MERC Stage sabotage ruins opening leg of Cyprus Rally
2007 Cyprus Rally, October 12th-14th, 2007
FIA Middle East Rally Championship, round 6 of 8
For immediate release
Saturday, October 13th, 2007
TIMOTHEOU HOLDS LEAD AFTER CYPRUS RALLY
IS THROWN INTO TURMOIL BY DAY ONE SABOTAGE
Cyprus Motorsports Federation members force stage cancellations
Dimitris Vazakas holds comfortable lead in Cyprus Historic Rally
LIMASSOL (Cyprus): Cypriots Charalambos Timotheou and Pambos Laos led the 2007 Cyprus Rally by 7.8 seconds after the opening leg that had been shortened by event officials, because of deliberate sabotage and action by Dimis Cacoyiannis and members of the rival Cyprus Motorsport Federation that forced the cancellation of the opening two special stages of leg one on Saturday.
Defending FIA Middle East rally champion Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah trailed his UAE rival Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi by 11 points at the start of the event, but chaos ensued at the start of the first stage in the Troodos mountains to the north of Limassol.
Representatives from the Cyprus Motorsport Federation blockaded the opening special stage with their own vehicles and surrounded the car of the FIA Observer, Piero Sodano, because of an ongoing dispute over licences and eligibility. Event organisers from the Cyprus Automobile Association (CAA) were unable to complete the stage on safety grounds, although the stage was eventually cleared with the help of the local police.
After a significant delay the second stage started, but was stopped after 17km when the driver of the second course opening car discovered a newly-felled tree lying in the track. Several competing cars were already in the stage and the decision was taken for the test to be stopped and for teams to return, 1h 37m late, to Limassol for a delayed service halt.
Event officials set about ensuring that both of the afternoon special stages would run safely to ensure that the total stage distance was sufficient to allow the event to adhere to FIA regulations and count for regional championship points. Cypriot front-runner Andreas Peratikos, who was second overall in the Troodos Rally in April, was one of three drivers who decided not to continue and withdrew on the return to Limassol.
Timotheou eventually finished the first of the day’s surviving two stages 2.8 seconds ahead of Al-Attiyah, with the Qatari’s arch rival Al-Qassimi in third place. Saudi Arabia’s Yazeed Al-Rajihi was an excellent fourth and Cypriot Dimitris Papasavvas rounded off the top five. Timotheou was again quickest in the second stage, as Al-Attiyah remained ahead of Al-Qassimi’s Team Abu Dhabi-backed Subaru Impreza, with Jordan’s Amjad Farrah, Cypriots Dimitris Papasavvas and Andreas Tsouloftas, Qatar’s Khalifa Al-Attiyah and Lebanon’s Michel Saleh in hot pursuit.
The Cyprus Rally had got underway as planned with a ceremonial start in Limassol on Friday evening. Thirty-eight international rally crews and nine historic teams made the start, although the seven-strong Kuwaiti contingent did not arrive on the island after failing to resolve an internal issue back in Kuwait City.
The historic cars running in the FIA Historic Rally Championship were able to continue unhindered through their three opening day special stages. Dimitris Vazakas was the class of the field and held a lead of 5m 18s at the end of the leg in his Ford Escort. Tassos Gemenis was second in the ex-Ove Andersson Toyota Celica TA22 and Pantelis Poetis was third in a Volkswagen Golf.
Tomorrow (Sunday) is the final day of the Cyprus Rally and teams will tackle five special stages, including the punishing 32.42km Anadiou special on two occasions, with action culminating with the Panagia section on Sunday afternoon.
The CAA has attracted support from the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO), Cytanet, Golden Telecom, Travelscope and Compusource for this important candidate event to mark the island’s potential return to the WRC calendar in the near future. Cyprus hosted the WRC between 2000 and 2006 and was one of the most demanding and efficiently organised of all the events in the championship.
2007 Cyprus Rally - positions after SS4 (SS1 and 2 cancelled)
1. Charalambos Timotheou (CY)/Pambos Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 50m 47.3s
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Chris Patterson (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 50m 55.1s
3. Sheikh Khalid Al-Qassimi (UAE)/Nicky Beech (GB) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 51m 47.7s
4. Amjad Farrah (HKJ)/Nicola Arena (I) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 52m 31.1s
5. Dimitris Papasavvas (CY)/Vangelis Xenofontos (CY) Subaru Impreza WRX STi 52m 37.8s
6. Andreas Tsouloftas (CY)/Savvas Laos (CY) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX 52m 46.6s, etc
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