Andreas Mikkelsen has won the inaugural Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally, which was shown live on Eurosport and Cypriot channel LumiereTV and carried a prize fund of 150,000 Euros.
Co-driven by fellow Norwegian Ola Floene, Mikkelsen set a scorching pace over the opening 25-kilometre mixed-surface run to establish an interim lead of 10.3 seconds. And he maintained his advantage over the second test to eventually beat Nasser Al-Attiyah by 8.2s in a tense finish, despite going slower than the Qatari driver on the final run.
As well as winning 30,000 Euros for his overall victory, the 21-year-old bagged 10,000 Euros for topping Category A for Super 2000 cars. Roman Kresta earned 10,000 Euros for winning Category B in his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, while Karl Kruuda received a cheque for 10,000 Euros for finishing as the leading Category C contender in his two-wheel drive Suzuki Swift.
Both runs over the stage were held in baking sunshine against the backdrop of the Mediterranean island’s spectacular landscape. Mikkelsen put his victory down to his "full attack" approach on the first run and a slightly more controlled effort on run two when he was able to preserve his lead.
"It was definitely full attack for the first stage but I could drive a little more in the middle of the road on the second run and avoid some of the rocks," said Mikkelsen. "It was quite nerve-wracking because in the middle of the stage I thought we had a problem with the powersteering but in the end it was okay."
Mikkelsen’s victory made up for the disappointment of retiring on the opening day of the FxPro Cyprus Rally, the 12th and final round of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, which ran from 4-6 November. "I really should have won that too so this does make up for it in some way," he said.
Behind Mikkelsen, Cyprus Rally winner and second-placed Al-Attiyah said he had not been able to live with his rival’s pace: "I am quite happy because it has been a good weekend for us but maybe Andreas had an advantage. He had a new exhaust on his car, which gave him an extra 13bhp."
Frenchman Bryan Bouffier felt that the extensive amount of asphalt on the stage, which covered approximately 15 kilometres of the run, had held him back in his Peugeot 207 S2000: "My tyres were destroyed at the end of the Tarmac. There was nothing more we could have done but I am very happy to have been third behind two very good drivers. My car was also perfect."
Martin Prokop said a lack of traction on the gravel sections prevented a bid for victory in his Fiesta, despite explaining: "I tried as hard as I could but in the gravel the car was always in the air. I made no mistakes but I had no traction. I thought that the set-up would work better."
Nicos Thomas was the leading Cypriot driver in fifth overall on only his second outing in his Peugeot 207, which he was driving thanks to the close collaboration between Golden Stage Rally promoter Eurosport Events and organiser Cyprus Automobile Association. "It has been a good debut for me in a Super 2000 car," he said. "It was a tough stage but I am pleased with my result."
Jaromir Tarabus completed run two with a punctured right-rear tyre but still managed to take sixth overall ahead of Group N winner Kresta and Cypriot Constantinos Tingirides, who said that his Ralliart Lancer lacked power on the first run. Two-wheel drive victor Karl Kruuda and Panikos Polykarpou completed the top 10.
A broken left-rear suspension arm caused multiple Lebanese champion Roger Feghali’s retirement 13 kilometres into the final test, after he had completed the first run in fifth overall. Daniel Oliveira crashed out on the first corner of the second run. Both incidents were shown live on Eurosport and Cypriot channel LumiereTV.
Burcu Cetinkaya’s Golden Stage Rally ended on run two when she rolled her Peugeot Sport Turkey 207, thankfully without injury. Franz Wittmann suffered a front-right puncture on the first run and elected not to take the start of the second stage in his Interwetten Racing 207.
All competitors carried Colin McRae Vision windscreen strips in support of the charity established in memory of the 1995 world rally champion. The charity supports initiatives and good causes aimed at improving health and education for young children around the world. At the IRC Awards Ceremony in Limassol tonight (Sunday), Colin McRae Vision will make a substantial donation to ELPIDA, a charitable foundation for children with leukaemia and other cancers living in Cyprus.
Top 10 Golden Stage Rally positions after run two
1 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Floene (M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000) 37m14.3s
2 Nasser Al-Attiyah/Giovanni Bernacchini (M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000) +8.2s
3 Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri (Peugeot 207 S2000) +13.8s
4 Martin Prokop/Jan Tomanek (M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000) +24.6s
5 Nicos Thomas/Angelos Loizides (Peugeot 207 S2000) +1m25.5s
6 Jaromir Tarabus/Daniel Trunkat (M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000) +2m07.2s
7 Roman Kresta/Petr Gross (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX) +2m37.8s
8 Constantinos Tingirides/Panayiotis Shialos (Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX) +3m12.6s
9 Karl Kruuda/Martin Jarveoja (Suzuki Swift S1600) +3m26.6s
10 Panikos Polykarpou/Savvas Laos (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX) +3m32.1s
Golden Stage Rally prize fund allocation
Andreas Mikkelsen: 40,000 Euros
Nasser Al-Attiyah: 28,000 Euros
Bryan Bouffier: 16,000 Euros
Martin Prokop: 10,000 Euros
Roman Kresta: 10,000 Euros
Karl Kruuds: 10,000 Euros
Constantinos Tingirides: 8,000 Euros
Nicoas Thomas: 6,000 Euros
Panikos Polykarpou: 6,000 Euros
Savvas Savva: 5,000 Euros
Laszlo Vizin: 5,000 Euros
Paraskevas Paraskeva: 3,000 Euros
Janos Puskardi: 3,000 Euros
Mikkelsen’s Love Cyprus Golden Stage victory was captured live by Eurosport