Nasser Al-Attiyah took a dominating win in round four of the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship, the Cyprus Rally, ahead of Simos Galatariotis and Panikos Polykarpou.
The man from Qatar led the rally from stage three onwards in his Ford Fiesta R5 and with the win becomes the most successful Rally Cyprus winner in history after claiming his fifth victory and overtaking Sébastien Loeb’s record in the process.
With many of the drivers who usually compete at the sharp end of the ERC either hitting issues or not competing in Cyprus, Al-Attiyah was able to take a commanding lead and underlined his speed by also claiming victory on the Love Cyprus Golden Stage and won 10,000 euros as a result.
The former WRC man was pleased to take the win and break the record of wins on the Cyprus Rally. He said: “There really is no secret to our success, we tried to do our best, We had good luck and I feel sorry for the other drivers because we had a really big fight altogether. But maybe the experience we get from here and everywhere we compete helps us and I am happy to win five times the Cyprus Rally.”
Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Bruno Magalhães hit issues on day one of the event, with both of the championship challengers incredibly going off at the same corner on stage six. Although the pair retired from the rest of the first day of action, second in the standings Kajetanowicz was able to restart on day two and claim vital championship points after winning the final ‘leg’ of the rally.
Championship leader Magalhães’s damage however was too substantial after rolling his Skoda Fabia R5 and would not restart on Sunday, meaning his lead is now 14 points ahead of Kajetanowicz going into the Pole’s home event.
Despite Galatariotis claiming second overall, it looked like it was going to be Alexandros Tsouloftas who would be the runner-up to Al-Attiyah, however a double puncture on stage ten on Sunday morning meant that the young Cypriot lost over ten minutes. Despite the issue, Tsouloftas could salvage ninth overall by the end of the rally and won the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his efforts.
Another front runner in the ERC, Nikolay Gryazin was another driver to hit trouble. Despite leading the event after the first two stages, the Russian fell out of contention after mechanical issues, but the second day of action saw his car fixed and as a result was able to take a pair of stage wins on Sunday.
Fourth overall was Christos Demosthenous, who also took the ERC2 victory and made it a trio of Mitsubishi Evo’s behind Al-Attiyah, while former GT driver Albert von Thurn und Taxis took a solid fifth as he continues his transition to full time rallying. Petros Panteli was sixth and second in ERC2, ahead of Savvas Savva and Stavros Antoniou who rounded out the top eight overall.
Zelindo Melegari, who finished third in ERC2 in Cyprus now leads the class championship, while Ümitcan Özdemir took the win in ERC3 ahead of Deniz Fahri and İsmet Toktaş. Fourh in ERC3 went to Buǧra Banaz despite a crash on stage three and will be pleased to claim vital championship points.
The next round of the 2017 FIA European Rally Championship, Rally Rzeszow, takes place between August 3-5.