^The FIA World Rally Championship returns to the Mediterranean for this weekend's Cyprus Rally, round 12 of the 16-event series. The rally is based in the seaside tourist town of Limassol with stages run on rough gravel roads in the Troodos mountains in the centre of the island.
Taking place four months later than last year, from 22-24 September at the end of the Cypriot summer, the rally is nevertheless likely to retain its traditional hot, sunny weather, with temperatures expected to reach more than 30 degrees Celsius. The combination of searing temperatures, tight mountain roads and a rocky, rutted surface has earned the rally the reputation of being the roughest event on the calendar. Reliability is even more crucial this year as the same chassis, engine and gearbox must also be used in the next event in Turkey.
The rally's twisty roads generate low average speeds; it's expected that crews will negotiate the route at an average speed of just over 60kph, barely half the speed recorded on smooth gravel events like Rally Finland or Rally New Zealand. With less air being forced into the car, airflow to the engine and transmission is substantially reduced and teams run cooling settings at their maximum to keep temperatures at a suitable level. Driving conditions for crews too can become very uncomfortable as temperatures in the cockpit soar.
The route is broadly similar to 2005 with the rally centred around the Palais des Sports service park on the northern edge of Lemesos. Most of the action is based in the Troodos Mountains north of the city although the major innovation is a short asphalt stage through Lemesos old town on Sunday afternoon to end the rally. After a ceremonial start on the seafront on Thursday evening, each of the three legs comprises a morning loop of stages repeated during the afternoon. Much of Friday's opening leg is based in the very north of the Troodos, close to the border with the Turkish part of the island. The stages show several changes to the 2005 edition. The middle leg is based further south, close to Mt Olympus and west towards the resort of Paphos. The final leg is the shortest, covering tests north-east of Lemesos in the hilly and forested Machairas area. Drivers tackle 23 stages covering 331.34km in a route of 1172.74km.