Oman’s talented rally driver Abdullah al Rawahi and his Jordanian navigator Ata al Hmoud overcame technical hiccups in their Ford Fiesta to end tenth overall but finished second in the FIA-Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) at the 49th International Cyprus Rally that concluded in Nicosia on Sunday.
Rawahi ensured picking valuable points by managing to complete the rally on Sunday despite facing problems with his car. The second-place finish in MERC meant Rawahi and Hmoud also retain their second place in the MERC standings
behind defending champion Nasser Saleh al Attiyah and his French navigator Matthieu Baumel, who won the Cyprus Rally for the seventh time.
Meshari al Thefiri from Kuwait and his Qatari co-driver Nasser al Kuwari in a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO X, finishedthird in MERC and overall 14th.
Attiyah started the day with a twelve and a half minute cushion ahead of his closest rival and with only 72km of special stages until the finish, the Qatari star settled down to drive his VW Polo conservatively, although still clocking second fastest times on the four competitive sections and arriving at the finish a full 17 minutes clear of second-placed Panayiotis Yiangou of Cyprus in a Hyundai i20.
A steady drive saw Cyprus’ Christos Demosthenous finish third in his Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX, with countryman Savvas Savva, in a similar car, coming home fourth. The top-five was rounded off by Cypriot Sofianos Rousos in a Lancer EVO X.
A total of 21 crews from Cyprus, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Kuwait and France took part in the rally, which began on Friday.
The rally included a total of 11 special stages which were 97 per cent gravel but the last stage was cancelled on Sunday. Six special stages took place on Saturday.
Besides being the fourth round of the MERC, the rally was also one of the rounds of the Pancyprian Rally Championship.
With the coronavirus pandemic halting the races over the past six months, the Cyprus Rally was only the second round of the MERC 2020 to be held as the Qatar International Rally (April 9-11) and Jordan Rally (September 24-26) were cancelled.
The inaugural MERC round was held in Muscat with Rally Oman in February where Rawahi had finished behind Attiyah.
In Cyprus, Rawahi began well as he maintained good pace on the opening day but on the
second day brake issues forced him to slow down and on Sunday, there were further technical glitches in the car.
Rawahi was forced to switch his strategy on the final day and he made sure to finish the rally rather than push for better timings. The strategy worked as he came tenth overall and second in MERC. The podium ceremony took place at the Service Park in Nicosia, where, in line with the FIA’s restrictions for the pandemic, spectators were not allowed.