Cyprus Rally History
The Cyprus Rally was first held in 1970. Back then, it was a long, rough, tough and ultimately destructive event, with unattainable average speeds and controls placed to extract maximum time penalties. However, it was efficiently organised and overseas visitors enjoyed the warm hospitality and genuine friendliness of the event. The rally quickly climbed the European coefficients, reaching coefficient 3 in 1978. 1982 saw the Cyprus Rally promoted to the top level in Europe and it went on to become one of the elite when coefficient 20 was devised in 1988. From then, the goal was the World Championship. This happened in 2000 when the Cyprus organizers were thrown in at the deep end. With just four months in which to put everything together, when the rally was taken into the WRC as a last-minute replacement for the China Rally.
1970 and Hannu Mikkola was the star the first year but he failed to finish - engine failure forced him to retire his Ford Escort halfway through - and the winners were the three-man Anglo-Cypriot crew of Victor Zachariades, Loris Ellinas and Roger Fisher.
In 1971 local champion Christos Kirmitsis won in a Ford Escort TC, pushing Brian Culcheth and Johnstone Syer into second place. The British pair returned the following year, only to be pipped at the post again by a Cypriot: Lefteris Makrides in a Mercedes 250CE.
Stig Blomqvist and Arne Hertz brought their Saab 96 to the 3rd Cyprus International Rally and won, annihilating all opposition.
In 1976 Cyprus rally drew entries from Spaniard Antonio Zanini, Ireland's Billy Coleman and Shekhar and Yvonne Mehta, the winners. The Mehtas returned in 1977 but success eluded them, the victors' laurels going to local champion Kypros Kyprianou in a Hillman Avenger.
In 1978 the event was awarded coefficient 3 in the European Championship - and Britain's Roger Clark won. Ari Vatanen and Dave Richards were the winners of the 1979 event while second place was enough to secure the European Championship for Jochi Kleint of Germany.
1980 saw Roger Clark triumph again in a works prepared Ford Escort RS and become the first driver to win the event twice - a record that stood for fourteen years.
Vahan Terzian, who dominated motorsport in Cyprus for a decade, took the lead in the 1981 rally after Britain's Malcolm Wilson retired his Ford Escort early in the event. Cypriots took the top three places; but the island was not to see another local winner for ten years.
Meanwhile the rally had been steadily climbing the European ladder and it achieved coefficient 4 in 1982, the year that Tony Fassina left with the winner's trophy and the European Championship in the bag. Jimmy McRae and Ian Grindrod romped home in an Opel Manta 400 the following year. John Buffum of the USA brought the Audi Quattro to Cyprus in 1984 and led from start to finish.
An unknown entity to the Cypriots before the start, Mauro Pregliasco was the dark horses of the Lancia team in 1985. However, with their uncanny knack of spotting the winner, the crowds were soon urging the Italian on to a flamboyant win.
After an epic battle with Cypriot Dimi Mavropoulos, Belgian Patrick Snijers, driving a Lancia 037, won the 14th Cyprus Rally and secured second place in the European Championship.
Britons David Llewellin and Phil Short gave Audi its second victory in 1987, conquering the tough Cyprus stages in the Coupe Quattro. 1988 saw Toyota Team Europe bring a very powerful team to the event - now at coefficient 20 - to test the new Celica GT-Four prior to its World Championship debut. Kenneth Eriksson shot into an early lead, only to lose it to teammate Bjorn Waldegaard, who went on to win in a spectacular drive that gave the Toyota its first major victory.
Meanwhile Fabrizio Tabaton, in a Lancia Delta Integrale, and 1986 winner Snijers, in a BMW M3, fought for European Championship sovereignty. The Italian was the final victor after the Belgian crashed out in the third leg.
The following year Corsican driver Yves Loubet, who was already leading the European Championship, clinched it with his win in Cyprus.
After 15 previous attempts and being runner-up three times, Dimi Mavropoulos finally realised his dream in 1990. It was not an easy win, for Vahan Terzian, driving a 1600cc Honda Civic, fought a David and Goliath battle all the way against the Audi Quattro of Mavropoulos.
Cypriots prevailed again in 1991 as Antonis Jeropoulos, in the Mitsubishi Gallant VR4, had a runaway victory over Mavropoulos.
The young Italian Alessandro Fiorio, driving the Astra Team's Lancia Delta Integrale 16V, surged ahead in the first stage of the 20th Cyprus Rally and stayed there - scoring his first coefficient 20 win. Mavropoulos came in second while Pole Marian Bublewicz’s third overall assured him second slot in the European Championship.
Fiorio returned in 1993 to equal Roger Clark's record and to set a new one of two consecutive wins. He accomplished both objectives after a thrilling dogfight with Jeropoulos in the Mitsubishi VR4.Young Cypriot Zacharias Prastitis won F2 in his Honda Civic Si. In 1994 the amiable young Italian came back for the third year running, intent on driving his Astra Team Lancia Delta into the record books with a hat trick of wins. He achieved his goal with a stupendous drive during which he set a further record by winning every special stage.
Vahan Terzian, in the Toyota Celica, was more than happy with second place and Group N. Dimi Mavropoulos rounded off the top three in the Ford Escort Cosworth while Prastitis picked up the F2 Cup again.
Lebanese driver "Bagheera", driving an Astra Team Lancia Delta, made history at the 1995 event when he became the first Arab to win a major European Rally. Second was Cypriots Lenas Cleanthous, who also took Group N honors in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO while first in F2 - and third overall - in the Opel Astra GSi, was enough to secure the European 2WD crown for Russian Evgeny Vassine.
In 1996 both the European Championship leader, Kurt Gottlicher of Austria, and Toyota Team Germany driver Armin Schwarz came to Cyprus intent on winning. Schwarz set the pace, pulling further and further ahead of Gottlicher and smashing each stage record as they went. He eventually cruised to victory and to the top of the European league table. In Formula 2, Germans Nikolai Burkart consolidated his place at the top of the European leader board.
In 1997 the European title leader was here again. Krzysztof Holowczyc Poland knew from the start that a top three place would secure him the crown. So he stamped his mark on the rally from the very first stage, never faltering in the Subaru Impreza 555 and finishing over 14 minutes ahead of second placed Andreas Tsouloftas. Andreas Peratikos of Cyprus was third and Group N winner in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo III.
Formula 2 honours went to local driver Savvas Andreou in his Seat Ibiza GTi.
In 1998 Andrea Navarra of Italy, driving a Subaru WRX1, raced to the top of the European Championship with a convincing win at the 26th Cyprus Rally. Emil Triner of the Czech Republic took second place and F2 in the Skoda Octavia KC and Andreas Peratikos was again third overall and first in Group N in the Lancer.
In 1999 Monegasque Jean-Pierre Richelmi, driving a Subaru Impreza, scored his first coefficient 20 win. European Championship leader Enrico Bertone, who brought his Renault Megane KC to Cyprus to add to his points tally, was beaten into seventh place after being dogged by niggling mechanical problems throughout the 1050 kilometre route. Pavel Sibera, driving the Czech National Team’s Skoda Octavia KC, achieved what he set out to do. He won F2 and beat Bertone. Cyprus’ Andreas Peratikos made the hat trick, finishing third and first in Group N for the third consecutive year.
The WRC Years
The event was a level playing field for the WRC teams as Armin Schwarz was the only driver to have competed on the island. A crushing start-to-finish victory gave Carlos Sainz his first win in the Ford Focus and his 23rd in the WRC. Team-mate Colin McRae came in second and François Delecour rounded off the top three for Peugeot.
The 2001 rally moved from sweltering September to flaming June and Ford won again. This time Colin McRae took the honours. Richard Burns was runner-up for Subaru and Carlos Sainz was third in another Ford.
Marcus Grönholm won the 2002 Cyprus Rally, run in lashing April rainstorms, without winning a single stage! His Peugeot team-mate Burns was second and Tommi Mäkinen brought his Subaru home in third place.
In 2003, the rally was back to June and Subaru’s Petter Solberg scored his first win of the season – a season that culminated in his taking the World Championship crown. Harri Rovanperä managed to hang on to second place in his Peugeot while Sébastien Loeb took third in the Citroën, leading the three double-chevrons to a 3-4-5 finish.
Sébastien Loeb was declared winner of the 2004 Cyprus Rally in the Citroën Xsara, after Marcus Grönholm was disqualified because of a technical infringement on the Peugeot 307 WRC. Estonian Markko Märtin was second, retaining the Manufacturers’ Championship lead for Ford, and Carlos Sainz was third in the second Xsara.
2005 saw double world champion Loeb rack up the fourth of his record-breaking ten season’s victories in his Citroën Xsara. When engine problems put paid to Marcus Grönholm’s Peugeot and Petter Solberg’s Subaru on the first day, Loeb pulled away from the rest of the field and eventually cruised to victory, 4m 09.5s ahead of Austrian Manfred Stohl, who took second in his OMV-backed Xsara. Third place went to Markko Märtin in the second Peugeot 307 WRC.
Loeb continued to rewrite the history books by securing a record-breaking 28th WRC victory at the 2006 Cyprus Rally. Partnered by Daniel Elena, Loeb’s Citroen Xsara finished with a comfortable winning margin of 21.2 seconds over Grönholm’s Ford Focus. Grönholm’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was third overall in a second Focus.
In 2007, the Cyprus Rally was round 6 of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) and Charalambos Timotheou became the first Cypriot driver to win the event since 1991, taking overall victory with Pambos Laos in their Mitsubishi EVO IX. Defending Middle East and P-WRC champ Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and co-driver Chris Patterson came 2nd in their Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while Cypriots Dimitris Papasavvas and Vangelis Xenofontos, also in an Impreza WRX STi, completed the podium.
The Cyprus Rally was round 2 of the 2008 FIA Middle East Championship. Cypriot Nicos Thomas and co-driver SG Chips won the event in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. At 20 years of age, Thomas was the youngest driver ever to win the Cyprus Rally and also the youngest driver to ever win a MERC event. Cypriot Savvas Savva secured 2nd place in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, while Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah finished 3rd in his Subaru.
2009 marked a return to the WRC with the FxPro Cyprus Rally round 3 on the calendar. Sébastien Loeb – with Daniel Elena at his side – scored an emphatic victory in his Citroen C4 and made history by securing his landmark 50th WRC victory in the process! Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen finished second in his Ford Focus, with Norwegian privateer Petter Solberg securing the last place on the podium in his Citroen Xsara.
2010 saw the FxPro Cyprus Rally join the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), while also serving double duty as an official round of the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). The final round of the 2011 IRC calendar, and round 7 of the MERC, the event saw defending Middle East Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and his co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini of Italy steer their Ford Fiesta S2000 to a stunning victory. While Al-Attiyah had enjoyed an outstanding record of victories in Cyprus’s Troodos Rally, this marked his first Cyprus Rally win. The inaugural Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally, held immediately after the FxPro Cyprus Rally, was won in thrilling style by Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Floene in their Ford Fiesta S2000.
In 2011, the Cyprus Rally moved west to Pafos and saw Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen secure the IRC title on the final event of season. No fewer than five drivers had the chance to take the IRC title here, but it was Mikkelsen who proved the master, steering his Skoda Fabia S2000 to a worthy victory alongside co-driver Ola Floene. Qatari ace Nasser Al-Attiyah, who had been a favourite to take victory, was running second on the final day when engine failure ended his event prematurely. In a confident performance, Mikkelsen kept his cool to take the event and the season with phenomenal pace and considerable style. Immediately after the Cyprus Rally, Belgium’s Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul dominated the 2nd ever Cyprus Golden Stage Rally from the start, steering their Peugeot 207 S2000 to a well-earned victory with a bravura display of driving.
In 2012, the Cyprus Rally stays in Paphos. Final event of 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge and the penultimate round of FIA Middle East Rally Championship. Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini steered their Ford Fiesta RRC to a memorable 3 minute 35.3 second victory over closest rival Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian manage to win the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Toshi Arai’s performance was enough to see him finish the event in 3rd place overall and as the 1st among the IRC Production Cup drivers in a Subaru Impreza. Savvas Savva finish the rally 6th and he was first among the Cypriot crews. Britain’s Harry Hunt secured himself the IRC 2WD Cup in his Citroen DS3. He started the event locked in a battle with France’s Robert Consani (Renault Clio R3) but Consani’s event ended in SS4, leaving the route to the 2WD Cup clear for Hunt who just had to finish the event.
In 2013, the Cyprus rally moved to the capital after a long absence, while also serving double duty as an official round of the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship. In truly imperious form, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini on board their Ford Fiesta RRC clinched victory and a ninth Middle-East Rallying Championship in the CNP Asfalistiki Cyprus Rally 2013. With only Dubai left in the MERC the Qatari multi-champion can now set his sights on next years Rally Dakar. Almost three minutes behind them was Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin with their Citroen DS3 RRC. The battle for second place was glorious with the Emirati driver claiming second place only 4.7s in front of the Qatari rallying prodigy Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and his co-driver Killian Duffy. In 4th place overall was 2010 MERC champion Misfer Al-Marri and Nicola Arena on board their Ford Fiesta RRC. Right behind them was the Cyprus championship leader Costas Georgiou “Chips” with Elena Pieri and their Mitsubishi Lancer.
CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally 2014 was a one-of-a-kind event. Two sanctioned FIA rounds ran side by side with the 9th round of the ERC and the 5th round of the MERC both took place on the same weekend. Yazeed Al Rajhi rocked the island with a commanding win from Friday Super Special Stage in the streets of Nicosia. The Saudi with Michael Orr by his side battled Kajetan Kajetanowicz and Jaroslaw Baran of Poland throughout the rally. Abdul Aziz Al Kuwari was third overall with his Ford Fiesta while the Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi finished fourth. Fifth place overall was the Portuguese crew of Bruno and Carlos Maghalaes and their Peugeot 208 T16. Christos Demosthenous and Pambos Laos finished six and first among the Cypriot crews.
Eight time Middle East Rally Champion, Qatar’s Nasser Ali Attiyah on board a Ford Fiesta RRC conquered the CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally 2015 after a relentless battle with Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz with a Ford Fiesta R5 who finished second overall just seven seconds behind the Qatari driver who secured the ninth Middle East Rally title. That was Al Attiyah’s fourth victory in the Cyprus Rally equaling France’s Sebastian Loeb’s record. CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally counted as the ERC’s eighth round and round five of the Middle East Rally Championship. Qatari Abdulaziz Al Kuwari with co-driver Clarke Marshall behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta RRC finished third overall, in front of Portugal’s Bruno Magalhaes, also on board a Peugeot 208 T16.
Christos Demosthenous and Pambos Laos behind the wheel of a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 took top honours among the Cypriot crews, finishing ninth overall. Savvas Savva and Andreas Papandreou driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 followed in second place and Costas Zenonos with Kyriacos Damianou also driving a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9 completed the Cypriot drivers top three.