Playing catch-up will be key when the FIA European Rally Championship heads back to Cyprus for the first time since 1999 this week. With three scoring opportunities remaining before the all-action 2014 ERC season reaches its climax in Corsica, Craig Breen and Zoltán Bessenyey will both be anxious to score strong points on the CNP Asfalistiki Cyprus Rally starting tomorrow.
Based in Nicosia and using mixed-surface stages, the legendary event represents an enormous opportunity for Irishman Breen and Hungarian Bessenyey to make inroads in their pursuit of the overall ERC drivers’ crown and the ERC 2WD title respectively.
Following last month’s Barum Czech Rally Zlín, Breen is 53 points behind Esapekka Lappi in the race to become 2014 European champion, while Bessenyey trails Stéphane Lefebvre by 15 points in the ERC 2WD standings.
With neither Lappi nor Lefebvre including the Cyprus Rally on their schedules for 2014, Breen (Peugeot Rally Academy 208T16) and Bessenyey (Eurosol Racing Team Hungary Honda Civic Type R) are well placed to capitalise with a maximum of 39 points up for grabs for both drivers.
However, they won’t just be facing serious competition ahead but a tough challenge too, with drivers required to master the art of competing against the clock on a combination of asphalt and gravel roads on the same special stage, and with a compromised car set-up. While a move away from the famous Troodos Mountains due to the risk of forest fires means faster and less punishing stages, high ambient and ground temperatures will provide a big test for car and crew.
Following Free Practice and the Qualifying Stage today, the action begins in earnest with a landmark test through the streets of the Cypriot capital Nicosia, tomorrow Friday 19 September. Part of the route runs through the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish areas of the historic city. Saturday’s action consists of four repeated stages south of Nicosia with three visits to the permanent service park in the capital. Sunday’s route features three repeated stages, including two west of Nicosia. There will be another three service park visits ahead of the finish in Nicosia at 18:30hrs local time.