FIA RALLY NEWS 

COMING EVENT - 34th Cyprus Rally (21-24 September 2006)


12th round out of 16 in the 2005 FIA World Rally Championship, 6th round of the Production Car World Championship 2006

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
THE CYPRUS RALLY
Media FIA Pre-event Press Conference
21.09.2006

Present:
Khalid Al-Qassimi - PWRC
Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah - PWRC
Daniel Sordo - Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team
Malcolm Wilson - BP-Ford World Rally Team
Manfred Stohl - OMV-Peugeot Norway
Harri Rovanperä - Red Bull Škoda Team

Welcome to the pre-event FIA press conference.

Q:
Hello Khalid, your first time here in the PWRC. How difficult do you expect this rally to be, in front of all these extremely experienced competitors, like Nasser and Toshi Arai? You are a former Middle East Champion; do you think your experiences in the desert will help you? It is likely to be extremely hot inside the car, but I suppose you do not even notice it.

KA-Q:
It looks like being a long and difficult rally and I am sure that the battle will carry on to the last few kilometres of the event. As a driver you need to control your driving and your balance. In the Middle East we have a couple of desert-type rallies and some hard gravel rallies. We can say that there is a similarity with the rocks and the roughness. But this rally is very technical. Everyone asks me the question about the heat, but I think that the hydration factor is more of a problem here than it is in the Middle East. Over there we have faster rallies and there is more air blowing inside the car. Here we have twisty rallies and the air flow is reduced.

Q:
Hello Nasser and welcome. You come to this rally effectively four points ahead of Fumio Nutahara, once all the dropped scores are taken into account. You’ve each got two wins. Is this the most critical rally of the year for you – the one that could maybe win you the Championship? Obviously you want to finish ahead of him so what will be your tactic? Do you think you will be able to go flat-out for the win, or will you be keeping a close eye on Fumio’s times?

NA-A:
Actually this rally is our key. If we get a good result here in Cyprus we will be very close to the Championship. I will do my best, because I have a lot of experience of rallies in Cyprus and the hot temperatures. I don’t have any problems with slow stages. We are here to do a good rally. We have worked well and are leading the Championship. Toshi is here and Nutahara is here and Aki. Everybody wants to win this race. Our experience will be the key, I think, for this Cyprus Rally. Sometimes you make a plan, but you change your tactics during the race. If someone is fast you try the same pace. We try and stay away from trouble and make no mistakes. This rally is not one stage, it is three days and very tough. We will do our best.

Q:
Nasser it’s been a busy year for you. You have won the Asian Clay Target Championship and you have another championship in December. Is the target for you three championships in one year?

NA-A:
I hope so. I try and do my best. In shooting I was in Singapore last week for Clay Target. I was happy with the win. I had not planned to get a good result last week, because before this I was in Morocco with BMW for a test for the Dakar Rally. We did around 6,000 kilometres. I was coming to Singapore very tired. The next day I competed. I was happy with the win, because the Asian Games in December is very important for me.

Q:
What do you think will be the key to success here? Tyres seem to be a major factor; are punctures going to decide this rally?

KA-Q:
The thing is there are a couple of stages where we will be following after the WRC cars and the tracks will be rutted. Suddenly there are two fast-flowing stages. The key is not to overdo the faster stages. The strategy is you and your co-driver building confidence and making your own pace on each stage. We will see how it goes. If you are competing for seconds in a stage a puncture is crucial. If you have to stop it is crucial and you will lose too much time.

Q:
With tyre performance being such a critical factor, do you think the Yokohamas fitted to Fumio Nutahara’s car will be a big challenge to your Pirellis? What do you think the major differences between the tyres are?

NA-A:
Now all the tyres are good and are the same in terms of performance. If you have a puncture you still have a puncture. Last year when I was here we had a puncture. If you stay far from punctures you will have a very good result in Cyprus.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR:

Paul Fadhel (Al-Jazira TV, Qatar)
During this year you have experienced several surface changes, desert, ice, tarmac and rough stages in many championships. Do you and Khalid, as Middle East drivers, have an advantage on this type of stage?

NA-A:
No not really. All these drivers are very experienced and have knowledge of these conditions. Everybody is here for a good result and has experience.

Paul Fadhel (Al-Jazira TV, Qatar)
It is your first time in a battle for points. The last time in Greece you were in the top six I think. What is your plan for this rally?

KA-Q:
We need to get a good result. Regardless of the position we need to score some good points to support Nasser for the Championship. I would like to thank people who have supported me and give them a good drive.

Q:
Dani, the big news for you after Japan is that you are now confirmed as an official Citroën driver for next year. How much of a difference do you feel that will make to your performance this year? Will you feel a bit more relaxed and confident in the five rallies that remain this season?

DS:
This is very good news for me. Now everything is good for the future, for my confidence and the work. I will be more relaxed, but I will try and make a big push for Citroën. I think it is difficult.

Q:
Malcolm, rough and hot rallies have traditionally been a Ford Focus speciality. How confident are you that this latest version of the car will stand up to the notoriously tough conditions of Cyprus? The slow nature of the stages also puts a firm emphasis on cooling; how well will the car perform in that area?

MW:
I think if you look at the previous events, we learned a lot in Sardinia and made some changes for Greece, which worked very well. Greece was rougher this year than previous years. Since then we have been testing in Sardinia in similar conditions on tight, twisty slow stages. All is good, the drivers are happy and we don’t seem to have any issues. We are looking forward to the event. I hope that cooling is not a problem. Since we launched the car we have had no wet weather testing until last week in Spain. When we were in Sardinia it was up to 39 or 40 degrees some days. We had some problems, but we managed to address then during the test. This event is tight and twisty and we hope that that testing will bear fruit here.

Q:
Manfred, last year we saw a career-best performance from you here, with a well-deserved second place. What would you say are your chances of repeating that here this year? Is this a rally that you have a particularly good feeling with? What was the key to your success last year – are there any lessons you can learn for this year? What about the state of the roads – how do they compare to last year?

MS:
For sure it will be very hard to make the same result again. Last year the organisers had no Austrian flag when I came to the finish and they organised it very quickly! Sure they are better prepared this year and I want to help their efforts by using the flag again this year! Basically I don’t like the rough rallies. Cyprus is not my favourite event, but I had a good feeling last year and I saved the car. My tyres were okay and I had a bit of luck and everything came together. My experience on the rough roads helped me a lot. It is hard to say now about the roads. They tried to grade the roads, but it looks more dangerous to me this year. Stages are shorter and everyone tries to push a little more. The bumps are deeper and that could be some problems for the cars.

Q:
Harri, welcome back. Good to see you here, what have you been doing since your last rally in Greece? Have you been doing any testing? How did everything go and have you got any new parts on the car? So now we are here in Cyprus; is this a rally that you like? You need a strong car here – do you think that the conditions will suit the Škoda Fabia WRC? Is this rally one of your best chances this year?

HR:
All the summer I was building my own house. We had quite a good test after the Finland Rally. We found many small things and are working in the right way. Sure we need more work and more time and some more parts to be homologated. There is nothing new this week in the set-up, maybe just the front and rear diff. I think we have a strong car; that is not our problem. Speed is not the top. I hope we can push, but we will see by Sunday. I hope to make the podium and I am sure that the organisers have a Finnish flag ready!

Q:
Cyprus is another new rally for you Dani; how difficult will it be for you to get used to these quite specific conditions? Will you be able to challenge for a podium, or do you think you will be aiming for a points finish? Even if you do not know this rally well, your co-driver Marc has been here before. How much does his experience help you?

DS:
It is difficult. This is the first time here. It is slow and twisty. It is a good rally, not always flat out. It is not like Finland. We will see. The Xsara is a good car. Marc has a lot of experience. He is the co-driver and it is not possible for him to drive. I am happy with Marc.

Q:
Malcolm, you’re just back from a test in Spain. How did that go? Are there some new developments we can expect in the pipeline for the next few rallies? How important is it for you to win the Manufacturers’ Championship this year. I believe there are 11 points separating you from Kronos with five rounds to go – can they be overhauled?

MW:
Spain went very well. The weather we had was torrential and we couldn’t carry out any evaluation. It was our first chance to test in wet and slippery conditions. It was not very conclusive in a lot of things, but useful in other areas for things like Rally GB. It is important for me to win the Championship. It is our 10th year and we have come very close on numerous occasions. We have never pulled it off. The last time we won the Driver’s Championship was 25 years ago. A win is long overdue. According to Dani’s Team Manager it is in the bag for Citroën. That is the challenge I like. We have seen on recent events that our car is very strong, so we will see. Anyone in Japan will have seen the excitement. It’s a pity you cannot capture that on television. I think there will be some exciting events at the end of the year.

Q:
Manfred, speaking of Championship battles, you are in the middle of a very close contest, in fifth place between two factory drivers. Six points ahead of you, you have Mikko Hirvonen, then six points behind you, you have Petter Solberg. How do you see that battle developing? Do you think fourth in the Championship is possible for you?

MS:
I proved that I make constant events and make few mistakes. My plan is to continue. Sometimes it is better not to fight for the top place and wait for the mistakes of the other drivers. We are a private team; I try until the end and do my best. The last three rallies are my favourite ones, but you never know with Petter. He is fast all the time.

Q:
Harri, everyone’s been pleased to see you back. Do you have any plans for next year yet? Would you like to keep on driving – maybe in the Skoda? Or do you have any other ideas?

HR:
I have no plan yet. If we can do something in the next two events then we will see.

Rally Preview

The FIA World Rally Championship returns to the Mediterranean next week for the Cyprus Rally, round 12 of the 16-event series. The rally is based in the seaside tourist town of Limassol with stages run on rough gravel roads in the Troodos mountains in the centre of the island. Taking place four months later than last year, from 22-24 September at the end of the Cypriot summer, the rally is nevertheless likely to retain its traditional hot, sunny weather, with temperatures expected to reach more than 30 degrees Celsius. The combination of searing temperatures, tight mountain roads and a rocky, rutted surface has earned the rally the reputation of being the roughest event on the calendar. Reliability is even more crucial this year as the same chassis, engine and gearbox must also be used in the next event in Turkey. The rally's twisty roads generate low average speeds; it's expected that crews will negotiate the route at an average speed of just over 60kph, barely half the speed recorded on smooth gravel events like Rally Finland or Rally New Zealand. With less air being forced into the car, airflow to the engine and transmission is substantially reduced and teams run cooling settings at their maximum to keep temperatures at a suitable level. Driving conditions for crews too can become very uncomfortable as temperatures in the cockpit soar. The event runs from a single service park in the Lemesos Palais des Sports located to the north of downtown Limassol. The rally will start on Thursday 21 September with a ceremonial start along the Limassol promenade, also the venue for a new Superspecial. The rally comprises 331.34 competitive kilometres and 23 stages, five more than 2005 after the addition of the Superspecial and a new combination of speed tests used in previous years. The podium finish is scheduled for 1500hrs at the Limassol promenade on Sunday afternoon.

Team Previews:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (F/MC)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)
15 Xavier Pons / Carlos del Barrio (E)

Currently leading the Manufacturers' championship, the Kronos Citroën Total World Rally Team enters in Lemesos two 2006 Xsaras for Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena - clear leaders in the Drivers' rankings - and for Dani Sordo/Marc Marti, third in that same classification. These two crews are nominated to score Manufacturers' points while, after a short break, Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio use the 2005 Xsara which they competed with in Germany and Finland.

Sebastien Loeb: "In Cyprus, you need a very strong car. Shock absorbing is important for the traction and also to cope with the vertical demand on the chassis. It should not understeer at all in the slow corners and also should have a very good level of cooling. These past three years, the Xsara has done pretty well on the isle. In 2003, our positions reflected our reliability and later we added the performance to it. The one-two finish last year with the Kronos Xsara of Manfred Stohl proved the ability of the Citroën on that terrain. We are going to try to benefit from it and fight for the win again."

Daniel Sordo: "First of all, we would need to find the right feeling, which dictates the 'natural' pace to choose. In Japan, I didn't manage to do that. That rally is really special. The recce were completed in difficult conditions and maybe it is for that reason. I wasn't satisfied with my pacenotes and I corrected a lot of them over the first passage unlike usually. The car was perfect but I couldn't find the confidence. In Cyprus, I hope I will be able to get the right feeling straight away. I will try to achieve a top six finish with a focus on the Manufacturers' points. My job is to score some precious points for the team. I succeeded in Germany but had a blank score in the next two rounds. I will be very unhappy not to bring any to the team in Cyprus."

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

Endurance and reliability in both man and machine will come to the fore when the BP-Ford World Rally Team heads to the holiday island of Cyprus for what many regard as the toughest round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Far from enjoying the beaches and sunshine of the eastern Mediterranean, Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen will fight scorching heat and boulder-strewn tracks on the Cyprus Rally (21 - 24 September) as they try to secure the squad's fifth win of this year's campaign.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "The stages are OK but there is always the feeling that you need to drive faster. But if you start to attack there are so few straight sections that it's easy to go off the road. If the speed gets too high, then you can brake late and slide off or end up smashing a wheel on the stones. Patience is crucial and developing a good rhythm so that you flow through the endless corners is the key."

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "Cyprus is slower than other rallies and the roads are incredibly rough. It's different from other rounds and it isn't my favourite, but we need rallies like this in the championship. A world championship should have something of everything. To be successful the car must be strong and reliable and we proved in Greece that the Focus has those qualities. It will be hot and the speeds slow so it's important to be confident in the cooling package to ensure the car doesn't overheat.

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson / Glen MacNeall (AUS)

The Subaru World Rally Team will enter one Impreza WRC2006 for Petter Solberg (co-driven by Phil Mills) and one WRC2006 for Chris Atkinson (co-driven by Glenn Macneall). Petter has competed in Cyprus five times previously. The Norwegian has tasted success on the event; in 2003 he took his first victory of the season en route to winning the drivers' title that year. The 2006 rally will be Chris Atkinson's second competitive outing in Cyprus. Last year the Australian had a difficult start to the event, however set a string of top-ten fastest stage times on Legs two and three to finish the event tenth overall.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: "I like the Cyprus Rally a lot and it's normally a rally we perform well on; we won in 2003 and also led the last two years' events. In 2006 however we've got to be realistic. Of course I want to win - we all want to win, me, the team, Pirelli, everyone - but we've got to get the basics right before we can seriously challenge for victory. The team is working very hard and we're getting closer to finding a solution to the problems we've experienced in recent rallies. This week they've been in Sardinia for a six-day test and everyone at the factory is going flat-out too. We've got to keep pushing on."

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: "Last year we didn't have such a good event as we had problems on the first day, but it was good to get experience of the stages on the final two Legs. The rally is really hard work for drivers and co-drivers as the roads are very rough and the stages seem to last for ages as there are so many corners. To build up stamina for these longer runs, I step-up my fitness training to do longer runs and focus more on endurance training. I'd like to get a top five position this year."

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The drivers of the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Teams return to the rally of their greatest triumphs so far. Last year Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor (Aut) finished in sensational second place at the "Cyprus Rally". Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud (Nor) reached fourth place. In spite of their self-confidence both Stohl and Solberg are realistic enough to know that the path to the podium will be a stony one. The Cyprus Rally counts as the toughest run to the FIA World Rally Championship, even if average speed measures only 65 km/h.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "Our top result in Cyprus last year has us highly motivated. Still, one can't predict what will happen this year. The course has been somewhat alleviated as compared to last year. Therefore there are no overlong special stages anymore, especially at the beginning of the rally. But my professed goal is and remains a place on the podium."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "I am not afraid to match with anyone. Last year the competition was perhaps even stronger. A decisive factor will be to go easy on the tyres, for if you have a flat here you won't stand a chance for a top place."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Luis Pérez Companc / Jose Maria Volta (RA)

19 year old Brit Matthew Wilson can't wait to get back behind the wheel after an unfortunate end to his rally proper in Japan. It was proved that manners don't always pay off, as he pulled over to let fellow competitor Chris Atkinson past, but got his Ford Focus stuck in a ditch. He went on to score some points under the SupeRally rule. Matthew can look forward to picking up on some pretty impressive stage times set by himself and co-driver Michael Orr. But his return to the WRC RS 06 spec car will have to wait until Australia - next week he and all of the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally team are back in the 05' car. Team mate Luis Perez Companc not only has the support of his family in Cyprus, but also some competition too. His brother Jorge Perez Companc is co-driving in the third Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally car, sitting alongside the current South American champion Juan Pablo Raies. It will be the duo's first rally in Europe.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "It's my first time in Cyprus but from what everyone says, it will be a tough rally. Obviously the slow speeds on the stages means that less air is flowing in the cock-pit and the temperatures are already pretty high. Also we are going back to the 05' car, which is still bloody good, but the 06' was something really special."

Luis Perez Companc: "Cyprus is a very rough rally and it's going to be tough in the older car as that is more nervous than the new one. I have driven in Cyprus before and in 2002 I was leading Group N before going off on the Sunday. I also did it in 2004 in a WRC car, but retired then too. As an event I like it very much. Some parts of it are like Argentina so that is good for me and I like gravel rallies. My brother is co-driving with Juan Pablo Raies and I think they will find it a very tough for their first time."

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

The team has prepared very sedulously for this twelfth WRC event on the island of Cyprus. That's why the two representatives Raimund Baumschlager and Armin Schwarz can feel confident: "If we don't run into serious trouble, it may well be possible to repeat our gratifying result from Germany. Still Cyprus remains a mere lottery. The road conditions are very, very bad, we addressed these conditions while testing in Austria. We hope that Harri has enough confidence now which is necessary to choose the right pace for getting a points finish. If Andreas runs at the same pace as the year before in a Group N car, then for him a positive outcome is possible as well."

Harri Rovanpera: "It'll be very difficult in Cyprus. I hope that we'll have no technical issues and not too many tyre failures because of the rough roads. The handling of the Fabia has improved substantially compared to my last gravel rally in Greece, the team has worked hard for that"

Andreas Aigner: "I'll try not to attack immediately. It's important to choose a constant pace on the island for the entire rally. With this formula it should be possible to pull through somehow in spite of the ferocious roads. I know most of the route, just two or three stages will be new to me."

Event Timetable

Thursday 21 September: Ceremonial start
Start Lemesos Promenade 20.30

Friday 22 September: Leg 1 Lemesos - Lemesos
SS1 Xyliatos - Kapouras 8.09km 09.40
SS2 Kapouras - Asinou 10.17km 10.04
SS3 Asinou -Nikitari 25.61km 10.37
SS4 Kato Amiantos - Platres 11.87km 12.05
Serv A Lemesos (30 mins) 13.20
SS5 Xyliatos - Kapouras 8.09km 15.03
SS6 Kapouras - Asinou 10.17km 15.24
SS7 Asinou -Nikitari 25.61km 15.57
SS8 Katao Amiantos - Platres 11.87km 17.25
Serv B Lemesos (45 mins) 18.20
Finish Lemesos 19.05
Total 111.48km

Saturday 23 September: Leg 2 Lemesos - Lemesos
Serv C Lemesos (10 mins) 07.45
SS9 Kellaki - Foinikaria 9.49km 08.38
SS10 Akrounta - Apsiou 7.99km 09.16
SS11 Foini - Koilinia 30.33km 10.34
SS12 Galatareia - Pentalia 13.33km 11.32
Serv D Lemesos (30 mins) 13.12
SS13 Kellaki - Foinikaria 9.49km 14.25
SS14 Akrounta - Apsiou 7.99km 15.03
SS15 Foini - Koilinia 30.33km 16.21
SS16 Galatareia - Pentalia 13.33km 17.19
Serv E Lemesos (45 mins) 18.39
Finish Lemesos 19.24
Total 122.28km

Sunday 24 September: Leg 3 Lemesos - Lemesos
Serv F Lemesos (10 mins) 05.00
SS17 Vavatsinia - Mandra Kambiou 25.24km 06.13
SS18 Machairas - Agioi Vavatsinias 12.94km 07.11
SS19 Lageia - Kalavasos 8.99km 07.54
Serv G Lemesos (30 mins) 09.01
SS20 Vavatsinia - Mandra Kambiou 25.24km 10.34
SS21 Machairas - Agioi Vavatsinias 12.94km 11.32
SS22 Lageia - Kalavasos 8.99km 12.15
Serv H Lemesos (20 mins) 13.10
SS23 Down Town Stage 3.24km 14.05
Finish Lemesos Promenade 14.15
Total 97.58km
Rally Total 331.34km

Leading positions after the first day of the rally:

1. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 45min 33.6sec
2. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen Xsara 1hr 45min 40.0sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 1hr 46min 58.7sec
4. M Stohl/I Minor A Peugeot 307 1hr 47min 24.3sec
5. C Atkinson/G MacNeall AUS Subaru Impreza 1hr 48min 34.6sec
6. X Pons/C Del Barrio E Citroen Xsara 1hr 49min 38.8sec
7. T Gardemeister/J Honkanen FIN Citroen Xsara 1hr 49min 38.9sec
8. L Perez Companc/J-M Volta ARG Ford Focus RS 1hr 50min 56.5sec
9. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Peugeot 307 1hr 53min 05.7sec
10 M Wilson/M Orr GB Ford Focus RS 1hr 53min 56.0sec

Leg 1 News

Finland’s Marcus Grönholm leads the Cyprus Rally, the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship, after the opening leg of competition. The Ford Focus driver dominated today’s eight stages, winning four, to claim a slim 6.4 second advantage after 111 competitive kilometres. Arch rival Sébastien Loeb holds second in the lead Citroën Xsara, while Grönholm’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen assumes what is becoming a customary third position. The Cyprus Rally remains one of the most gruelling events on the 16-round calendar. Average speeds may be the slowest in the series, but the twisty nature of the stages and the high summer temperatures on the Mediterranean island mean that efficient cooling systems - for the car and crew - are critical. The rally is also renowned for its rough roads and many crews are likely to succumb to the conditions over the three days of competition. With victories in the first three stages, Grönholm dominated from the outset and has had a trouble-free run in what is viewed as one of the strongest world rally cars in the field. Series leader Sébastien Loeb - who has an outside chance of winning this year’s FIA World Rally Championship in Cyprus - won three stages and continues to push the Finn hard. Mikko Hirvonen, in a Focus, started the day steadily and climbed to third overnight with Manfred Stohl (Peugeot 307) - who finished a career-best second on this rally last year - fourth.

Petter Solberg’s woes continue, the Norwegian complaining of problems with the brakes, a lack of traction and overheating, which caused the engine to drop into ‘safe’ mode for most of the morning. Despite winning one stage, the Subaru ace then lost more than five minutes this afternoon after completing stage seven with just one gear. He holds 11th overnight with team-mate Chris Atkinson fifth overall. While Loeb has enjoyed a trouble-free day, team-mate Dani Sordo was forced to retire from the leg with engine problems. For the Kronos Total Citroën team, this uncharacteristic mechanical failure is something that could seriously affect its fight with BP-Ford in the Manufacturers’ Championship. Škoda drivers Harri Rovanperä and Andreas Aigner endured a miserable start to the event as both were forced out after the first stage with water in the engine electronics.

Team News:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (F/MC)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)
15 Xavier Pons / Carlos del Barrio (E)

For the fourth time this season, after Sweden, Finland and Japan, Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena end leg one of a rally chasing Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen. Just as before, the Citroen duo will start tomorrow with the firm aim of making life extremely difficult for their favourite rivals. Xevi Pons and Carlos Del Barrio did not have as straightforward a run as their team mates, but still ended the day in an excellent sixth place. This position was previously occupied by Dani Sordo and Marc Marti, until an engine problem forced them to stop in 'Asinou Nikitari' (SS7).

Sebastien Loeb: « We're in a somewhat familiar situation. We sweep the road clean, lose time, and then try to get it back. Sometimes, like today, it works and that gives us a good battle to look forward to for the rest of the rally. This event is not as exciting as the two rallies that came before it, but it is certainly extremely demanding. You have to put in a big effort in sauna-like conditions, while maintaining maximum concentration to try and keep a clean driving style. This means that on the long stages, your physical fitness can definitely play a part. Risk-taking does not really work here - it's more to do with understanding the roads and choosing the correct speed for the right rhythm. »

Daniel Sordo: The reigning Junior World Champion drove a careful opening loop of stages as he felt his way into conditions that were entirely new to him. He had just started to pick up his pace (setting a fourth-fastest time on SS5) when he felt a power loss on SS7. Dani decided to stop 22 kilometres into the 25 kilometre stage, in order not to risk damaging his engine beyond repair. The decision whether or not to re-enter the Spanish crew under the Superally regulations tomorrow will only be taken after the Kronos technicians have examined the engine thoroughly.

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team drivers Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen lead the Cyprus Rally tonight after the heat and rock-strewn roads of the Mediterranean island battered many of their rivals into submission. Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car showed no weaknesses in the gruelling conditions and the Finns ended the opening leg with a 6.4sec advantage. Team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen are third in another Focus RS after a troublefree performance.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "To be leading tonight was my target but the gap is obviously not big enough to relax. I will still need to push hard tomorrow to try to build on my advantage. There was a lot of loose gravel on the stages this morning and while it was better to run second on the road than first, there was little difference. There wasn't much of a clean line from Seb's car, just in the areas where he accelerated. The roads seem looser than in previous years after regrading.

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "It was a good but difficult day. It was rough, hot and tough and mentally it's hard when you don't enjoy the stages. It's frustrating because the stages are quite slow and I've struggled a bit because I'm either driving too fast or too slow. They were slippery, which surprised me, and I almost had a big spin in the first stage this morning after braking too late and I can't afford that. It was only then I realised how slippery it was and that I needed to be neater."

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson / Glen MacNeall (AUS)

Chris Atkinson leads the Subaru World Rally Team challenge after the first Leg of competition in Cyprus. The Australian set a consistent pace throughout the day to finish the Leg in fifth overall. Team-mate Petter Solberg had a strong start to the day, setting one fastest stage time, however he lost time in the afternoon when gear selection problems lost him more than seven minutes. The Norwegian will restart Leg two in 11th position.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'We did not have such a good day. I'm not sure quite what happened, however on the third stage this afternoon we had a gearbox problem and had to push on through the last two stages with just the one gear. It was very difficult and will make it very tough to get any result from this rally.'

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'We're doing ok. The second pass through the stages was pretty rough with lots of big rocks pulled out. We managed to avoid most of them and got through with no problems, although the times weren't what we expected, but that's how it is right now. I think at this stage fifth is the best we could hope for and tomorrow we'll keep going and keep trying.'

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team had mixed feelings at the end of the first day of the "Cyprus Rally 2006". Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor moved up from fifth to fourth overall place in the afternoon and are only 25 seconds behind a place on the podium. OMV Teammate Henning Solberg, on the other hand, had bad luck. The Norwegian was blinded by the sun on the last special stage and slipped off the road. But he will once again take up the fight for one or more WRC-points on Saturday thanks to SupeRally.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "One can see that we are getting closer to the top, even though it is almost impossible for a privateer to match with the top works teams. On he other hand, we've left many works teams in our wake. That is a great success for the OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team and Bozian Racing, as well."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "This has never happened to me before. But I couldn't do anything at the spur of the moment - I became a passenger. Now all we can do is to take full risk on Saturday. Perhaps then one or more WRC-points are still possible. After all, one has seen today how many victims this rally has already claimed."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Luis Pérez Companc / Jose Maria Volta (RA)

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally driver Matthew Wilson crossed the finish line of the final special stage filled with elation but it quickly turned to devastation when he realised he had suffered an electrical problem and would be unable to get back to base. The problem, which also ended the rally proper of the 3rd Stobart VK M-Sport car, meant he had to be pushed to try and restart his 04' WRC Focus but sadly to no avail. It followed a tremendous day for the 19 year old who was in his highest WRC position in 6th. He still finished today 10th overall with the SupeRally penalty.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "I knew as soon as I saw the lights flashing and there was nothing happening that it was pretty serious. It's just so disappointing. It would have been great to be 6th overall tonight. But I'm happy with how I drove. I was consistent and we didn't spin or get out of shape on the stages. At least I know we'll have a good car for tomorrow and I'll keep pushing."

Luis Perez Companc: "It was a lot of fun out there but I am relieved to get back. On Stage 5 I had a spin which cost me 20 seconds, which was disappointing. Throughout the day I was trying to take it steady and stay out of trouble. I was looking out for the big rocks and trying to drive around them. That's the plan for tomorrow too."

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

After both Fabia WRCs had retired on the road section between special stages 1 and 2, the cars were hauled to the Limassol service park in the afternoon where the entire team tried feverishly to locate the source of trouble. The alloted time amounted to 2:45 hours. The commitment of the crew's mechanics and engineers paid off as it became clear that serious overheating due to high temperatures and the slow pace in the stage had caused retirement for both cars. At the shakedown the day before, in similar conditions, everything had worked immaculately. The two team managers Raimund Baumschlager and Armin Schwarz had to make a tough decision: "Despite locating the source of error for both cars we have to forego the possibility of SupeRally. It has become imperative to complete further tests in order to prevent a recurrence of the problem. Since we have to run the same engines in just three weeks' time in Turkey, there's no room for experiments, so sadly we need to abandon the Cyprus event prematurely. Our whole concentration will now apply to the WRC rally in Turkey." 

Harri Rovanpera: No quote available

Andreas Aigner: No quote available

Leading positions after the second day of the rally:

1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen Xsara 3hr 25min 51.6sec
2. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 26min 13.4sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 3hr 29min 57.7sec
4. M Stohl/I Minor A Peugeot 307 3hr 30min 54.5sec
5. T Gardemeister/J Honkanen FIN Citroen Xsara 3hr 33min 06.4sec
6. X Pons/C Del Barrio E Citroen Xsara 3hr 33min 57.8sec
7. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 3hr 37min 27.3sec
8. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Peugeot 307 3hr 38min 37.8sec
9. C Atkinson/G MacNeall AUS Subaru Impreza 3hr 41min 05.6sec
10 D Sordo/M Marti E Citroen Xsara 3hr 41min 50.2sec

Driver's comments after Leg 2

Leg 2 News

One small mistake in today’s second leg of the Cyprus Rally cost Marcus Grönholm the lead in the 12th round of the FIA World Rally Championship. The Finn and arch rival Sébastien Loeb have been evenly matched throughout the event and dicing for mere tenths of a second, however Grönholm’s slim 7.9 second advantage turned immediately to a one second deficit when he spun in the sixth stage of the day. A bad tyre choice for this afternoon’s loop of stages then saw the Ford driver lose yet more time and Grönholm now looks to be reliant on Loeb hitting problems if he is to regain the lead. Mikko Hirvonen remains third in the second Ford Focus. However the Finn has extended his lead over fourth-placed Manfred Stohl (Peugeot 307) to nearly a minute and looks comfortable for his third consecutive podium finish. Privateer Toni Gardemeister, who ran as high as third overall yesterday before dropping back with gearbox problems, holds fifth overnight and, he too, has a secure advantage barring any problems. Xavier Pons (Citroën Xsara) rounds off the top six ahead of the Solberg brothers, both of whom have had their share of problems today. Subaru’s Petter Solberg has suffered from a lack of traction all day, but has however climbed from 11th to seventh, while older brother Henning (Peugeot 307) was lucky to escape injury when an engine cooling leak meant near boiling water was being sprayed onto his legs for most of the day. He overnights in eighth. Chris Atkinson, who was piloting the lead Subaru in fifth position, and Britain’s Matthew Wilson (Ford Focus) both went off the road this afternoon and were forced to retire from the leg. Dani Sordo, Citroën’s new signing for 2007, rolled this morning and lies 10th overnight.

Team News:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (F/MC)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)
15 Xavier Pons / Carlos del Barrio (E)

Having started the morning with a 6.4 second deficit to the leader, Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena and their Kronos Total Citroen Xsara fought back. After a tight battle, they lead Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen by 21.8 seconds overnight. At the end of a trouble-free day, Xevi Pons/Carlos Del Barrio hold sixth place. Dani Sordo and Marc Marti re-started the leg under the Superally regulations and made up four places to end the day in the top 10.

Sebastien Loeb: I am particularly pleased with the second half of my day. Yesterday we proved that we could really fight with Marcus and this morning confirmed that. Then the wide BFGoodrich tyres, which were perfect for the road conditions on the second run through the stages, allowed us to make a difference. »

Daniel Sordo: « So here I am in 10th place, on one manufacturers' point for now. My engine is working perfectly, so it was a good idea to stop as soon as we had the problem yesterday - even if it did cost us 10 minutes. Nonetheless, I'm kicking myself for having made a mistake this morning, on a junction that we did not make a good note of on the recce. As a result we had a slow roll, but luckily the damage was very minor.

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team remains on course to close the gap on the leaders of the FIA World Rally Championship after ending today's second leg of the Cyprus Rally with both drivers in podium positions. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen lie second in their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car with team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen third in a similar car after another day of gruelling driving in the baking mountains.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "I don't know why I lost so much time in the long stage this afternoon. I think maybe I had the wrong tyres. I had different tyres to Seb but I have never tested the rubber that he used so I don't know if they would have been better or not. But tyres are not the whole reason. It must have been my driving as well. I had no rhythm and it is so slow here that normally it is so difficult for a driver to take big amounts of time from a rival. We had been so close all rally. I also had a small spin on a slow corner, when I had to reverse the car. Now I have to decide what to do tomorrow. It will be hard to catch Seb, but I thought the same in Japan and it almost happened there. I hope he doesn't sleep well tonight!"

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "Stohl was driving hard and was close this morning so I continued to push. On SS11, I hit a big stone so hard that it knocked the breath out of Jarmo and he couldn't read the pace notes for a couple of corners. It was good to have someone pressing me because it kept the motivation and concentration levels high. This afternoon I had a larger gap and was able to monitor his split times in the stages.

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson / Glen MacNeall (AUS)

Petter Solberg started the day in 11th position, but a determined performance elevated him to seventh overall with one day of competition remaining. Team-mate Chris Atkinson consolidated his fifth position throughout the morning with a string of top eight times, however his challenge was brought to a premature end on the penultimate stage of the day when his engine stalled under braking and he ran wide into a ditch and retirement from the Leg. Chris is expected to restart tomorrow's action under Superrally regulations.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'We had a better day than yesterday, but it's still difficult to attack without the traction and with our start position. The stages this afternoon were some of the roughest we have seen, however we'll keep pushing to the finish and ensure that the fans have a show.'

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'Generally we had a pretty good day. Up until stage 15 we were holding our position comfortably when unfortunately we had a bit of a problem under brakes and it sent us off the road, I'm not sure why, we'll have a look at the data but we ended up parked in a ditch. The car looks ok, there's a bit of damage on the right rear where it's resting against a tree. Hopefully we'll be able to get it back and get going again tomorrow.'

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has every reason to be content with day two of the "Cyprus Rally 2006", as well. After 16 of 22 special stages Manfred Stohl and Ilka Minor lie in excellent fourth place and are the best privateers. Henning Solberg and Cato Menkerud have fought their way back into scoring range following their mishap on Friday and are in eight place after leg two.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "Sebastien Loeb is probably the best driver and the Ford works team currently has got the best material. Thus the result explains itself. But I still haven't given up hope. The rally only ends on Sunday on the finish ramp. And it is still a whole leg to go until then."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "The brake disks on the front right side overheat so much that they glow while the ones on the left remain ice cold. That makes it very hard to stabilise the Peugeot 307 WRC. But we will keep fighting for WRC-points. This is a rally where time differences are measured in minutes. It doesn't mean a thing when you are only seconds apart."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Luis Pérez Companc / Jose Maria Volta (RA)

The Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team had a desperate day after the cars of Matt Wilson and Luis Perez Companc both failed to complete the second leg of Rally Cyprus. But the 3rd car driven by Juan Pablo Raies made it home safely.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: "The car is in mint condition so it was so gutting when we couldn't get it back on the road. We'd had some gear selection problems on the stage before so I knew when I came into the hairpin that things weren't good. I tried the hand brake but it wasn't enough."

Luis Perez Companc: "I'm obviously very disappointed as the car had been fantastic and just one small failure meant my rally was over. It was so rough out there and there was no way I could continue without power steering. It's hard enough as it is! The team will fix it today and tomorrow I will head back out and complete Rally Cyprus under SupeRally."

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

Both cars retired after the SS 1 and did not continued under the SupeRally.

Final positions after the third day of the rally:

1. S Loeb/D Elena F Citroen Xsara 4hr 40min 50.4sec
2. M Grönholm/T Rautiainen FIN Ford Focus RS 4hr 41min 11.6sec
3. M Hirvonen/J Lehtinen FIN Ford Focus RS 4hr 46min 06.5sec
4. M Stohl/I Minor A Peugeot 307 4hr 47min 30.1sec
5. T Gardemeister/J Honkanen FIN Citroen Xsara 4hr 49min 30.8sec
6. H Solberg/C Menkerud N Peugeot 307 4hr 55min 30.4sec
7. X Pons/C Del Barrio E Citroen Xsara 4hr 55min 56.3sec
8. P Solberg/P Mills N Subaru Impreza 4hr 56min 11.9sec
9. C Atkinson/G MacNeall AUS Subaru Impreza 4hr 58min 05.4sec
10 M Wilson/M Orr GB Ford Focus RS 5hr 06min 11.4sec

Driver's comments after Leg 3

Leg 3 News

Frenchman Sébastien Loeb and co-driver Daniel Elena once again put in a dominant performance on the Cyprus Rally and notched up their third consecutive win on the island and eighth of the 2006 FIA World Rally Championship season. While the Citroën Xsara duo fought hard with early leader Marcus Grönholm during the first leg, Grönholm’s hopes of victory disappeared with a spin and a bad tyre choice during the second. Grönholm ultimately finished second, 21.2 seconds adrift with BP-Ford team-mate Mikko Hirvonen third overall. In the FIA World Rally Championship, maximum points for Loeb now gives him a 35 point advantage over Marcus Grönholm, with Daniel Sordo maintaining third despite retiring from the event. Mikko Hirvonen is however catching the Spaniard and is now just two points adrift in fourth position. However, the fight for honours in the Manufacturers’ Championship remains intense. Kronos Total Citroën maintains its lead, but BP-Ford’s two podium positions have slashed the deficit to the Belgian team to just seven points with four rounds remaining. Behind Mikko Hirvonen, Austrian Manfred Stohl (Peugeot 307) was unable to equal his 2005 performance, where he finished second overall, and returned to the finish in fourth ahead of privateer Toni Gardemeister (Citroën Xsara). Henning Solberg (Peugeot 307) rounded off the top six, having climbed two places firstly when brother Petter dropped time after hitting a rock and damaging a wheel and then when Xavier Pons slipped to seventh with transmission problems just before the finish. The leading retirement of the day was Daniel Sordo, who crashed in the Lemesos stage, despite it being run non-competitively for safety reasons. He lost valuable points for the team in its fight for the Manufacturers’ Championship.

Team News:

Manufacturer 1: Kronos Total Citroen World Rally Team / Citroën Xsara WRC
1 Sebastien Loeb / Daniel Elena (F/MC)
2 Daniel Sordo / Marc Marti (E)
15 Xavier Pons / Carlos del Barrio (E)

Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena did not wait long to extend the record for career victories that they broke in Japan. Their win in Cyprus - their eighth of the year and their third consecutive triumph on the 'Island of Aphrodite' - brings the benchmark up to 28 wins, all of them achieved at the wheel of the Citroen Xsara WRC. Seb's lead of the drivers' championship is now up to 35 points, with four rallies and 40 possible points still up for grabs. 

Sebastien Loeb: «I remembered Japan, On Sunday morning there I conceded a little bit of time first thing, which was just the invitation Marcus wanted. So I went flat-out on the first stage this morning. A few split times later, it seemed to me that Marcus was no longer pushing to the limit. I was able to calculate my speed based on his, and the end of the rally was a lot calmer.

Daniel Sordo: «I found it hard to develop a good rhythm from the start of the rally, I got a bit over-excited by the thought of being back on asphalt. But the grip is not so good when you just have gravel tyres. »

Manufacturer 1: BP- Ford World Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC06
3 Marcus Grönholm / Timo Rautiainen (FIN)
4 Mikko Hirvonen / Jarmo Lehtinen (FIN)

BP-Ford World Rally Team claimed a double podium finish on the Cyprus Rally today as the fight for the FIA World Rally Championship became ever more exciting. Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen were second in a Ford Focus RS World Rally Car after three days of tough competition over sun-baked rocky tracks in the Mediterranean island's mountains. Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen claimed third in another Focus RS as Ford closed to within just seven points of the leaders.

Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen: "This is a great result for our challenge in the manufacturers' championship. Unfortunately I wasn't quite fast enough to beat Loeb here. The roads are so twisty that for some corners it is necessary to change right down to first gear. That's the big difference between here and the hot, rough rally in Greece that we won in June. We had no big problems with the car, again it was so strong in these conditions. It was so hot here that it was like a bad sauna! Next we go to Turkey, which should be cooler but it will be another rough event. We have proved the Focus is good on rough, tough roads so I'm looking forward to taking on Loeb again - and beating him!"

Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen: "This is my fifth podium in six rallies and it helped us move nearer the leaders in the championship which was our aim. I found it difficult to settle into a good rhythm here. I had a big talk with Marcus and Christian Loriaux (technical director) last night and I now think I made a mistake with the set-up of my car for the rally. I made the decision before the start and so that is another lesson I have learned and I should be even more competitive on the next round in Turkey. It's good for me to close in on Dani Sordo in the drivers' series and put pressure on him. My mechanics have done a great job here in tough conditions and it has been a really good team effort."

Manufacturer 1: Subaru World Rally Team / Subaru Impreza WRC 2006
5 Petter Solberg / Philip Mills (N/GB)
6 Chris Atkinson / Glen MacNeall (AUS)

After the time loss of the previous two days, the Subaru World Rally Team's focus for the final Leg turned to testing and development work for forthcoming events. Petter Solberg maintained his overnight seventh position throughout most of the day, however an impact with a rock on the racing line on the last stage of the day dropped him back down to eighth overall. Chris Atkinson had a steady drive throughout the day to finish the event in ninth position.

Petter Solberg/Phil Mills: 'For sure we came here to try and get a better result than this, but for the time loss on Friday we would have finished a lot higher. We still have much work to do on the car over the next few events, and we are all pushing so hard to get back and start fighting again.'

Chris Atkinson/Glen MacNeall: 'Until we went off the road last night, we were running in the top five, which is a better indicator of where we are at the moment. Today we have been driving to take no risks and do our job and get the car to the end of the rally, not risking it for Rally Turkey.'

Manufacturer 2: OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team / Peugeot 307 WRC
7 Manfred Stohl / Ilka Minor (A)
8 Henning Solberg / Cato Menkerud (N)

The OMV Peugeot Norway World Rally Team has proven its status as best private team once again at the "Cyprus Rally 2006". Only the Ford works team also had two drivers within scoring ranks. Manfred Stohl already reached a fourth place for the third time in this year's FIA World Rally Championship. OMV Teammate Henning Solberg finished sixth and together they won nine points for the manufacture ranking which again brought them closer to the Subaru works team.

Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor: "We did all we could and performed quite a satisfying rally. Of course, I would have loved to be on the podium but fourth place also brings us a little closer to Sordo in the WRC. The Cyprus Rally was as tough as expected. The great heat and the extreme road conditions demand everything of you during these three days."

Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud: "It was really a tough rally and an ideal preparation for Turkey in three weeks. We are happy about any place that wins us points and this also justifies our commitment in the FIA World Rally Championship."

Manufacturer 2: Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Rally Team / Ford Focus RS WRC04
9 Matthew Wilson / Michael Orr (GB)
10 Luis Pérez Companc / Jose Maria Volta (RA)

Stobart VK M-Sport Ford driver Matt Wilson put the difficulties from the weekend behind him and claimed a valuable manufacturer point for his team as well as finishing 10th overall. Despite receiving 15 minutes worth of penalties throughout the weekend, the 19 year old never gave up and put in a determined and faultless performance from day 1. Earlier in the day there had been various problems for two of the three 04' WRC Focus cars. The 3rd car of Juan Pablo Raies was forced to retire after Stage 17 when his co-driver Jorge Perez Companc fell ill. Meanwhile on the same stage Matt and his partner Michael Orr had their own problems after the intercom went down. They had to complete the 25k run with the driver barely hearing the directions and instructions of Michael. The problem lay with the co-driver's helmet. The only way to fix the problem was to swap helmets so Matt could hear Michael but not talk to him. Meanwhile the second car of Luis Perez Companc and Jose Maria Volta had a trouble free morning and the highlight of their weekend was wowing the crowds in Lemesos.

Matthew Wilson/Michael Orr: " Obviously we had the flat battery on Friday and then the gear shift problem yesterday which meant I couldn't slow down into a corner and went off but you always need to keep going on a rally like this because so much can happen. I'm just very pleased to get a point for my team and also to help out BP Ford by keeping a point from Citroen.” 

Team Manager Malcolm Wilson added: “There's plenty to take away from this weekend and obviously gaining a point for the Stobart VK M-Sport Ford Team in the Manufacturer's Championship is very important. I'm really pleased with Matt's consistency throughout the weekend, that's what impressed me most.”

Luis Perez Companc/Jose Maria Volta: “It was great fun out there. I'd never done anything like that before so on the first lap I was careful but by the second I was having a bit more fun. It's great to finish a tough event like this one.”

Manufacturer 2: Red Bull Skoda Team / Skoda Fabia WRC05
11 Harri Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen (FIN)
12 Andreas Aigner / Klaus Wicha (A/D)

Both cars retired after the SS 1 and did not continued under the SupeRally.


FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP
THE CYPRUS RALLY
Media FIA Post-event Press Conference
24.09.2006

Welcome to the post event FIA press conference.

Q: Seb, congratulations on your third consecutive win in Cyprus, the 28th of your career. Now you have a 35-point lead over Marcus; will you be aiming to wrap up the Championship in Turkey? Going back to the event, when you saw Marcus’s times on the first day, did you think you could challenge for the win? You took the lead on the second run through the long stage; was it down to your tyre choice? Which tyres did you choose and what sort of advantage did they give you?

SL: We will have to finish fourth to win the title in Turkey. This will be possible. For that we have to do the rally first and see what happens. After the first loop I realised it would again be a close fight. It was like this, very close, all weekend. My tyre choice was a good one. We were flghting, Marcus was really fighting. In the first long stage there was just 0.1 seconds between us. Something changed and I am sure that was the tyres. I used the wide tyre. The second pass was a wide tyre. I think we had more grip with this.

Q: Were you surprised when you saw your time on SS15? Did you think at that point that you would win the rally?

DE: No. Because with Marcus behind it is never won until the finish. In Japan we started the last day with 25 seconds and then it was just eight seconds. He can catch you. With Marcus, he is a shark, the rally is never over until the finish.

Q: How did you see that crucial SS15? Do you think you made the wrong tyre choice, or was Sébastien simply quicker than you? Was there anything about the stage that you did not like? At that point did you think the fight with him was over? On the stage before you made a mistake and spun: what happened? Did that affect your concentration?

MG: It was a cleaner stage than I was expecting and we were clearly sliding here and there and the confidence was not so good. Then I lost a lot on the long one. Still I wanted to push a bit to keep him awake, hoping for something. The long stage was not a good one for me.

Q: What about you Timo? Did you think that you stood a chance of putting pressure on Seb today, or were you just driving safely to get the points for second place? How difficult was the tyre choice here?

TR: I understood yesterday we could not do what we did in Japan, because the stages are a different nature and if you try and drive completely crazy, like Marcus did in Japan, the road is not wide enough. Of course we were hoping to challenge on the first few stages, but the first splits showed we were not on that pace and we settled for second and kept the same pace to the end.

Q: Congratulations on yet another podium Mikko. You are a regular visitor here now. Were you a little bit disappointed not to be closer to the pace of Sébastien and Marcus, who seemed to be in a league of their own here? Did you enjoy the rally? What was your fight with Manfred Stohl like?

MH: Yes I was disappointed, but it has always been a difficult rally for me and it is difficult to find the right rhythm for these stages. I made a small mistake with the car set-up before the rally. It was my mistake and a good lesson. I am sure we will be more competitive in the future. We had a fight on Friday and Saturday afternoon with Manfred. I don’t really enjoy driving on these stages. In the end I got some distance on him and today was much easier.

Q: How difficult were the conditions here this year? How tricky was it coping with the constant heat? Is this the most difficult rally of the year for co-drivers?

JL: Yes. it is the most difficult, not just the number of corners but the nature of the stages. There is no rhythm in your reading and it makes it really hard to concentrate.

Q: Congratulations Marc, a very successul event for Seb, but it was a bit less successful for Dani. We all saw the accident in SS20 on television; can you explain exactly why it happened when the crews were told beforehand the stage would be treated as cancelled and not to drive at racing speeds? This means that the gap to Ford in the Manufacturers’ Championship comes down; are you worried? What is your plan for the four events that remain?

MvD: I don’t know why Dani’s accident happened; it’s clearly a stupid mistake. There was no reason to do that, especially when the stage had been cancelled. He is a young driver, 23 years-old, and I hope this can help him for the future. Things like that are not acceptable at this level. We expect on rallies like this to get some more points. We know that the Xsara is a very strong car and we wanted more points. Okay it is never finished. We are still leading. Seven points is not a big gap, but we will see after Turkey. It is difficult, when we started the season the Manufacturers’ Championship was not our objective. After every event we saw it was possible. We must work hard all together to give some confidence back to Dani. We will see. We know that Seb and Daniel are very strong. I am very proud of them.

Q: What did you think of the event? Cyprus is leaving the World Championship next year; will you miss it? Do you think you are well-prepared for the Rally of Turkey now? How good is the Citroen Xsara in these sorts of rough conditions?

SL: This year the roads for me were much better and less rough. The organisation made a good job. Also the organisation was not perfect. A lot of little things that the co-drivers know better than me. We have some new rallies coming in. I think they could be interesting. Everything is going well with our car. Okay, I am confident and know it will be a fight.

Q: Of your three wins in Cyprus, which one is your favourite and what memories do you have of this rally?

DE: Cyprus this year. The first year was not really a victory. The first year was Marcus’s victory on the stages. Last year there was no battle. I finish with more than four minutes’ lead. And this year we had a fight with Marcus and Timo. When you finish one stage of 30 km and you have a tiny advantage, it was fantastic.

Q: As we were saying with Marc Van Dalen earlier, BP-Ford is now getting very close to Kronos Citroen in the Manufacturers’ Championship, What can you do to help them win it? Does this affect your tactics for the rest of the year and will you be concentrating more on scoring points than aiming for wins? Do you think that Ford can do it? There was a new stage in Limassol today. What did you think of it?

MG: We need to win rallies and we have to finish as well. If you are thinking too much about this you cannot be fast. The down town stage was a little bit dangerous. The people were in bad places in the braking and the tarmac here is so slippery. It could have been a disaster. Better to do it like we did.

Q: After this hot and rough event, do you feel optimistic about your chances in Turkey, which is run in similar conditions? Do you think you can have revenge on Sebastien there? Is the car well-suited to these conditions?

TR: I am hoping that we could challenge a bit more of his speed. I’m confident. Turkish roads are a little bit wider, faster and more flowing than here. I hope we can beat him. Maybe Sébastien is driving slow on the first run through stages and faster on the second ones.

Q: What are your thoughts about the Manufacturers’ Championship Mikko? It looks very close now. What do you think your chances are now of finishing on the podium on all the other rallies?

MH: This is what we are looking for at the moment. We have a good chance of being on the podium. Like always it will be a good fight, but we can do it again. Hopefully it will not be too long before I challenge Marcus and Seb. Some rallies I am very close and on other rallies we still have work to do. This is the last step. We are getting closer and getting consistent finishes.

Q: How do you think Mikko has improved as a driver over the last few months? His consistency seems very impressive indeed?

JL: I think you can see the result of his improvement. He is much more consistent. The safe speed is higher. We cannot match Seb and Marcus at the moment, but we can match everyone else.

Q: An exciting time now. How are you feeling?

MvD: If you asked me at the start of the season, if you would have eight victories from 12 events, I would tell you you were crazy. It is fantastic. There is a real team spirit. We are so motivated. Our team’s challenge this year is so important for me. We are very strong.

FIA PRODUCTION CAR WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

1st - Fumio Nutahara 1st - Daniel Barritt

Q: Fumio. Congratulations. When Nasser was leading on the opening day, did you think you would be able to catch and pass him? Were you surprised when Toshi Arai went off on the first day.

FN: I look at the long stage and saw Nasser off the road. I think keep your concentration, but it was very difficult. Toshi went off. He is a very fast driver. But I think Cyprus Rally was very difficult and we needed to take no punctures and no risks to win.

Q: Daniel, congratulations. How did the Championship situation affect your tactics here? Were you driving flat out to chase a win, or was it important to secure a consistent points finish?

DB: We needed to try and score as many points as possible to try and catch Nasser and reach the finish without problems. Over the three days that was the plan and it came off.

Q: The conditions here were very rough; how did your Mitsubishi and Yokohama tyres cope with all the rocks? Did you have any problems?

FN: This rally Mitsubishi was very strong. No troubles for us. Yokohama tyres were fantastic, no puncture, just one side cut. Tyres no problem for us.

Q: How tricky was it to keep the right rhythm here with the notes and the car? Was this one of the most difficult events that you have done?

FN: It was quite difficult. After Nasser had his accident we slowed our pace down. It all went okay. This is probably the most difficult weekend I have had in rallying – from the recce to the finish today.

Q: What is your Championship situation like now and what is your next rally? Are you feeling confident?

FN: We have two rallies in Australia and New Zealand. Australia is maximum attack. Nasser goes to New Zealand. Maybe we have a good battle. I feel confident now.

Q: What do you think of the Championship format? There were only 10 registered runners here; would you like to see all your competitors here on all the events?

DB: Difficult one. The competition is the same on every rally. This was a good one from our point of view, but it would be better if there were 15 on each rally. There are pluses and minuses for everyone.