This weekend’s Cyprus Rally has a reputation for being the WRC's slowest event, but it has a few flat-out-in-top gear stretches. Here’s what to expect…
This weekend’s Cyprus Rally has a reputation for being the WRC's slowest - and often hottest - event. With lower average speeds, less air gets into the cockpit of the cars, therefore the temperatures inside the car soar.
According to , the flat-out stretches are joined by incredibly tight and twisting stages. The rally is based in the south of the Mediterranean island, around Limassol, Cyprus' second-largest town. On Days One and Two the stages are to the north and west of the port, in the heart of the Troodos Mountains. The final day's action is to the north east of Limassol, in the Machairas area.
The course may sound picturesque, but for the competitors it’s a hot, dusty, twisty, car-breaking rally, with rocks that can rip a wheel off. The tortuously winding stages mean that average speeds in Cyprus could dip down to just 65 km/h.
The last round, the Acropolis Rally, wasn't a great event for Peugeot. Richard Burns took fourth place to extend his lead in the championship, but he had to drive much of the event with no second gear. Harri Rovanpera also had gearbox problems and defending champion Marcus Gronholm retired on a road section when a pipe in the fuel system broke. But it is unlikely that the world championship-dominating team will suffer the same problems in Cyprus and the French team are second favourites to win this weekend.
Citroën’s Carlos Sainz is second in the world championship following his second place in Greece and one can expect the Spaniard to again be strong Cyprus. But Citroën team-mate Colin McRae will be equally keen to erase the disappointment of first his 50-second penalty then the electronic problem that cost him time on the final day in Greece.
Does scoring a win in Greece make you favourite to win in Cyprus? Ford’s Markko Martin could double his WRC wins with a victory this weekend. But without taking anything away from Martin's Acropolis achievement, it would have been intriguing to see how things would have panned out had his closest rivals not had problems in Greece. The Estonian dislikes this rally - but most believe that the Focus RS 03 will be hard to beat.
His team-mate, Francois Duval, is also an interesting prospect. Third in Turkey, he is in with shout of a podium in Cyprus too. But after two consecutive Cyprus retirements, he might just have one eye on getting to the finish, rather than setting stage-winning times.
Subaru’s Petter Solberg set fastest stage times in Greece (two on Day Two, four on Day Three). Had it not been for a broken driveshaft, a spin and Colin McRae's dust, he would have been challenging Markko Martin for the lead. Both Solberg and team-mate Tommi Makinen will be among the front-runners in Greece.
As for Skoda, the Octavia WRC will have its swansong in Cyprus. The new Fabia is scheduled to make its debut on round eight of the championship in Germany. So how will the ever-reliable Octavia fare in Cyprus? Probably a mid-field finish.
By contrast, Hyundai hasn't scored points since Monte Carlo. Freddy Loix and Armin Schwarz didn't make it past Day One in Greece, but to their credit, both have set fast times in Cyprus before.
Original article from Car