The Cyprus Rally was first held in 1970. Back then, it was a long, rough, tough and ultimately destructive event, with unattainable average speeds and controls placed to extract maximum time penalties. However, it was efficiently organised and overseas visitors enjoyed the warm hospitality and genuine friendliness of the event.
Despite suffering a two-year gap (1974/75) in the aftermath of the Turkish invasion, the rally quickly climbed the European coefficients, reaching coefficient 3 in 1978.
1982 saw the Cyprus Rally promoted to the top level in Europe and it went on to become one of the elite when coefficient 20 was devised in 1988. From then, the goal was the World Championship.
The Cyprus organisers were thrown in at the deep end when the rally was taken into the WRC as a last-minute replacement for the China Rally in May 2000, leaving them just four months in which to put everything together.
The event was a level playing field for the WRC teams as Armin Schwarz was the only driver to have competed on the island. A crushing start-to-finish victory gave Carlos Sainz his first win in the Ford Focus and his 23rd in the WRC. Team-mate Colin McRae came in second and François Delecour rounded off the top three for Peugeot.
The 2001 rally moved from sweltering September to flaming June and Ford won again. This time Colin McRae took the honours. Richard Burns was runner-up for Subaru and Carlos Sainz was third in another Ford.
Marcus Grönholm won the 2002 Cyprus Rally, run in lashing April rainstorms, without winning a single stage! His Peugeot team-mate Burns was second and Tommi Mäkinen brought his Subaru home in third place.
In 2003, the rally was back to June and Subaru’s Petter Solberg scored his first win of the season – a season that culminated in his taking the World Championship crown. Harri Rovanperä managed to hang on to second place in his Peugeot while Sébastien Loeb took third in the Citroën, leading the three double-chevrons to a 3-4-5 finish.
Sébastien Loeb was declared winner of the 2004 Cyprus Rally in the Citroën Xsara, after Marcus Grönholm was disqualified because of a technical infringement on the Peugeot 307 WRC. Estonian Markko Märtin was second, retaining the Manufacturers’ Championship lead for Ford, and Carlos Sainz was third in the second Xsara.
2005 saw double world champion Loeb rack up the fourth of his record-breaking ten season’s victories in his Citroën Xsara. When engine problems put paid to Marcus Grönholm’s Peugeot and Petter Solberg’s Subaru on the first day, Loeb pulled away from the rest of the field and eventually cruised to victory, 4m 09.5s ahead of Austrian Manfred Stohl, who took second in his OMV-backed Xsara. Third place went to Markko Märtin in the second Peugeot 307 WRC.
Loeb continued to rewrite the history books by securing a record-breaking 28th WRC victory at the 2006 Cyprus Rally. Partnered by Daniel Elena, Loeb’s Citroen Xsara finished with a comfortable winning margin of 21.2 seconds over Grönholm’s Ford Focus. Grönholm’s team-mate Mikko Hirvonen was third overall in a second Focus.
In 2007, the Cyprus Rally was round 6 of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC) and Charalambos Timotheou became the first Cypriot driver to win the event since 1991, taking overall victory with Pambos Laos in their Mitsubishi EVO IX. Defending Middle East and P-WRC champ Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and co-driver Chris Patterson came 2nd in their Subaru Impreza WRX STi, while Cypriots Dimitris Papasavvas and Vangelis Xenofontos, also in an Impreza WRX STi, completed the podium.
The Cyprus Rally was round 2 of the 2008 FIA Middle East Championship. Cypriot Nicos Thomas and co-driver SG Chips won the event in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. At 20 years of age, Thomas was the youngest driver ever to win the Cyprus Rally and also the youngest driver to ever win a MERC event. Cypriot Savvas Savva secured 2nd place in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, while Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah finished 3rd in his Subaru.
2009 marked a return to the WRC with the FxPro Cyprus Rally round 3 on the calendar. Sébastien Loeb – with Daniel Elena at his side – scored an emphatic victory in his Citroen C4 and made history by securing his landmark 50th WRC victory in the process! Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen finished second in his Ford Focus, with Norwegian privateer Petter Solberg securing the last place on the podium in his Citroen Xsara.
2010 saw the FxPro Cyprus Rally join the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), while also serving double duty as an official round of the 2010 FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). The final round of the 2011 IRC calendar, and round 7 of the MERC, the event saw defending Middle East Rally Champion Nasser Al-Attiyah of Qatar and his co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini of Italy steer their Ford Fiesta S2000 to a stunning victory. While Al-Attiyah had enjoyed an outstanding record of victories in Cyprus’s Troodos Rally, this marked his first Cyprus Rally win. The inaugural Love Cyprus Golden Stage Rally, held immediately after the FxPro Cyprus Rally, was won in thrilling style by Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen and his co-driver Ola Floene in their Ford Fiesta S2000.
In 2011, the Cyprus Rally moved west to Pafos and saw Norway’s Andreas Mikkelsen secure the IRC title on the final event of season. No fewer than five drivers had the chance to take the IRC title here, but it was Mikkelsen who proved the master, steering his Skoda Fabia S2000 to a worthy victory alongside co-driver Ola Floene. Qatari ace Nasser Al-Attiyah, who had been a favourite to take victory, was running second on the final day when engine failure ended his event prematurely. In a confident performance, Mikkelsen kept his cool to take the event and the season with phenomenal pace and considerable style. Immediately after the Cyprus Rally, Belgium’s Thierry Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul dominated the 2nd ever Cyprus Golden Stage Rally from the start, steering their Peugeot 207 S2000 to a well-earned victory with a bravura display of driving.
In 2012, the Cyprus Rally stays in Paphos. Final event of 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge and the penultimate round of FIA Middle East Rally Championship. Nasser Al-Attiyah and co-driver Giovanni Bernacchini steered their Ford Fiesta RRC to a memorable 3 minute 35.3 second victory over closest rival Andreas Mikkelsen. The Norwegian manage to win the 2012 Intercontinental Rally Challenge. Toshi Arai’s performance was enough to see him finish the event in 3rd place overall and as the 1st among the IRC Production Cup drivers in a Subaru Impreza. Savvas Savva finish the rally 6th and he was first among the Cypriot crews. Britain’s Harry Hunt secured himself the IRC 2WD Cup in his Citroen DS3. He started the event locked in a battle with France’s Robert Consani (Renault Clio R3) but Consani’s event ended in SS4, leaving the route to the 2WD Cup clear for Hunt who just had to finish the event.
In 2013, the Cyprus rally moved to the capital after a long absence, while also serving double duty as an official round of the 2013 FIA Middle East Rally Championship. In truly imperious form, Nasser Al-Attiyah and Giovanni Bernacchini on board their Ford Fiesta RRC clinched victory and a ninth Middle-East Rallying Championship in the CNP Asfalistiki Cyprus Rally 2013. With only Dubai left in the MERC the Qatari multi-champion can now set his sights on next years Rally Dakar. Almost three minutes behind them was Sheikh Khalid Al Qassimi and Scott Martin with their Citroen DS3 RRC. The battle for second place was glorious with the Emirati driver claiming second place only 4.7s in front of the Qatari rallying prodigy Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari and his co-driver Killian Duffy. In 4th place overall was 2010 MERC champion Misfer Al-Marri and Nicola Arena on board their Ford Fiesta RRC. Right behind them was the Cyprus championship leader Costas Georgiou “Chips” with Elena Pieri and their Mitsubishi Lancer.