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ERC Cyprus Rally preview: Kajetanowicz sees big chance as ERC battle hots up in Cyprus

Kajetan ‘Kajto’ Kajetanowicz has a great chance to extend his lead in the FIA European Rally Championship when round eight, the CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally 2015 (25-27 September), gets underway next week.

The Polish LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 driver lands on the sun-kissed Mediterranean island with a 23-point lead in the standings – and with second-placed Craig Breen (Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16) not going to Cyprus, Kajto has a golden opportunity to extend that advantage. And Kajto knows the rally, having finished second last year. However, his task will not be an easy one, as the mixed-surface event will be typically hot, rough and extremely challenging. It’s also predicted to be the fastest Cyprus Rally ever. In addition to the tough terrain and high temperatures, there is the ERC competition to beat as well. And once again the quality field includes all four R5 cars currently eligible for competition, namely the ŠKODA Fabia R5, Ford Fiesta R5, Citroën DS3 R5 and Peugeot 208 T16.

Alexey Lukyanuk will make his Cyprus debut on top form and aiming to spoil Kajto’s points-gathering ambitions. The Russian has scored 62 points in the last two ERC rounds, with victory in Estonia and fourth place in Czech Republic moving him into a strong third position in the series. Thanks to the continued support of Russian Performance Motorsport, the Czech H-Racing team and Pirelli tyres, Lukyanuk will be a serious threat for victory in his Ford Fiesta R5.

Following his monster roll last time out on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin, Robert Consani will have a new Delta Rally-run Citroën DS3 R5 and a new co-driver in the form of experienced Belgian Lara Vanneste – who has navigated for Robert’s brother Stéphane as well as ERC event winners Craig Breen, Freddy Loix, Kevin Abbring and Bryan Bouffier. After three retirements in a row, the Frenchman will be hoping for a change of luck and a return to the podium.

Peugeot’s hopes of victory lie with Bruno Magalhães. The Portuguese has good experience of Cyprus and the mixed-surface route will suit his driving style and his 208 T16 well. Magalhães finished fifth in Cyprus last year.

ŠKODA will be well represented by the privately-entered Fabia R5 of Jaromír Tarabus and the Fabia S2000 of Antonín Tlusťák. The two Czech drivers bring a vast amount of ERC experience with them and will both be up to full speed – Tarabus after getting acclimatised to his R5’s turbocharged engine first time out on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin, and Tlusťák because of the number of both Tarmac and gravel events he has done in his trusty Fabia S2000. Tlusťák finished 10th in Cyprus last year.

Cyprus is a rally that Estonia’s Raul Jeets has been looking forward to for some time, and his hard-charging style should reap rewards in his MM-Motorsport Fiesta R5.

ERC2 top three face tough test from Cypriot stars
Vojtěch Štajf takes a 12-point ERC2 lead into the CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally and the Subaru Czech National Team Impreza WRX STI’s driver’s aim is to leave the island with that advantage intact. His closet rival, Hungarian Dávid Botka, arrives on great form having won last time out on the Barum Czech Rally Zlín in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Both drivers prefer Tarmac, however, so this might be a great opportunity for third-placed Dominykas Butvilas to close the gap in his Subaru Poland Rally Team Impreza WRX STI, as the Lithuanian won on gravel at SATA Rallye Açores. Tibor Érdi’s last ERC2 appearance in Ypres ended with victory and you can’t discount the Mitsubishi driver on gravel either – and the same can be said for his Hungarian countryman Peter Ranga, who also returns in his Topp-Cars Rallye Team Evolution IX. The five visitors face tough competition from three seasoned and speedy Cypriot drivers, all in Lancer Evolution IXs. Christos Demosthenous clinched victory in the ERC Production Car Cup last year and finished sixth overall, and he returns hoping to repeat that success. Stavros Antoniou is also back having finished second and seventh overall last year, while Panikos Polykarpou completes the three-way local challenge.

Ogryzek honours promise to return to ERC3 battle
When Sławomir Ogryzek’s Peugeot was destroyed by fire on the Ypres Rally, he promised to return to the ERC as quickly as possible. And true to his word, the Pole is aiming to rocket up the ERC3 leaderboard when he drives a new Rallytechnology-run 208 R2 in Cyprus. Ogryzek’s season had started brilliantly with victory and maximum points on the Jännerrallye, and while he is currently ninth in the standings there are still enough points available for him to finish runner-up, behind Emil Bergvist, in the ERC3 championship. His ERC3 rival this time out will be experienced Cypriot driver ‘Dimi’, who drives a Suzuki Swift Sport.

Fastest route promised for legendary Cyprus Rally
This year’s Cyprus Rally is expected to be the fastest one ever with 16 spectacular stages, covering a total distance of 664.18 kilometres, lying in wait for the competitors. The ERC crews will get their first speed test on the 4.46km Qualifying stage, which takes place at Agios Sozomenos just outside Nicosia, starting at 09h43 on Friday 25 September. That is followed later the same day with the road selection process in Nicosia and the ceremonial start beside the Mediterranean on the beautiful seaside road of Finikoudes in Larnaca. Leg one on Saturday 26 September contains eight stages totalling 109.2 competitive kilometres and includes the Lythrodontas test, which at 22kms is the longest of the event. The day finishes at 21h00. The second and final leg on Sunday 26 September features a further eight stages totalling 95.3kms before the finish in Larnaca at 18h30. The total competitive distance is 204.5kms, with 62% (126.8kms) run on gravel and 38% (77.7kms) run on Tarmac. Rally headquarters will be located at the well-known Filoxenia conference centre in Nicosia, and the service park will be situated close by in Lieutenant General Evangelos Florakis street.

Nicosia super special stage returns to the buffer zone
The super special stage in Nicosia will once again include a section through the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the historic city’s Greek Cypriot and Turkish inhabited areas. Last year’s super special stage was such a success that it broke the boundaries of sport after being referenced within a report of the Secretary-General of the United Nations as ‘the most successful measure in the building of trust between the communities since 1974’. This year’s urban stage will take place in the early evening of Saturday 26 September, starting from the Griva Digeni and Dimostheni Severi Avenues. The 6.48km stage will finish outside the Nicosia District Court.

Fans get three rallies for the price of one!
Spectators lining the CNP ASFALISTIKI Cyprus Rally 2015 route will be in for a treat, as they’ll enjoy three rallies for the price of one! This year, the eighth round of the FIA European Rally Championship and the fifth round of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship will be two separate events, with two sets of results. Differences in the sporting regulations means that it is easier to keep the two FIA championships separate, while the MERC crews will run first followed by the ERC competitors. The event is also round four of the local rally championship and these crews will run immediately behind the registered ERC drivers.

Q&A with Alexey Lukyanuk
Alexey Lukyanuk has scored 62 points from the last two ERC rounds thanks to a victory on gravel at auto24 Rally Estonia and fourth on the Tarmac of Barum Czech Rally Zlín. Fiaerc.com caught up with the Russian as he prepares for his first visit to Cyprus.

You’ll start the Cyprus Rally as one of the pre-event favourites, even though you have never contested it before! What will you do to prepare for this new event given the high expectations?
“It's another demanding challenge for us as we are normally used to driving in well-known conditions in the Baltic. We still struggle with a lack of experience, but we are learning fast. About the preparation, it’s simple, as we tested ourselves well at a pretty hot Czech event to be ready to face the extremely hot conditions at Cyprus. It’s also great to have a lot of video footage from previous rallies, starting from old WRC events to last year’s ERC. It gives a good explanation of what we should be ready for. We are still developing and enhancing our pace note system and analysing our performance through on-board video. It also helps to train concentration and focus. Finally, I'm going to ride my bicycle each day and buy a new set of the lightest racing underwear with cooling effect.”

Last time out on gravel in Estonia you won in your Mitsubishi. Were you tempted to bring your Lancer Evolution X to Cyprus and why instead are you driving your Ford Fiesta R5?
“Estonia is a different story – it’s fast and flowing, so even heavy N4 cars can provide a chance to set good times. It’s not only because of higher top speed, as we were going 180kph only on a few stages, but also the profile of the road does not require a lot of hard braking from high to low and acceleration, mostly you cruise fast corners with just slight braking. When it comes to technical roads where you have a lot of slow curves, you need more stopping power, more lateral grip, more agility and so on; so it’s definitely better to tackle such roads with R5, S2000, RRC or WRC cars. After all, I'd prefer to go with the R5 Fiesta in Estonia also, but it was a matter of budget and we had to go with N4 Mitsubishi. I love this car, we had a lot of success with it, but I love the Ford even more!”

Are you going for the win in Cyprus, or will any other result please you?
“We should be realistic, because rallying is not about deciding if a driver wants to win or not. We are learning, and it’s more important to show we are reasonable and can go smart with our pace according to the situation. Yes, it is a good surface for me, but it’s different from rally to rally, and it’s my second event with R5 on gravel. So we are going to start carefully and increase our speed step by step, as we did at the Barum rally. Maybe it would be enough to be in top three, that will make us happy.”

Who do you see as your main rivals in Cyprus and why?
“The main challenge will be between Kajto, Robert, Bruno and me, and I hope we all have a trouble-free rally with good competition. Everyone has been there before, Kajto was close to winning last year, and this experience is vital so they have some advantage. We are looking forward to testing our abilities.”

You have scored a total of 62 points on your last two ERC appearances, more than anyone else, and you could still be ERC champion. Can you continue your great form and win the ERC title?
“I think we should stay calm and see how things go. I am not ready to go all in at the moment as we do not have any test programme and we’re not even sure about two last rounds yet. To come and win ERC in one year is an odd thing. We need experience, testing, training, etc. But if there will be a chance to step up, no worries, I'll be there.”

How important is the support you have received from Russian Performance Motorsport, H-Racing and Pirelli?
“You cannot even imagine how important it is for us. Each member in this party does a lot for us. RPM provides basic budget for car rental, H-Racing gives us best price, car and service and Pirelli supply great tyres. All this makes our participation in ERC real, and we say to everyone who supports us many, many thanks!”

FIVE CYPRUS RALLY FACTS
* It’s not just the ERC crews who are taking part in this year’s Cyprus Rally, with the event also hosting round five of the Middle East Rally Championship and the fourth round of the local rally series.
* Although the rally is still based in Nicosia, the start and finish has been moved this year to the more scenic beachfront surrounds of the Larnaca-Finikoudes area.
*The Cyprus Rally’s links with the ERC go back to 1978 when a Co-efficient 3 event was run. It achieved full Co-efficient 20 status in 1988, but didn’t feature on the calendar following the 2004 restructuring until last year.
* The third largest island in the Mediterranean, Cyprus is separated into a Greek south and a Turkish north, with the capital Nicosia also divided. Last year’s rally ran through the United Nations-controlled buffer zone between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish areas of the historic city and will do so again in 2015.
* In the 2012 Summer Games based in London, Cyprus claimed its first-ever Olympic medal – for silver – which was won by the sailor Pavlos Kontides in the Men’s Laser class.

ON THIS EVENT IN 2014…
Yazeed Al-Rajhi claimed his first victory in the FIA European Rally Championship when the Saudi driver won the 2014 Cyprus Rally in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Co-driven by Michael Orr, Al-Rajhi finished 18.9s ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Fiesta R5), after a magnificent recovery from losing time with a broken rear anti-roll bar towards the end of leg one. Kajetanowicz’s excellent performance was also rewarded with the inaugural ERC Gravel Master title and he was the recipient of the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy. Abulaziz Al-Kuwari finished a strong third in his Fiesta RRC, ahead of Khalid Al-Qassimi, who had a handful of spins and overheating issues in his Citroën DS3 RRC. Bruno Magalhães was a fine fifth in his Peugeot 208 T16, which he was using on gravel for the first time. There was late misfortune for Craig Breen when the Irishman’s 208 T16 developed a technical issue on the final stage and he was unable to complete the road section to the finish ramp. There were a number of other top retirements, including Nasser Al-Attiyah (Fiesta RRC) and Robert Consani (Peugeot 207 S2000) due to engine problems, and Jaroslav Orsák damaged his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 on the Nicosia street stage on the first evening. Cypriot driver Christos Demosthenous won the ERC Production Car Cup in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, while Zoltán Bessenyey won the ERC 2WD category by more than six minutes, despite rolling his Honda Civic Type R on leg one!

EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local)
Starts:
18:30hrs, Friday 25 September, Finikoudes Promenade, Larnaca
Finishes:
18:30hrs, Sunday 27 September, Finikoudes Promenade, Larnaca
Headquarters:
Filoxenia Conference Centre, 17 Thrakis Street, CY-1311 Nicosia
Service park:
Lieutenant-General Evangelos Florakis Street, Nicosia
ERC appearances (since the restructuring in 2004):
One
Stages:
16
Stage distance:
204.50 kilometres (109.20 kilometres leg one, 95.30 kilometres leg two)
Liaison:
459.68 kilometres
Total:
664.18 kilometres
Surface:
Asphalt (77.70km/38.00%) and gravel (126.80km/62.00%)

MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION (all timings local)
Media accreditation and media centre:
Filoxenia Conference Centre, Nicosia
Opening times:
12:00hrs-20:00hrs, Wednesday 23 September; 10:00hrs-22:00hrs, Thursday 24 September; 08:00hrs-24:00hrs, Friday 25 September; 06:30hrs-24:00hrs, Saturday 26 September; 08:00hrs-23:00hrs, Sunday 27 September
Free Practice (for FIA/ERC priority drivers):
07:00hrs-09:00hrs, Friday 25 September, Potamia (4.46km)
Qualifying Stage (for FIA/ERC priority drivers):
09:40hrs, Friday 25 September, as above
Shakedown (for all other drivers):
10:30hrs-12:00hrs, Friday 25 September, as above
Start order selection:
13:30hrs, Friday 25 September, Filoxenia Conference Centre, Nicosia
Pre-rally press conference:
14:30hrs, Friday 25 September, Filoxenia Conference Centre, Nicosia
Ceremonial start:
18:30hrs, Friday 25 September, Phoinikoudes Promenade, Larnaca
Post-event press conference:
19:30hrs, Sunday 27 September, Filoxenia Conference Centre, Nicosia. The top three drivers and co-drivers will be in attendance
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy presentation:
Immediately following the post-event press conference at Filoxenia Conference Centre, Nicosia
Event media contact:
Petros Soutzis, press.cyprusrally@gmail.com, +357 99643743
Television coverage:
A preview show, daily highlights and the post-event Inside ERC magazine programme will be broadcast on Eurosport
ERC Rally Radio:
Live throughout the event at Fiaerc.com or through the ERC app
Results, standings, live timing and text commentary:
Fiaerc.com
Rights-free images:
Register at the media lounge section of Fiaerc.com

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Photos

Alexey Lukyanuk_ERC Cyprus Rally.jpg
Alexey Lukyanuk_ERC Cyprus Rally

Kajetan Kajetanowicz_ERC Cyprus Rally.jpg
Kajetan Kajetanowicz_ERC Cyprus Rally

Robert Consani_ERC Cyprus Rally.jpg
Robert Consani_ERC Cyprus Rally

Vojtěch Štajf_ERC Cyprus Rally.jpg
Vojtěch Štajf_ERC Cyprus Rally

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Press contacts

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Paul Evans
+44 7710743167, media.fiaerc.com

Rights-free images: 
Register at the new media section of www.fiaerc.com

Television:
Antonios Argyropoulos
fia_erc_accreditations@eurosport.com

Drivers and teams: 
​Jean-Baptiste Ley
jbley@eurosport.com