Panteli takes home ERC2 win but valiant Alonso wins title*
Petros Panteli scored his second consecutive Cyprus Rally win in the FIA European Rally Championship’s ERC2 production category, while Juan Carlos Alonso claimed an emotional maiden title* despite completing the whole of leg two with brake issues.
Panteli, from the Q8 Oils Rally Team, was in a class of his own from start to finish, winning all 12 stages to clinch a comfortable triumph. It wasn’t a trouble-free run to victory, as he lacked power at low revs due to a minor camshaft problem, though his lead was never in question.
All eyes though were on the driver in fourth place, Juan Carlos Alonso. A likely podium finish disappeared when a brake problem, which had first appeared late on Saturday, returned on the opening stage of the second leg. Pulling over to try and fix the problem, Alonso lost more than 13 minutes and dropped to fourth, cruising to the finish in first gear with no stopping power from his brake pedal.
While others may have parked the car, Alonso knew that simply reaching the finish would score him enough points to clinch his first ERC2 title, so he pressed on despite having no real means of slowing his car down – at one point even driving into a bank on purpose just to stop his car at a time control.
Midday service failed to remedy the issue and he continued to complete stages over five minutes slower than class leader Panteli. But, crucially, he reached the finish line of the final stage in one piece, clinching the ultimate ERC2 prize. “It’s a very rough weekend for us. We manage with the problem of the brake until the end,” said Alonso. “It’s a dream, you know. We start the season in Azores with a victory and to be here is the prize of all the year of competition and commitment. We are very, very, very happy!”
Antonis Chilimintris hung on to second place despite a rear axle issue on the final loop of the rally, completing the last two stages at an even slower pace than the brake-less Alonso. “The last three stages, since first 2-3 kilometres, we have a broken axle, so we drive very safely because we want to go to the finish,” explained Chilimintris.
Dmitry Feofanov (Sporta Klubs Autostils Rally Team) secured his first ERC2 podium in only his third ERC event, following on from his fourth place on PZM 76th Rally Poland.
Alonso’s cause was aided by the withdrawal of Louis Papageorgiou (SLT Rally Team) before leg two began, ensuring he could finish in fourth at a pedestrian pace to score the required points for title success.
*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA