Andreas Mikkelsen has completed a dramatic opening day of the Cyprus
Rally leading the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier and
firmly on course for the coveted title in his SKODA UK Motorsport
Fabia Super 2000.
The 22-year-old started Friday’s opening test with a 3.1s
advantage following his fastest time on Thursday night’s LTV
Super Special Stage through the streets of Pafos, which attracted
thousands of spectators.
Co-driven by Ola Floene, Mikkelsen grew that margin to 8.0s with the
quickest run on stage two only for a spin – and a charging drive
by Thierry Neuville – to drop him behind his Team Peugeot
Belgium-Luxembourg title rival on the very next test.
But second became first when Neuville suffered a right-rear puncture
on stage four before he was slowed by an alternator fault that would
ultimately force his retirement from the day.
However, there were no such problems for Mikkelsen who charged to his
third stage win of the day with a rapid run through stage five, one of
two tests shown live on Eurosport, LTV and RTBF during the day, to
hold an overnight lead of 20.7s.
But while Mikkelsen reflected on a strong opening day held in
glorious Cypriot sunshine, defending IRC champion Juho Hanninen was
left to rue a “stupid mistake” that caused him to crash on
the second corner of Friday’s first test and end his hopes of a
second title in a row. “I was too fast for the corner, ran wide
and rolled,” said the factory SKODA ace.
Hanninen’s SKODA team-mate Jan Kopecky enjoyed better fortune,
reaching the overnight halt in third position 25.4s behind Nasser
Al-Attiyah, the winner in Cyprus in 2010. Kopecky, who is being
co-driven by Pavel Dresler after his regular navigator Petr Stary fell
ill in the build-up to the event, admitted he was being too cautious
in his bid to defend his title lead.
Freddy Loix, one of five IRC title contenders prior to the start,
struggled to make an impact in his BFO-SKODA Rally Team Fabia. The
normally rapid Belgian hadn’t driven on gravel stages for three
years and lacked the cutting edge needed to threaten the podium
positions on the loose-surface sections, although a spin on stage five
didn’t help his cause. He is fourth overnight, 1m41.2s behind
Patrik Sandell is a strong fifth for SKODA Sweden with Estonian
teenager Karl Kruuda sixth in his privateer Fabia. Multiple German
champion Matthias Kahle is seventh although a double puncture has hit
SKODA Auto Deutschland team-mate Mark Wallenwein’s chances of a
top 10 finish.
Toshi Arai heads the IRC Production Cup standings in his Subaru
Impreza R4 STI, while Cypriots Nicos Thomas and Charalambos Timotheou
complete the top 10 in their Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancers.
Jean-Michel Raoux leads the IRC 2WD Cup with title rival Stefano
Albertini and outgoing champion Harry Hunt still in contention in
second and third respectively. Honda Civic Type R driver Janos Puskadi
is fifth after early delays.
Saturday’s action features three repeated stages north-east of
the rally base in Pafos. The first stage of the day, Gialia, is 100
per cent gravel. The next stage, Stavros, takes place entirely on
asphalt with the Anadiou test using a combination of asphalt and
gravel and shown live on Eurosport. Although Hanninen and Neuville
will restart under SupeRally regulations their hopes of the IRC title
are all but over leaving Mikkelsen, Kopecky and Loix in a
winner-takes-all battle for glory.
Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway), SKODA Fabia S2000, first overall:
“It’s been a really good day for us and I have to be very
happy. But there’s a long way to go and day two will be
difficult. I need to do everything to keep Nasser behind me if I am to
win the title.”
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar), M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, second overall:
“We thought we had a driveshaft problem this morning but it was
actually a problem with the front differential, which we repaired. It
will not be easy to close the gap to Andreas but I will try my
Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic), SKODA Fabia S2000, third overall:
“Maybe I have been driving too cautiously today but I am still
here and I still have a chance. My new co-driver has done a great job
today but it’s not been a normal situation.”
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) SKODA Fabia S2000
1h07m17.7s2 Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT)/Giovanni Bernacchini (ITA) M-Sport
Ford Fiesta S2000 +20.7s3 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Pavel Dresler (CZE) SKODA
Fabia S2000 +46.1s4 Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frederic Miclotte (BEL) SKODA
Fabia S2000 +1m41.2s5 Patrik Sandell (SWE)/Staffan Parmander (SW)
SKODA Fabia S2000 +1m46.3s6 Karl Kruuda (EST)/Martin Jarveoja (EST)
SKODA Fabia S2000 +2m43.5s7 Matthias Kahle (GER)/Peter Gobel (GER)
SKODA Fabia S2000 +3m30.6s8 Toshi Arai (JPN)/Dale Moscatt (AUS) Subaru
Impreza R4 STI +4m35.3s9 Nicos Thomas (CYP)/Angelos Loizides (CYP)
Ralliart Lancer Evo IX +5m23.7s10 Charalambos Timotheou (CYP)/Pambos
Laos (CYP) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX +6m42.9s
IRC Production Cup: Toshi Arai (JPN)/Dale Moscatt (AUS) Subaru
Impreza R4 STIIRC 2WD Cup: Jean-Michel Raoux (FRA)/Laurent Magat (FRA)
Renault Clio R3
Special stages: SixSpecial stage distance: 99.76kmsLiaison distance:
249.93kmsTotal distance: 349.69kmsService D: Pafos (0:15hrs),
08:01hrsSS6: Gialia 1 (14.82kms), 09:29hrs (100% gravel)SS7: Stavros 1
(15.91kms), 10:12hrs (100% asphalt)Regrouping: Anadiou (0:20hrs),
10:47hrsSS8: Anadiou 1 (19.15kms), 11:10hrs (40.0% asphalt, 60.0%
gravel)Regrouping: (0:11hrs), 12:25hrsService E: Pafos (0:30hrs),
12:36hrsSS9: Gialia 2 (14.82kms), 14:19hrs (100% gravel)SS10: Stavros
2 (15.91kms), 15:02hrs (100% asphalt)Regrouping: Anadiou (0:20hrs),
15:37hrsSS11: Anadiou 2 (19.15kms), 16:00hrs (40.0% asphalt, 60.0%
gravel)Service F: Pafos (0:10hrs), 17:18hrsFinish: Pafos Municipality,
Eurosport, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge’s media partner
and Europe’s leading sports entertainment group, LTV an RTBF
will show LIVE coverage of the Cyprus Rally as follows:
Saturday 5 November10:00hrs-11:00hrs: LIVE SS8 Anadiou 1 (Eurosport,
LTV, RTBF)15:00hrs-16:00hrs: LIVE SS11 Anadiou 2 (Eurosport, LTV,
In addition Eurosport will broadcast a rally review programme from
22:15hrs-22:45hrs on Sunday 6 November, which will be shown on
Eurosport 2 on Tuesday 8 November.
Highlights will also be shown on: ESPN STAR Sports (Pan Asia), CCTV 5
(China), SPEED CHANNEL 2 (Pan America), Televisa Deportes (Central
America), AUTO PLUS (Russia), GAORA (Japan), 1st Automotive Channel
(Ukraine), RTL 7 (Netherlands), VRT (Belgium), LIVE TV (Belgium), S4C
(United Kingdom), RAI Sport (Italy), RTP (Portugal), TVI 24
(Portugal), MEGA CHANNEL (Greece), CT4 (Czech Republic), RTR (Turkey),
RIC, Mega, Sigma and Antena (all Cyprus).
Daily highlights will also be shown on the Eurosport Player at
www.eurosportplayer.com at www.rally-irc.com and via the IRC iPhone
and iPad App. All times are CET.
Double points will be awarded on the Cyprus Rally and applied to the
drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships as follows:
First place: 50 pointsSecond place: 36 pointsThird place: 30
pointsFourth place: 24 pointsFifth place: 20 pointsSixth place: 16
pointsSeventh place: 12 pointsEighth place: 8 pointsNinth place: 4
pointsTenth place: 2 points 

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