis Rally and while I'm not suggesting we can win in Cyprus by the same huge margin as we did in Greece, I see no reason why we shouldn't aim for a similar result.
"Both Focus cars will be built to the same specification as Greece and we'll have an aerodynamics expert with us to offer advice on engine cooling in the high temperatures. The rally will be a learning curve for all the teams and the ones which can adapt the best to the unexpected will be the ones battling for the podium positions at the end," added Wilson.
Air temperatures approaching 35*C will pose the major difficulty for Ford Martini engineers. The tortuous twists and turns of the Cypriot mountain tracks, where drivers rarely reach fourth gear, long uphill climbs and rock-strewn roads keep speeds low and lessen the airflow to key areas of the car. This reduced cooling ensures engine and transmission temperatures remain high and the team will clearly benefit from any drop in temperature.
The same conditions make it a punishing event for tyres and engineers at Michelin, Ford Martini's tyre partner, who face the double dilemma of combating tyre wear on the most abrasive stages and resisting punctures. The temptation is to use harder wearing rubber but a harder compound reduces grip, which in turn generates more wheelspin and consequently more wear.
Another added difficulty is that unlike the Acropolis Rally, FIA regulations only allow competitors to carry one spare wheel in their car rather than two, meaning that a puncture on the first of a group of stages leaves no margin for a repetition. The rally route offers few compensations as seven stages are tackled twice and one three times and conditions will deteriorate significantly after the first passage.
The coastal resort of Limassol hosts the three-day rally but it is the mountain roads to the north in the Kommandaria region where the action will be based. The Troodos Mountains is the setting for the bulk of the opening two legs while the final leg lies further east in the forested Machairas area. It is the shortest world championship rally ever, drivers facing just 348.41km of competitive driving but the twisty nature of the stages ensures the average speed will probably be one of the lowest also. Last year's non-championship event was won at an average of just 58kph whereas the slowest 1999 world rally was Monte Carlo which was won at an average of over 80kph. The opening leg is the longest, containing more than 145km of competition.
<pre> CYPRUS RALLY 2000
ROUND 10 FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
8 - 10 SEPTEMBER 2000
Stage km Total km Time
Friday 8 September: Leg 1 Limassol - Limassol Start Limassol 08.00 SS1 Alassa - Agios Therapon 6.22 08.33 SS2 Prastio - Pachna 11.06 09.06 SS3 Agios Nikolaos - Foini 11.30 09.49 SS4 Platres - Kato Amiantos 11.99 10.22 SS5 Mylikouri - Monashilakas 31.87 12.17 SS6 Panagia - Selladi tou Stachtou 19.52 13.10 SS7 Kourdali - Assinou 14.92 15.08 SS8 Assinou - Nikitari 25.39 15.39 SS9 Xerarkaka - Stavroulia 12.89 16.57 Finish Limassol 19.32 Total 145.16 442.74
Saturday 9 September: Leg 2 Limassol - Limassol Start Limassol 08.00 SS10 Platres - Saittas 11.48 09.01 SS11 Alassa - Agios Therapon 2 6.22 09.39 SS12 Prastio - Pachna 2 11.06 10.12 SS13 Panagia - Selladi tou Stachtou2 19.52 13.10 SS14 Mylikouri - Monashilakas 2 31.87 13.55 SS15 Prastio - Pachna 3 11.06 16.48 SS16 Agios Nikolaos - Foini 2 11.30 17.31 SS17 Platres - Kato Amiantos 2 11.99 18.04 Finish Limassol 19.59 Total 114.50 471.22
Sunday 10 September: Leg 3 Limassol - Limassol Start Limassol 08.00 SS18 Vavatsinia - Mandra tou Kambiou 19.11 09.21 SS19 Agios Onoufrios - Agioi Vavatsinias 18.10 10.04 SS20 Lageia - Kalavasos 9.62 10.52 SS21 Vavatsinia - Mandra tou Kambiou 2 19.11 13.47 SS22 Machairas - Agioi Vavatsinias 13.19 14.35 SS23 Lageia - Kalavasos 2 9.62 15.18 Finish Limassol 16.43 Total 88.75 313.86 Rally Total 348.41 1227.82