Nasser Al-Attiyah was quickest on the Limassol superspecial that opened the Cyprus Rally tonight, leading a Ford one-two-three
The Intercontinental Rally Challenge returnee and World Rally Championship regular outpaced IRC frontrunner Andreas Mikkelsen's Hankook Ford by 0.6 seconds, while Czech driver Jaromir Tarabus impressed as he took third place, 0.2s down on Mikkelsen's time.
But there have already been problems for Tarabus' Czech Ford team-mate Martin Prokop, whose first IRC appearance of 2010 immediately went awry when his Ford developed a differential problem. Production WRC frontrunner Prokop lost 12.2s on the superspecial and fears there will be greater delays incurred in service tomorrow.
Bryan Bouffier is the top Peugeot in fourth, ahead of fellow 207 driver Franz Wittmann, while Lebanese driver Roger Feghali holds sixth in the only S2000 Skoda in the event.
Sometime works Ford WRC driver Roman Kresta is top Group N driver at present, holding eighth in his Mitsubishi.
With the IRC title battles already resolved, many of the season-long frontrunners are skipping the Cyprus finale - including all the rally winners so far this year. The works Skoda teams and the Kronos Peugeots are among the high-profile absentees.
Pos Driver Car Time/Gap 1. Nasser Al-Attiyah Ford 2m21.7s 2. Andreas Mikkelsen Ford + 0.6s 3. Jaromir Tarabus Ford + 0.8s 4. Bryan Bouffier Peugeot + 3.1s 5. Franz Wittmann Peugeot + 3.8s 6. Roger Feghali Skoda + 6.5s 7. Daniel Oliveira Peugeot + 8.4s 8. Roman Kresta Mitsubishi + 9.6s 9. Nicos Thomas Peugeot + 10.9s 10. Martin Prokop Ford + 12.2s
The fifth Intercontinental Rally Challenge was the best yet, and it was Skoda UK driver Andreas Mikkelsen who emerged as champion from a tense five-way shootout at the season finale. Matt Beer reviews the season