Skoda drivers carry IRC title hopes to Cyprus

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ŠKODA drivers start this weekend’s Cyprus Rally in the strongest position to add the Intercontinental Rally Challenge Drivers’ title to the Manufacturers’ title already won, when Andreas Mikkelsen (ŠKODA UK Motorsport), Jan Kopecký and Juho Hänninen (ŠKODA Motorsport) and Freddy Loix (BFO ŠKODA Rally Team) head to the final round of the series in a quartet of Fabia S2000s.

Although victory alone in Cyprus might not be enough for Andreas to lift the title, he will arrive on the Mediterranean island on top form. In a steadily-improving season, he and co-driver Ola Fløene have at times led the last five rallies in the Azores, Czech Republic, Hungary, Sanremo and Scotland – finishing on the podium twice before scoring a career-first IRC win last time out on the penultimate rally of the season.

Last weekend, Andreas also became Italian Gravel Trophy Champion on the Rally Conca d’Oro in Sicily.

In an exceptionally busy season, in which Andreas has also contested Rally Finland and been part of the FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy, the Cyprus Rally will be his 17th and final rally this season. It won’t be his final public appearance in a ŠKODA rally car however, as Andreas will drive a Fabia WRC at the Solberg Extreme Motorshow, which takes place in at Telenor Arena near Oslo on Saturday 26 November.

The Cyprus Rally is likely to be one of the most difficult events of the year, as the IRC title decider will be played out on a tough mixed surface event, with a near 50:50 split of rough gravel mountain tracks and smooth asphalt roads. Andreas is the only one of the five IRC title contenders who go to Cyprus having contested the event last year.

Andreas: “Our win in Scotland has really helped our position in the drivers’ championship and given us a chance of winning the title on the final round. To do that we have to win in Cyprus, so we have nothing to lose and we’re going all out to win.”

“I did the Cyprus Rally for the first time last year. Even though it was based in Limassol and the stages were in a different area, the characteristics of this year’s stages near Pafos are the same. There was a mix of gravel and asphalt on the stages last year as well, so I know what to expect in terms of level of grip and things like that, so that experience will come in useful.”

This year’s Cyprus Rally begins at 17.00 on Thursday 3 November with two laps around a spectacular 1 mile (1.6km) superspecial stage, which goes around Pafos Town Hall and is free for spectators. Leg 1 continues the following day with four stages – the mixed surface Koilinia (15 mile/24.15km) and Salamiou (11.28 mile/18.16km), which are attempted twice.

Leg 2 on Saturday 5 November is the longest of the rally and contains three stages – the all-gravel Gialia (9.2 mile/14.82km) test, the all-asphalt Stavros stage (9.8 miles/15.91km) and the mixed surface Anadiou (11.9mile/19.15km) stage – which are run in both the morning and afternoon. After 11 stages totaling 116.55 miles (187.58kms), the rally finishes at 16.00 local time.

The Cyprus Rally will receive unprecedented TV coverage, with the event broadcast in 120 countries – including the UK on Eurosport. Four stages will be shown live on Eurosport – two on Friday 4 November; SS3 and 5 (Salamiou 1 and 2) at 11.00-12.00 and 15.00-16.00 (replayed at 00.15-01.15) and two on Saturday 5 November; SS8 and 11 (Anadiou 1 and 2) at 10.00-11.00 and 15.00-16.00 (times are CET, so check TV listings on the day for details). In addition, Eurosport will broadcast a rally review program from 22.15-22.45hrs on Sunday 6 November, which will be repeated on Eurosport 2 on Tuesday 8 November.

On Sunday 6 November, the separate Cyprus Golden Stage Rally takes place with two runs over a 12.42 mile (20km) mixed surface stage. This will also be broadcast live on Eurosport (11.00-12.00 and 14.00-15.00) has a combined prize fund of 150,000 Euros

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