WRC Cyprus round of the WRC gets underway on Friday morning
Cyprus Rally 2006
FIA World Rally Championship, round 12 of 16
For immediate release
Thursday, September 21st, 2006
CYPRUS ROUND OF THE WRC GETS
UNDERWAY ON FRIDAY MORNING
Frenchman Sébastien Loeb bids to seal third WRC title;
Qatar’s Al-Attiyah aiming to extend P-WRC lead;
LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Frenchman Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena start as favourites to win this weekend’s Cyprus Rally, round 12 of the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship, which gets underway north of Limassol on Friday morning.
The double WRC champion is bidding to seal a third world title and his first for the semi-private Kronos Citroën team. Loeb has won seven of the 11 rounds of the series so far, finished second on four occasions and has amassed 102 championship points. His nearest rival is the Finn Marcus Grönholm, winner of the other four rallies this season for the BP-Ford Team, on 69 points. Victory for Loeb over the twisty gravel stages in the Troodos mountains over the next three days would leave Grönholm needing to finish at least fifth overall to keep the two-horse race alive.
The Finn’s joker could be Ford’s impressive track record on this event - the Blue Oval won in Cyprus for the first two years that the event was a round of the WRC and has been competitive on the rougher gravel rallies in the WRC calendar. But Loeb has won here for the past two seasons and is chasing a hat-trick of Cyprus victories and a record 28th WRC win.
While the Cyprus Rally could well develop into a two-horse race, despite the threat of changeable weather conditions, Loeb’s team mate Dani Sordo is sure to feature in the podium places. Ford’s Mikko Hirvonen is overdue a good result, Austria’s Manfred Stohl will be hoping to build upon the second place he achieved in Cyprus last season in the OMV-backed Peugeot, while Norway’s Petter Solberg and Australian Chris Atkinson need to earn valuable championship points for the Subaru World Rally Team.
Red Bull Skoda will be represented by Finland’s Harri Rovanperä and Austrian Andreas Aigner, Matthew Wilson and Luis Perez Companc drive a pair of Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Focuses and Norway’s Henning Solberg is entered in a second OMV Peugeot.
The Cyprus Rally is also a round of the FIA Production World Rally Championship (P-WRC) and Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah will be bidding to move into an unassailable lead in the hard-fought series. The defending FIA Middle East champion won the category in Argentina and Greece this year and arrives in Limassol with a 14-point lead over Japan’s Fumio Nutahara, who won the category in Monte Carlo and Japan. Al-Attiyah has opted to miss the next round of the series in Australia and needs a maximum points’ score to maintain a clear lead.
Japan’s Toshi Arai and Argentina’s Gabriel Pozzo still have a chance to secure the title, but they too need top points’ scores in Cyprus. Representing the local contingent will be the multiple Cyprus national champion Andreas Tsouloftas and Spyros Pavlides, who are FIA guest drivers representing the host nation.
Cars were flagged away from a ceremonial start in Limassol at 20.30 hrs on Thursday evening by the island’s Minister of Tourism, Commerce and Industry Antonis Michaelides, but the competitive action gets underway on Friday morning. The opening leg offers four gravel stages, repeated twice, while Saturday’s timetable offers a further eight timed sections.
The final leg on Sunday consists of three gravel stages in the Troodos mountains, an all-new Down Town Special stage on Limassol seafront at 12.35 hrs, and a further two timed specials on Sunday afternoon. The official podium finish will take place in Limassol from 16.40 hrs.
For further media information:
Cyprus Rally Media Centre, Tel: + 357 25 774179 and Fax: + 357 25 774190 and E-mail (email@example.com).