Championship leader Burns leads world class entry in Cyprus
2003 CYPRUS RALLY
FIA World Rally Championship, round 7
For immediate release
Thursday, June 19th, 2003
CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER BURNS LEADS
WORLD CLASS ENTRY INTO CYPRUS RALLY
Japan's Arai looks to extend Production Car lead
LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Former World Rally Champion and current series leader Richard Burns, driving a Peugeot 206 WRC, leads a field of 60 of the world's finest drivers into the start of the Cyprus Rally, the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship, tomorrow (Friday).
Burns, partnered by Scottish co-driver Robert Reid, currently has a five-point lead in the championship and his team Peugeot head French stablemates Citroen by 11 points in the Manufacturers' series.
Richard, who was crowned world champion in 2001, was fourth overall on the recent Acropolis Rally in Greece behind debut WRC winner Markko Martin (Ford), Citroen's Carlos Sainz and Subaru's Petter Solberg. Burns's nearest rival in the series is Sainz, with team mate and defending World Champion Marcus Gronholm a further two points adrift.
Six Manufacturers' teams will tackle the 18-special stage event over three days along the twisty forest trails of the Mediterranean island's Troodos mountain range. Burns and Gronholm are joined by Finland's Harri Rovanpera in the Marlboro Peugeot Total team.
Former World Champion and 2001 Cyprus Rally winner Colin McRae and this year's Monte Carlo winner Sebastian Loeb join Sainz in the Citroen Total team. Sainz won the first Cyprus Rally to be included in the World Rally Championship in 2000.
The 555 Subaru World Rally Team is represented by Solberg and Tommi Makinen, while Ford's Martin is joined by Belgian Francois Duval and Finland's Mikko Hirvonen in a trio of Focus RS WRC 03s.
Skoda and Hyundai are currently some way adrift in the Manufacturers' Championship, but Skoda Motorsport's last outing with the Octavia WRC Evo3 before the launch of the new Fabia WRC in Germany next month has been placed in the hands of Finland's Toni Gardemeister and French former World Champion Didier Auriol.
The Hyundai World Rally Team is represented by the 1996 European Rally Champion Armin Schwarz, Belgian Freddy Loix and former British Champion Justin Dale, who is also tackling a programme of FIA Middle East rallies this year in a Subaru Impreza.
The Cyprus Rally is also a round of the keenly-contested FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, led after three rounds by Japan's Toshihiro Arai in a Subaru Impreza WRX. He faces competition from the multiple Malaysian champion Karamjit Singh in a Proton Pert and Swedish veteran Stig Blomqvist and his team mate Martin Rowe in a pair of David Sutton-run Subaru Impreza WRXs. Blomqvist, 57, is the oldest driver in the race and won the Cyprus Rally 30 years ago.
Local Cypriot interest in this year's event centres around the battle between multiple national champion Andreas Tsouloftas, Andreas Peratikos, Chris Armeftis, Timotheou Charalambos and Prodromos Prodromou in a plethora of Mitsubishi Lancer Evolutions.
After today's final shakedown test at Stavrovouni and the official pre-event press conference at the media centre in Limassol, cars will be flagged off the start ramp at 08.00 in Limassol, before the first of four stages on Friday.
Two 11.6 kms runs through a stage between Platres and Kato Amiantos take place at 08.45 and 14.39 and a second test between Lagoudera and Spilia starts at 09.40 and 15.32. The main service of the day will be at a new service park in Limassol from 13.30.
For further information contact the Cyprus Rally press centre in Limassol on Tel: + 357 25 66 2964, Fax: + 357 25 66 2967 or E-mail: email@example.com