Competing practically at home, on his beloved Cyprus and demonstrating his dominance, Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar), with co-driver Mathieu Baumel (Andorra) and a Volkswagen Polo GTi R5, triumphed in the anniversary 50th Cyprus Rally, held between 6-8 October 2023 and organized by the Cyprus Automobile Association! Al-Rawahi finished 2nd and Demosthenous 3rd and first Cypriot.
The Qatari covered the 194.88 kilometres of the twelve special stages of the two-day event in a time of 3 hours, 3 minutes and 38 seconds, finishing top in the general classification, 3 minutes and 21 seconds faster than Abdullah Al-Rawahi / Ata Al-Hmoud with a Skoda Fabia R5, who claimed 2nd place, improving on their 3rd place in 2021.
The award ceremony took place on Sunday evening at the old Nicosia city hall in “Eleftheria” square, with the ambassador of Qatar to the Republic of Cyprus, HE Ali Yousef Al-Mulla presenting the trophy to his compatriot. Municipal council of Nicosia Valerios Danielides awarded the second place trophy and Imad Lahoud, FIA MERC coordinator the third place trophy.
Nasser Al-Attiyah recorded his 8th victory in the Cyprus Rally (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019, 2020, 2023) and extended his multiple winner lead of our national race. In addition, he reached ten podium appearances, since in 2007 he was 2nd and in 2008 he was 3rd. Second in wins in Cyprus Rally, with four victories (2004, 2005, 2006, 2009), is the 9-times WRC champion Sébastien Loeb.
The Middle East champion remains unknown!
However, as far as the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) 2023 is concerned, which concluded in Cyprus with the 5th event of the season, the FIA will be tasked to decide the champion, according to its Regional Championship Regulations! This is because with the 30 points that Al-Attiyah obtained from his victory and the 24 points that Al-Rawahi got from the second place, the two are tied on 108 points, with a dead heat between them, since in this year’s MERC they both managed two wins, two second places and faced one retirement, in Oman, Qatar, Jordan, Lebanon and Cyprus.
For the MERC2 category, the championship was decided in Cyprus, with Mshari Al-Thefiri (Kuwait), with co-driver Nasser Al-Kuwari (Qatar) and a Mitsubishi Evo X car, winning the title for 8th time. He said that he will drive a new car in new category in 2024.
Al-Attiyah said that it would be fair for the title to be shared between him and Al-Rawahi. He also expressed his wish for the Cyprus Rally to return to the ERC (European Rally Championship). Al-Rawahi said that his goal is to compete in the WRC (World Rally Championship).
At the end of the 1st day, on Saturday (07/10), Simos Galatariotis was top in the general classification, along with co-driver Antonis Ioannou and a Volkswagen Polo GTi R5. The 2018 Cyprus Rally winner was fastest on four of Saturday’s six SS’s and had built a 15.2 second lead over Al-Attiyah, which also gave him the victory in rally No3 of the Cyprus Championship (each day of the Cyprus Rally counted as a different event for the local championship). But, early on Sunday, just at SS7, he was forced to retire, when he broke his radiator at the jump point on the Yeri stage.
Careful drive by Nasser
The retirement of Galatariotis opened the way to victory for Al-Attiyah, since he already had a significant lead against the other contender for the win, Abdullah Al-Rawahi (Oman), due to the latter’s flat tire in SS6, when he had lost more than three minutes. By the end of SS7, the Qatari had already opened up the gap to 4 minutes, with the remaining five stages not being enough for Al-Rawahi to cover the ground. Al-Attiyah drove carefully the rest of the day, making sure to bring his Volkswagen Polo GTi R5 to the finish line as unscathed as possible.
The 26-year-old Al-Rawahi, however, closed his second appearance in our national race in an excellent way, by being fastest in four of Sunday’s stages, which were also his first stage win of his career in Cyprus. Nasser Al-Attiyah and Simos Galatariotis also won four stages.
This year’s event was sponsored by Honda – Galatariotis, ANCO Catering Equipment, Cablenet, Stop Fire, Andreopoulos Signs, Farmakas Natural Spring Water, Jeep and TGI Friday’s. It was supported by the Nicosia and Aglantzia Municipalities.
Demosthenous the top Cypriot
Christos Demosthenous, with co-driver Kypros Christodoulou and a Skoda Fabia R5, finished in 3rd place in the general classification and top of all the Cypriot crews! With five placings in the top three of SS, the champion of Cyprus in 2015 and 2016 claimed for the second time in his career a spot on the podium of the Cyprus Rally, after the 3rd place he took in 2020.
At the same time, the two of them celebrated their first victory of the season in the Cyprus Championship, since each day of the Cyprus Rally counted as a separate race.
Second Cypriot crew was that of Panayiotis Yiangou / Aristos Nicolaou, with a Hyundai i20 R5, who finished in 4th place in the general classification, 9 minutes and 1 second behind the winner. Just 18.8 seconds behind Yiangou, was Petros Panteli in 5th, along with co-driver Pambos Laos, in a Renault Clio. First in the Rally4 category, for cars with two-wheel drive, were Chrysostomos Panteli / Toullis Aristodemou with a Peugeot 208, who took 6th place overall.
Of the 23 crews that started on Friday night (06/10), 16 completed the first leg and 15 completed the rally.