Al Attiyah storms to early lead in Cyprus rally

first_imgIn a nail-biting contest in the Cyprus Rally, Qatar’s Nasser al Attiyah took early control of the race with a storming drive over Saturday’s morning stages, arriving at the halfway service 26 seconds ahead of reigning ERC champion Alexey Lukyanuk of Russia.Last year’s winner, Cypriot ace Simos Galatariotis, also had a good morning, clocking third fastest on the first two stages and fourth on stage 3 to return at the end of the morning loop in third place overall, albeit almost a minute off Lukyanuk’s pace and just 16 seconds ahead of Britain’s Chris Ingram. Poland’s Łukasz Habaj rounded off the top five.In the ERC2 category, Petros Panteli made full use of his local knowledge to pull out a nice cushion ahead of Argentina’s Juan Carlos Alonso.Stage 4 saw no change to the top three, but Habaj moved up to fourth ahead of Ingram, with Mikko Hirvonen chasing hard in sixth place overall and apparently enjoying the challenge of the Cyprus stages after a ten-year absence from the event.Lukyanuk pulled out the stops in stage 5 to claw back 2.8 seconds and the race leader acknowledged the fact at the stage finish: “I think we are slower here; the road is completely destroyed” said the Qatari.Third fastest was Ingram – delighted to have overhauled his rival Habaj and moved up to fourth again, although he admitted he might have been taking things a bit too carefully and promised “a big push” on Sunday.The crews headed into the final stage of the day – the mostly tarmac Nicosia Superspecial street stage – with just 23.8 seconds separating the top two drivers. Galatariotis still held third overall, but was over a minute and a half behind the Russian, with Ingram 31 seconds away from the Cypriot and a mere 4 seconds ahead of the Pole.As the crowds gathered downtown for Saturday’s final test, it was clear that a battle royal was underway. Little changed over the 3.5 km stage, but with under five minutes separating the leader from the 10th placed driver at the overnight halt, there was everything to play for on Sunday. With over one hundred competitive kilometres scheduled, a single puncture could alter the leaderboard dramatically.Sunday’s stages take place at Kapouras, Kourdali and Asinou before the Finish on Larnaca seafront at 6pm. Standings after Leg 1:Al-Attiyah/Baumel                           Volkswagen Polo Gti R5                 01:16:29.5Lukyanuk/Arnautov                        Citroën C3 R5                                     01:16:54.9Galatariotis/Ioannou                      Škoda Fabia R5                                  01:18:40.6Ingram/Whittock                              Škoda Fabia R5                                  01:19:04.8Habaj/Dymurski                                Škoda Fabia R5                                  01:19:14.2Hirvonen/Ottman                            Ford Fiesta R5                                    01:19:28.6von Thurn und Taxis/Ettel             Škoda Fabia R5                                  01:20:27.0Al-Kuwari/Clarke                              Škoda Fabia R5                                  01:21:02.8Herczig/Ferencz                                Volkswagen Polo Gti R5                 01:19:09.3Fernàndez/Coronado                     Škoda Fabia R5 Evo                          01:21:13.5last_img read more

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