Neuville wins thrilling Cyprus Golden Stage Rally

Thierry Neuville has won the second Cyprus Golden Stage Rally following a stunning performance over both runs of the spectacular mixed-surface stage shown live on Eurosport.

Neuville underlined the pace and competitiveness of his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 by going fastest through the first run of the 19.43-kilometre test by 4.8s before heading the second run by 1.2s despite almost going off the road in his efforts to keep ahead of Juho Hänninen, who finished second, 6.0s adrift of the rising star on aggregate time.

The Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg driver’s success means he pockets 40,000 Euros in prize money. Hänninen, in a factory SKODA Fabia S2000, collected 28,000 Euros with team-mate Jan Kopecký securing 16,000 Euros for finishing third.

“We go completely flat out and I really enjoyed the Golden Stage,” said Neuville, who was co-driven by fellow Belgian Nicolas Gilsoul. “It’s a shame we lost the Cyprus Rally but we are in front again and we showed we’ve got the pace on gravel. I have to thank Peugeot Sport and Peugeot Belgium for their support in getting me here.”

Neuville completed the first run with the left-rear tyre off its rim after he clouted a bank, the result of his pacenotes being too optimistic. He was similarly spectacular on the second pass with several sideways moments. “We pushed to the maximum when we saw that Juho was equal with us [on split times],” said Neuville. “It was a big attack but we got to the finish and I’m really happy.”

Hänninen’s car needed a replacement clutch and gearbox in service between the Golden Stage runs when the original clutch failed after the opening pass. He was gracious in defeat at the finish near the seaside town of Polis.

“It did a clean run with no mistakes,” said the Finn. “It was a difficult stage but I was happy with my time and it’s a nice way to finish the season. Thierry deserved this victory, he was very fast.”

Kopecký was third fastest through both runs alongside stand-in co-driver Pavel Dresler. “I just wanted to finish without making mistakes so I didn’t take any big risks,” said the Czech. “It was quite hard with a new co-driver because this stage was very fast with lots of crests.”

Patrik Sandell finished fourth in his ŠKODA Sweden Fabia after reporting losing a few seconds on the first run by using a soft compound tyre rather than the hard compound option selected by the bulk of his rivals due to the high ambient and ground temperatures. “I did everything I could but I had no problems and there were no mistakes,” said Sandell, who collected 10,000 Euros in prize money. “It was easy to attack too much on this stage and go too sideways.”

Karl Kruuda took fifth overall in his ME3 Rally Team Fabia. Although the Estonian teenager was frustrated not to have set a faster time on the second run he nevertheless bagged 6,000 Euros after two error-free runs alongside co-driver Martin Järveoja.

Nicos Thomas received 10,000 Euros for winning Category B in his Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer in sixth overall. The Cypriot plans to spend part of the money paying for a replacement engine after the original broke during the Cyprus Rally when oil filter damage resulted in a complete loss of oil.

“Winning Group N is good news after the bad luck of yesterday,” said the Petrolina-backed driver. “Thanks to the guys in my team for fixing the car and to all my sponsors.”

Petros Panteli was seventh and second in Category B with Paraskevas Paraskeva eighth and third in class. Doros Loucaides was ninth after being slowed by damaged steering on his Peugeot 207 S2000. Italian Marco Cavigioli completed the top 10 in his Lancer following a determined drive.

Category C honours went to IRC 2WD Cup champion Jean-Michel Raoux in his Renault Clio R3 ahead of Honda Civic Type R duo János Puskádi and Andreas Charalambous.

Regretfully television viewers were not able watch the anticipated epic duel between the two young aces Thierry Neuville and Andreas Mikkelsen after ŠKODA UK decided to withdraw Mikkelsen’s entry after a highly emotional victory on the Cyprus Rally the previous day.

All cars contesting the Golden Stage Rally carried Colin McRae Vision windscreen strips in support of the charity established following the death of the rallying legend in 2007.

The Cyprus Golden Stage Rally is a ground-breaking concept pioneered by Eurosport Events and the Cyprus Automobile Association. It took place for the second time this year following the inaugural event in 2010. The quick-fire format over a mixed-surface stage, the Golden Stage, run twice provides all-action entertainment for fans live at the event and for those watching live on television at home. It carries a prize fund of 150,000 Euros, an amount unprecedented in international rallying.

Cyprus Golden Stage Rally overall positions after run two:

1 Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 26m02.8s2 Juho Hanninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +6.0s3 Jan Kopecký (CZE)/Pavel Dresler (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +32.3s4 Patrik Sandell (SWE)/Staffan Parmander (SWE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +48.0s5 Karl Kruuda (EST)/Martin Järveoja (EST) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +1m01.2s6 Nicos Thomas (CYP)/Angelos Loizides (CYP) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX +2m19.2s7 Petros Pantelli (CYP)/Chrysostomos Panteli (CYP) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX +2m33.1s8 Paraskevas Paraskeva (CYP)/Yiannos Evripidou (CYP) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX +2m41.6s9 Doros Loucaides (CYP)/Savvas Laos (CYP) Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m20.4s10 Marco Cavigioli (ITA)/Monica Fortunato (ITA) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX) +3m32.4s

Category A winners: Thierry Neuville/Nicolas Gilsoul (Peugeot 207 S2000)Category B winners: Nicos Thomas/Angelos Loizides (Ralliart Lancer Evo IX)Category C winners: Jean-Michel Raoux (FRA)/Laurent Magat (FRA) Renault Clio R3

Cyprus Golden Stage Rally 150,000 Euros prize money allocation:

Thierry Neuville (Peugeot 207 S2000): 40,000 EurosJuho Hänninen (ŠKODA Fabia S2000: 28,000 EurosJan Kopecký (ŠKODA Fabia S2000): 16,000 EurosJean-Michel Raoux (Renault Clio R3): 10,000 EurosPatrik Sandell (ŠKODA Fabia S2000): 10,000 EurosNicos Thomas (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX): 10,000 EurosPetros Panteli (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX): 8,000 EurosKarl Kruuda (ŠKODA Fabia S2000): 6,000 EurosParaskevas Paraskeva (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX): 6,000 EurosMarco Cavigioli (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX): 5,000 EurosJános Puskádi (Honda Civic Type R): 5,000 EurosAndreas Charalambous (Honda Civic Type R): 3,000 EurosSavvas Savva (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX): 3,000 Euros