Panteli holds strong as Alonso’s ERC2 title hopes almost drain away
Juan Carlos Alonso’s hopes of wrapping up a first ERC2 title with one round left almost drained away with a brake fluid leak, while local expert Petros Panteli is on course for a second class win in as many years.
Panteli (Q8 Oils Rally Team) was a dominant force in the showroom category, winning every stage of leg one to establish a very comfortable advantage out front.
But behind Panteli, there was plenty of action in the battle for second place. Antonis Chilimintris had fallen into the clutches of ERC2 championship leader Alonso on stage two in the morning, due in part to an intercom failure leaving him unable to hear his pacenotes.
Alonso briefly took second, only for Chilimintris to take it right back on stage four. But then problems set in for Alonso – his Mitsubishi began leaking brake fluid on Lefkara, the longest stage of the rally at over 23 kilometres.
“We lost the brakes. We have a fluid leak. We’ve solved it but we don’t have enough brake fluid left, so we solved it with water. It works!” said a relieved Alonso.
“We have a penalty as we’re almost three minutes late, but it’s good. We needed to take it easy on the last stage, but we’ve made it.”
That lateness added 30 seconds to his total time, pushing him back to 1m24.1s behind Chilimintris.
A final score of 18 points across the Cyprus Rally weekend will be enough for Alonso to mathematically secure the ERC2 title, with 15 on offer for third place which he still occupies, and five bonus points already in the bank from his leg one finishing position of third, providing he goes the distance.
Despite his late dramas Alonso’s third place is still secure, as Dmitry Feofanov (Sporta Klubs Autostils Rally Team) is several minutes behind.
Feofanov is competing in Cyprus for the first time and described the learning curve as “complicated,” although he is still on target for a top five finish in fourth place.
The Russian was able to gradually edge ahead of Louis Papageorgiou (SLT Rally Team) throughout the day, with the Cypriot completing the top five in his older Evolution IX-spec Mitsubishi Lancer.