Cyprus: a little quicker - a lot, lot rougher...

The 2001 Rally of Cyprus will be faster than last year's debut World Rally Championship event - but it will also be even rougher, according to the drivers

Cyprus: a little quicker - a lot, lot rougher...

Cyprus, along with the Safari and Acropolis events, is regarded as one of the biggest car-breakers on the calendar. Its gravel stages have the lowest average speed of any WRC round, but are strewn with rocks that can become even more of a problem on second run throughs.

This year's event includes a large number of new stages which look set to up the speeds, but also up the roughness scale.

"The stages seem a little faster than they were last year," said Skoda's Armin Schwarz, "but in places they are far rougher too. There are also several very tricky sections which could catch out a few of the less wary. If we can get to the finish I'm sure we can have a reasonable result as the rate of attrition is going to be very high."

Mitsubishi's Freddy Loix backed up Schwarz's observations, saying: "It's a little bit quicker, but it's also rougher than last year. There are a lot of rocks on the road."

Schwarz's team mate Bruno Thiry added: "Tyre wear and durability will be a concern. The surfaces are very abrasive and it will only get worse on the second run through some of these stages."

With temperatures already soaring to a roasting 32 degrees C, heat could also be a problem for the cars and their drivers. Cockpit temperaturs could rise as high as 55 degrees, while tyres and mechanical components could suffer.

"The heat is going to be hard for cooling systems and tyres," said world championship points-leader Tommi Makinen.

"As the speeds are so slow here in Cyprus, very little air passes into the car and that's going to make life fairly uncomfortable for everyone," added Schwarz.

The rally, which is the shortest on the calendar in terms of stage miles, is based in Limassol and starts tomorrow (Friday) at 06:48 BST (08:48 local time). The first leg consists of six stages, three of which are longer than 30 kilometres long.

For a full Rally of Cyprus entry list,
click here.

For a full timetable (local times),
click here.

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