The fight for the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) title continued on Saturday 5 November in what is proving to be an especially exciting 2011 IRC Cyprus Rally.
Watch the action – SS8 Anadiou
Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen maintains his overall event lead at lunchtime service. Having started the day with a 20.7 second lead over Qatari star Nasser Al-Attiyah, Mikkelsen showed impressive form in his Skoda Fabia S2000 this morning, keeping up the pressure and, after Al-Attiyah exited the event with a broken valve spring on his Ford Fiesta S2000, Mikkelsen saw his early afternoon event lead stretch to 48.2 seconds over the second placed Skoda of Jan Kopecky.
Going into the last event of the 2011 season, no fewer than five drivers had the chance to take the IRC title here in Cyprus – Mikkelsen, defending champ Juho Hanninen of Finland, championship leader Jan Kopecky, and Thierry Neuville and Freddy Loix of Belgium.
But rallying… especially in Cyprus… is an unpredictable sport. Friday 4 November saw Hanninen out on day one just 800 metres into the first of the day’s special stages, rolling his Skoda Fabia S2000.
Thierry Neuville however, who held the lunchtime lead yesterday before exiting with alternator problems on his Peugeot 207 S2000, has opted to focus on the 2011 Cyprus Golden Stage Rally – a one-day, single stage shoot-out that will see drivers battle for their share of a €150,000 prize fund.
Despite being first on the road, 22-year-old Andreas Mikkelsen flew through day two’s first special stage – (SS6 – Gialia) – justifying the confidence he showed at Service in the morning.
Al-Attiyah struggled to find pace in his Ford and could only manage sixth fastest through the stage, opening up a further 6.9 second gap between him and the event leader.
Hanninen fared slightly better, coming through the stage ahead of the Qatari driver.
Estonia’s Karl Kruuda, in a Fabia S2000, was closest to Mikkelsen, followed by Kopecky and Sweden’s Patrick Sandell (also in a Skoda).
Mikkelsen kept the hammer down in SS7 (Stavros), widening the gap over second fastest Al-Attiyah by a further 5.3 seconds. With Kopecky third fastest, Hanninen managed fourth and Loix fifth.
Al-Attiyah threw everything he had at the mixed surface SS8 Anadiou stage and finished a full 6.1 seconds faster than second placed Mikkelsen – even though the Qatari ace had an unfortunate spin just before the end of the stage.
Kopecky, Hanninen and Sandell rounded off the fast five finishers.
Al-Attiyah’s storming drive on the last stage of the morning was enough to cut Mikkelsen’s lead, but it was all to no avail as a broken valve spring in service ended the Qatari’s event prematurely. “It’s the first time in ten years on Cyprus events that I have retired,” said a disappointed Al-Attiyah, “I was really pushing in the last stage this morning and I think I could have made up the time but, next time!”
Among the Cypriot entries, a consistent drive from former Cyprus Rally winner Nicos Thomas has seen him build a healthy lead over his rivals in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.
Charalambos Timotheou trails Thomas by more than 2 minutes, with Doros Loucaides, Panayiotis Yiangou, Savvas Savva and Constantinos Tingirides further down the field.
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