No one could have imagined the development of the opening rally, which took place in the free area of Famagusta, organized by the Famagusta Car Club. The result of the 34th East SafarI Rally was to be judged after the end of the race, a fact that overshadowed the battles that took place in the special stages.
Taking things from the start, Petrolina ENI Racing Team Tsouloftas-Chrysostomou (Citroen DS3 R5) started the second day with a 21-second advantage over second-placed Petrolina ENI Racing Team Galatariotis-Ioannou (Skoda Fabia R5). The latter, determined to turn the tables against them, won the opening course of the day (Halospitia), reducing the difference by two seconds.
In the next special, Ammunition, the Tsouloftas-Chrysostomou had a flat tire and a spin, as a result of which the difference from their pursuers was reduced to six seconds. Despite their misfortune, they won the special Agia Varvara-Dasaki, raising the difference to 10 seconds, despite the fact that for an unknown reason a political car was found in front of them.
This development did not discourage Galatariotis-Ioannou who in the second pass of the special stages launched a fierce attack winning the last three (Halospitia, Ammunition, Agia Varvara-Dasaki). As a result, they overcame the difference to their detriment and found themselves first with a difference of 0.6 tenths of a second. Beyond that, things took a completely different turn.
Alexandros Tsouloftas asked for the times of the first and second day to be reviewed and the judges decided after the review after a long time that the final result was over Tsouloftas-Chrysostomos, with the difference being 0.3 tenths. Thus the Citroen DS3 R5 crew started this year's championship with a win, which is their first in the East Safari Rally. Also this was the smallest finishing difference between two crews in the history of Cypriot rally races.
Petros Panelis-Kypros Christodoulou (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO10) finished third overall, who fought hard for the podium together with Giorgos and Pavlos Englezou (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) and Costas Zenonos-Fano Christofis (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9). The day started with drama for Panelis-Christodoulou as in the first pass through the special Halospitia they had an exit and as a result they lost precious seconds.
The triple battle continued in the next special stages until the misfortune struck Zenonos-Christofi, as in the second passage of the special Ammunition they had an exit and as a result they left.
Giorgos and Pavlos Egglezou continued to push Panelis-Christodoulou, finally passing in front of them. The last special stage (Agia Varvara-Dasaki) was the one that judged the third place in favor of Paneli-Christodoulou, who won it and managed to finish ahead of Giorgos and Pavlos Egglezos in just two seconds.
Uploaded in this race were Panagiotis Giagkou-Panagiotis Kyriakou with the Hyundai i20 R5. They managed after a steady ride they managed to finish fifth overall, a result which is their best so far with a specific race.
Without taking unnecessary risks, Stavros Antoniou-Dimitris Pieris (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO10) finished in sixth place, while Giorgos Pafitis-Andreas Tsiakkas (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) finished in seventh place, leaving the result completely satisfied.
Christos Limniotis-Michalis Sofokleous (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO9) despite the mistakes they made during the race, nevertheless managed to finish in eighth place. Giorgos Nestoros-Yiannos Kallis (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6) managed to finish ninth even though they were suffering from a mechanical problem since Sunday morning. In addition to the ninth place, the crew also won the RCS 2 category with a big difference from the second place Stefanos and Dimitris Stefanou (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO6) who also suffered from problems.
Michalis Poseidias-Kyriakos Damianou after the exit they had on Saturday which cost them time, managed on Sunday to move better and raise (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO10) to tenth place. Petrolina ENI Racing Team Giagos Giagou-Theodoros Evangelou with Subaru Impreza finished eleventh overall.
Leo-Zoli are the big winners in the two-tier category. From the first day they gained a big lead and on Sunday they moved conservatively without taking any risks that would put them in adventures, putting the Suzuki Swift first on the finish ramp. Konstantinos Televantos-Takis Stavrou finished in second place with a Ford Fiesta.
Finally in the RC3 category, Christos and Iordanis Iordanous with a Peugeot 206 is the crew that won. The restarters on the second day Panagiotis and Andreas Xenofontos (Honda Civic) finished in second place.
The first race of the year left us with a bittersweet taste. Of the 40 entries, many chose not to start due to bad weather. The battles in the special stages, especially for the positions on the podium, were shocking and we watched driving to the limit, especially from Tsoulofta-Chrysostomou and Galatarioti-Ioannou.
The next race for the Pancyprian Rally Championship is the Tour Of Cyprus which will be held on March 30-31, organized by the Friends of the Car Group.
Source: SMRacingNews.com / Stathis Efstathiou
Photos: Stathis Efstathiou / Koullis Kyriakou