ERC event review: Al-Attiyah wins, title race takes dramatic twist in Cyprus
Nasser Al-Attiyah grabbed a record-extending sixth Cyprus Rally victory on a pivotal day in the battle for FIA European Rally Championship glory.
With Briton Chris Ingram (Toksport WRT) finishing in second place following the disqualification of Simos Galatariotis due to a parc fermé infringement and Russia’s defending champion Alexey Lukyanuk retiring with technical issues, Ingram will take a lead of 19 points to the inaugural Rally Hungary season decider from 8-10 November, when Łukasz Habaj will make it a three-way battle for the title.
The Pole, who lost time due to an electrical issue on the closing leg, is back up to second in the standings, nine ahead of Lukyanuk in the hunt for European rallying’s top prize.
“We are really happy,” said Qatari Al-Attiyah, whose Autotek Motorsport Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 was co-driven by Frenchman Matthieu Baumel. “Last year, we had the lead of the rally before the last stage and on the last stage we got a puncture. But OK, this was the situation. This year, it exactly reminded me of the last stage but I was really careful, I am happy to win the race. Cyprus Rally was really great so thank you to the organisers, we always like to be here.”
While the overall ERC title remains firmly up for grabs, Juan Carlos Alonso and Juan Pablo Monasterolo put the ERC2 crown** beyond doubt with a battling drive to fourth in class after brake problems caused the Argentines plenty of anguish in the sweltering Cypriot sunshine.
There was also title success for Efrén Llarena and Sara Fernández in ERC3**, the Spanish federation pair making the most of the opportunity handed to them by the Peugeot Rally Academy to compete in Cyprus for the first time.
Former FIA World Rally Championship star Mikko Hirvonen’s one-off return to the ERC following a 17-year absence netted a fine third overall. Niki Mayr-Melnhof celebrated an ERC-best fifth behind Habaj, Albert von Thurn und Taxis scored a season-high sixth ahead of Chilean ERC rookie Emilio Fernández. Qatar’s Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari, four-time Hungarian champion Norbert Herczig and Brazilian Paulo Nobre completed the top 10.
Bulgaria’s Ekaterina Stratieva topped the ERC Ladies’ Trophy classification for the Saintéloc Junior Team.