Cyprus Rally Leg one recap: Mixed fortunes for ERC top guns

Cyprus Rally Leg one recap: Mixed fortunes for ERC top guns

16.06.2018: FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 4 of 8 Cyprus Rally: Leg one Saturday, June 16th 2018 Saturday morning on the Cyprus Rally began in familiar ERC fashion, with Alexey Lukyanuk leading the way from stage one. Five-time

FIA European Rally Championship 2018: Round 4 of 8
Cyprus Rally: Leg one
Saturday, June 16th 2018



Saturday morning on the Cyprus Rally began in familiar ERC fashion, with Alexey Lukyanuk leading the way from stage one. Five-time Cyprus winner Nasser Al-Attiyah had been touted as the odds-on favourite to score a sixth victory but his pace was tempered by a pop-off valve issue, leaving him slightly down on power compared to Lukyanuk.
 


While Lukyanuk and Al-Attiyah duelled for dominance, Juuso Nordgren settled into a safe third position, taking his time to drive safe, clean lines and avoid another double puncture scenario which had ruined his podium chances in Greece two weeks prior.
 


A tight battle for fourth quickly emerged between ERC regulars and local specialists. Cypriots Simos Galatariotis and Alexandros Tsouloftas were early winners, running fourth and fifth before morning service despite a first-stage puncture for Tsouloftas.



But just as a running order seemed to be settling down, Saturday afternoon blew the Cyprus Rally's lead battle wide open.



Coming through a fast section of Tarmac road, a cracked rim aboard Lukyanuk’s Ford Fiesta R5 spun him out and into a barrier, wrecking his car and putting him out. Though both he and co-driver Alexey Arnautov were uninjured their Russian Performance Motorsport entry was heavily damaged, forcing their retirement and leaving debris behind.
 


Al-Attiyah would inherit first from Lukyanuk’s exit, though not without troubles of his own. A puncture three kilometres into the same test which had claimed Lukyanuk not only cost him time but also forced Al-Attiyah to fit his only spare tyre.
 


Nordgren was unable to capitalise on Al-Attiyah’s puncture thanks to one of his own aboard his Wevers Sport Fabia, picked up while dodging Lukyanuk’s stranded Fiesta and running through its debris. This demoted him to third, 50.1s behind Al-Attiyah and also 2.0s down on Galatariotis.
 


Stage five held one last plot twist in the lead battle, a second puncture in as many stages for Al-Attiyah leaving him out of spare tyres to use. He left his shredded tyre on his right rear corner for the leg-closing SS6, dropping over a minute to save his earlier delaminated cover for the road section back to service.
 


Two successive stage wins for Nordgren after his puncture put him back in first place, 4.6s up on Galatariotis in second.



“We had some really bad luck with what happened to Lukyanyk but I think we’ve learned something from Acropolis,” said Nordgren, referring to his earlier puncture picked up while avoiding Lukyanuk’s damaged car. “It’s been quite rough today, we didn’t expect so many loose stones, but I think we’ve survived well.”
 


Bruno Magalhães had struggled to get on top of his Fabia’s set-up on Saturday morning, but was feeling more at home aboard his SEAJETS-backed machine after midday service in Larnaca.



 Combined with his trademark measured approach, Magalhães surged from sixth to third, his eyes firmly fixed on making up points on championship leader Lukyanyk. “When I saw that Lukyanuk was out, I realised that I need to finish this day because I score points for this day,” said Magalhães.



 “Of course now for tomorrow we try to recover some positions. We have improved the car a lot this afternoon. This morning I was not so happy. We are going to think about the stages for tomorrow because this rally is a big challenge for the set-up.”
 


Fighting talk from Magalhães came in stark contrast to second placed man Galatariotis, who was focused on securing points for his Cyprus national championship campaign. “We are trying to finish for the Cyprus championship and score those points, so we took the foot off the [throttle] pedal.”
 


Tsouloftas had been set to inherit third until a late stoppage on Saturday’s final stage caused him to retire altogether, allowing Magalhães into a podium place and Al-Attiyah to slot his limping Fiesta into fourth.
 

MOL Racing's four-time Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig demonstrated what could be achieved by a strict safety-first approach, dismissing any desire for a podium push to focus on improving step by step.



 He had dropped as low as ninth place on Saturday morning, but picked his way up to fifth by day’s end with a clean, no-nonsense drive. He heads into Sunday with a 1m01.9s deficit to rally leader Nordgren.
 


Dávid Botka was another driver to turn in a quietly efficient performance, taking his Sysinfo Rallye Team Fabia to sixth place, 2m01.2s behind Nordgren. He holds a slim 4.0s advantage over fellow Fabia runner Orhan Avcioğlu in seventh, whose day was far from quiet.
 


The Toksport-run Turk picked up a puncture through SS5 in an extraordinary fashion, heading off through a field and smashing through fences, deflating a tyre while finding his way back onto the stage. “I think there’s going to be an angry farmer, I hope he doesn’t find me!” said Avcioğlu, before heading towards service in Larnaca, possibly to seek shelter.
 


An early tyre gamble on a mixed Tarmac-gravel tread pattern didn’t pan out as ACCR Czech Team pilot Vojtéch Štajf had hoped, but he still finished Leg One in eighth despite a puncture after midday service.
 


Albert von Thurn und Taxis did well to avoid any major dramas to finish Leg One in ninth, only 4.6s behind Štajf aboard his Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team-prepared Fabia.



ERC2 category leader Panikos Polykarpou demonstrated why he finished third overall on the Cyprus Rally last year, heading his class whilst also holding P10 overall.
 


What’s next?
Sunday’s closing leg, the longest of the rally at 114.29 kilometres, features seven stages starting with the 24.50-kilometre Cyta Yeri test from 08h43 local time.



Among the highlights will be the superspecial stage through the streets of the Cypriot capital Nicosia from 09h36 and PSALTIS AUTOPARTS Golden Stage 1 and ENEOS Golden Stage 2, which bring the ERC counter to a close and carry a cash prize. Click here for results and live timing.
 


      

Richard Rodgers, photos FIA ERC

Permanent-URL: http://www.automobilsport.com/cyprus-rally-leg-one-mixed-fortunes-erc-top---177447.html

16.06.2018 / MaP

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