AS the world’s leading la,. tory teams were finalising their preparations for the Sanremo Rally, so another group of competitors about 1,500 miles away in the Eastern Mediterranean, just as enthusiastic and just as determined, were in the throes of tackling one of the twistiest, tightest, most arduous and demanding rallies in the world. Contrasting with Sanremo’s six day span, the Cyprus Rally is compressed into a weekend from Friday to Sunday, but in those few days it packs more punch than rallies twice as long; 415 miles (only about a hundred less than Sanremo) of the most tortuous, dusty, rocky, mountain stages imaginable, some through olive groves and banana plantations, some through pine forests, and some with drops so steep that they would draw gasps from the most ardent devotees of the Stelvio or the Gavia.
What is more, you can rarely find a bunch of orga-dsers more approachable and ready to help than those of the Cyprus AA, whilst out in the countryside the friendliness and hospitality of the villagers have to be experienced to be believed.
McRae and Grindrod drove a Nissan 240RS backed by a party from Blydenstein Racing; Brookes and Broad, along with the Anglo-Arab crew Bin Sulayem and Daniels, were in Opel Manta 400s serviced by GM Dealer Sport UK; US / UK partnership Buff= and Gallagher had a Quattro backed by Audi Sport UK; 1Viavropoulos and Adams had at least one ex-Boreham man among those tending their Sunbeam Lotus; privateers Hicks / King (Nissan 240RS), Robertson / Clark (Talbot Samba) and Clark / Fraser (Volvo 3600LT) all had their own service crews, and if you closed your eyes and ignored the temperature you might well have imagined Nicosia’s Ledra Hotel to be the Wynnstay at Machynlleth or the Viking at York. Other visitors included Petkov and veteran Tchoubrikov from Bulgaria in a Nissan 240RS and a Renault 5 Turbo respectively, Saleh and Sarnia from Kuwait bean Opel Ascona 400, Capone and Cresto from Italy, chasing European Championship points in their Lancia Rally, fellow countrymen Noberasco and Cianci in a Fiat 130 Abarth and French pair Tabatoni and Cadier in a Citroen Visa Mille Pisses. There were six cars from Greece, whilst the best of the Cypriot drivers included Terzian / Theophanous in a Nissan 24ORS and Mashias / Panayiotou in a VW Golf GTI. Right from the start it was Buff= who moved ahead and when he got to Paphos his lead was about four minutes despite having to change an ignition pack on the way. McRae added a second fan to aid engine cooling and was concerned at his high rate of tyre consumption. Bin Sulayem rolled his Opel into a ditch but recovered the road and continued, whilst Petkov had gone out with
a broken differential. Both Capone and Terzian had changed gearboxes and Mavropoulos his rear axle. Tabatoni, whose trip meter was not working, went off into a ditch and was quite astounded when Lebanese driver Bustros stopped to tow his Citro’en back to the road. Indeed, the French driver was most impressed by the degree of sportsmanship shown by all the crews on this event. “We don’t always find this in France” he remarked. Tchoubrikov was having that old rear-engine problem, dust clogging the air filter. •
On the return trip so Nicosia, Buffum increased his lead to seven minutes, but behind him the fight for second place between Brookes and McRae was very close indeed. Slowed by no less than three axle changes and having to use almost ridiculously worn tyres, McRae was eventually passed by Brookes, the margin being just one second at halfway.
Terzian lost eight minutes having a rear axle changed, Brookes needed a spot of suspension welding, Capone had another gearbox change and Bin Sulayem had broken a brake cylinder. Saleh’s starter motor had packed up and several times he had to push-start the car before there was time to fit a new one.
In the second leg, Buffum was down to changing tyres after every stage like others had been, but McRae’s mechanics had unearthed some new tyres and he soon regained second place. Capone was bettering Buffum on the stages, but the American driver, who had cracked his Audi’s radiator, knew he had a comfortable lead and was not going to be drawn into a show of strength. Bin Sulayem had a loose prop shaft changed whilst Terzian, a very capable driver indeed, lost his second big chunk of time when his engine stopped and it took a good five minutes to find the loose electrical lead. Clark, having had one problem after another with his Volvo, finally stopped with transmission failure, and Tabatoni’s rear differential broke leaving him with just front wheel drive and very strange handling. Just over halfway down to Limassol things changed up front when Capone’s
Lancia burst a water hose and the engine cooked, spewing oil and water everywhere. One stage later, McRae went into a very dramatic retirement when his steering broke in a dip and the wheel spun uselessly in his hands. The car went straight off the road and lodged precariously about ten feet down. Very gingerly they got out, but there was no hope of getting the car back to the road. Later, after recovery and new steering, the car was as good as new and McRae drove it back to Nicosia.
This put 13rookes back into second place, and dais is where he stayed to the end, ahead of Mavropoulos and Terzian. Tabatoni was sixth, dividing the Opels of the Arab drivers who had been having their own private tussle. They both lost time towards the end, Sulayem with a puncture and a broken rear suspension, and Saleh with a broken differential. The latter trouble was thought to be terminal, but when Saleh tried to move the car using reverse gear it did move, and when he then chose a forward gear, it moved again. Quite remarkably, he was able to nurse the car to the finish, where he was delighted by his good fortune even though he had dropped from fifth to seventh. Buffum was overjoyed by his success, as were the Goodrich people. He has numerous wins to his credit, but mostly in the USA and Canada, and it did seem that victory at Cyprus meant more to him than any other. A kind of two-thirds scale cross between the Acropolis and the RAC, it certainly is a cracking rally, and winning is no me. achievement. — G.P.