Al-At­tiyah all set for Cyprus rally win with big lead

Qatari star holds more than 12-minute lead go­ing into the fi­nal day to­day

Gulf Times - Gulf Times Sport - - FRONT PAGE - By Sports Re­porter

Qatari star Nasser Saleh al-At­tiyah raced to a huge lead in the Cyprus Rally yes­ter­day, set­ting him up for a back-to­back vic­tory in the event to­day.

The first leg of the 2020 edi­tion of the rally, part of the FIA Mid­dle East Rally Championsh­ip, yes­ter­day turned into a fight for sur­vival with nu­mer­ous re­tire­ments. How­ever, alAt­tiyah and his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel ended the day with a lead of 12 min­utes and 29 sec­onds.

The hugely suc­cess­ful Qatar­iFrench duo won three spe­cial stages out of six yes­ter­day.

A con­ser­va­tive drive in their Volk­swa­gen Polo GTI R5 to­day should al­low the 15-time Mid­dle East Rally cham­pion to win his sev­enth Cyprus Rally ti­tle.

“It was a good day for us, but not easy in the be­gin­ning as we lost a bit of time. We came back strong in the sec­ond loop. We have a big lead af­ter day one and I’m happy with the per­for­mance. We had some prob­lems with the drive shaft, but it’s OK, some­times you need to keep go­ing. I hope to have a good day to­mor­row,” said al-At­tiyah.

Seven Cypriot duos fol­lowed the lead­ers into the Ni­cosia Ser­vice Park with the team of Savva Sav­vas and An­drea Pa­pan­dreou sec­ond in their Mit­subishi Lancer EVI IX.

Third over­all are Pana­gi­o­tis Yian­gou and Pana­gi­o­tis Kyr­i­akou in Hyundai i20.

In the 2WD Cat­e­gory, Con­stanti­nos Tel­e­van­tos and Takis Stavrou have a 21.4 sec­ond lead in their Peu­geot 208 R2 ahead of Chrysos­to­mos Pan­teli and Thomas Theo­phanous (Ford Fi­esta).

Yes­ter­day, the crews cov­ered 313.84km of which 105.8km were spe­cial stages. The day was com­pleted by 13 out of the 21 crews who had started in the morn­ing.

The Cyprus Rally ends to­day with four spe­cial stages and the Eneos Su­per Spe­cial Stage at the Achna speed­way at 14:26.

Those who re­tired yes­ter­day are en­ti­tled to re­turn on the sec­ond and last day to­day, how­ever, with pre­scribed penal­ties (the time of the first of their class plus 10 min­utes per stage they did not com­plete).

Alexan­dros Tsoulof­tas was im­pres­sive in the morn­ing spe­cial stages, hav­ing built a 10.9 sec­ond lead on al-At­tiyah in the first two stages. The two tied for the third stage with an ex­act same time of 15:47.9, a rar­ity in rally rac­ing.

In the first noon stage, how­ever, Tsoulof­tas had a prob­lem with the right rear axle of his Volk­swa­gen Polo and fin­ished sec­ond. He then had to re­tire like a few oth­ers had al­ready since morn­ing.

Yian­gou-Kyr­i­akou were sec­ond, but power steer­ing prob­lems on the last stage of the day cost them time and they fin­ished third be­hind Sav­vas-Pa­pan­dreou.

In fourth place are Chris­tos De­mos­thenous and Costas Pavlou in Mit­subishi Lancer Evo IX, Sofi­anos Rousos and An­dreas Yian­nakou (Mit­subishi Lancer Evo X) were fifth. These four Cypriot crews are a mere 65 sec­onds apart, with some big bat­tles an­tic­i­pated to­day.

Oman’s Ab­dul­lah al-Rawahi and his Jor­da­nian co-driver Ata al-Hmoud are in ninth place in their Ford Fi­esta R5. Kuwait’s Me­shari al-The­firi and his Qatari co-driver Nasser al-Kuwari are 12th.

Qatar’s Nasser Saleh al-At­tiyah and French co-driver Matthieu Baumel in ac­tion dur­ing the Cyprus Rally yes­ter­day. (CyprusRall­

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