The Cyprus Rally, round 2 of the 2008 FIA Middle East Championship (MERC), came to an exciting climax yesterday, with victory for Cypriot Nicos Thomas and co-driver SG Chips, in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX.

Fellow Cypriot Savvas Savva and co-driver Pambos Laos, secured second place in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, finishing the event 26.2 seconds behind Thomas.

Pre-event, attention was expected to be focussed on Qatar's Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah and his Ulster co-driver Chris Patterson in their Subaru Impreza WRX N14, and Jordan's Amjad Farrah and Tina Maria Monego - who started second in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX.

The international field that the rally attracted was largely decimated over the weekend's action, however, with only three internationals finishing in the top ten: Nasser Al-Attiyah in 3rd, Nick Georgiou 6th and Al-Mari 9th.

Thomas' victory makes him only the second Cypriot driver to win the Cyprus Rally since 1991, after Charalambos Timotheou won here last year. At 20 years of age, not only is Thomas the youngest driver ever to win the Cyprus Rally, his win also makes him the youngest driver to ever win a Middle East Rally Championship event.

Rallies in Cyprus are known for their friendly atmosphere and the 2008 event was no different, with warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine.

Revamped for 2008, the Cyprus Rally is more than ready for its return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar next year. The weekend's event featured a combination of new special stages, stages which were first introduced last year, and a selection of classic stages. It is noteworthy that an outstanding 80 percent of the stages are used just once through the course of the event.

The stages met with a largely positive reception from the drivers, most of whom acknowledge that the event remains tough, but most seemed to enjoy themselves.

Cyprus hosts two rounds of the FIA Middle East Rally Championship this year. The Troodos Rally, round 6 of the 2008 MERC and the penultimate event in this year's calendar, will be held in Cyprus from November 7 - 9.

2008 Cyprus Rally - final positions after SS81.

1. Nicos Thomas (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX), 4h 04m 46.5s;
2. Savvas Savva (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII), 4h 05m 12.7s;
3. Nasser Al-Attiyah (Subaru Impreza STi2008), 4h 08m 09.9s;
4. Pantelis Pamboukka (Subaru Impreza STiN12), 4h 08m 23.7s;
5. Stavros Antoniou (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo), 4h 08m 41.0s;

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