FIA European Rally Championship 2017: Round 6 of 8
Barum Czech Rally Zlín: Leg one report, 26 August
*Kopecký and Lukyanuk engage in thrilling fight for victory
*ERC Junior Under 28 leader Griebel flies high in fourth overall
*Zawada overcomes trouble and drama to lead ERC Junior Under 27
*Érdi Jr heads ERC2 as Molinaro tops ERC Ladies’ Trophy
Battles have raged throughout a thrilling opening day on Barum Czech Rally Zlín with Jan Kopecký fending off Alexey Lukyanuk for the outright lead on the FIA European Rally Championship counter. Marijan Griebel heads home hero Jan Černý for top spot in ERC Junior Under 28 with Aleks Zawada out front in ERC Junior Under 27 after several of his rivals hit trouble on the demanding all-asphalt event.
After winning Friday night’s street stage in Zlín, 2013 ERC champion Kopecký edged further ahead when he beat Lukyanuk through the opening Biskupice test this morning. But Lukyanuk responded in Semetín in stunning fashion, beating his Czech rival by 6.3s to take the rally lead by 0.3s despite admitting he was struggling to brake as hard as he would like while he recovers from the multiple leg fractures he sustained in a testing crash in Russia in early May.
With Lukyanuk more cautious through the 22.87 kilometres of Troják, Kopecký seized the opportunity to regain the lead only for Lukyanuk to respond again with the best time in Březová. But a spin for Lukyanuk at the start of the second run through Biskupice handed Kopecký an advantage of 6.7s before a powersteering issue on his Ford Fiesta R5 resulted in further delay for the Russian, who completed the day with a stage best but a 16.6s deficit to his ŠKODA Motorsport rival.
“It’s been a big battle with Alexey,” said Kopecký, unbeaten in Czech Republic since April 2015. “He had a spin and a technical problem but this is part of rally and for sure he’s never giving up. We were struggling a bit with understeer but the car is really good in the bumpy places and this is important on this rally.”
Lukyanuk said: “I am doing what I can. The pace is close to Jan but he’s doing slightly better. Unfortunately, my physical condition is not that good, I’m getting tired and my legs are not so strong. But it’s a good show, we will try to win some stages tomorrow and who knows, maybe something can happen.”
Václav Pech had been in the lead fight until he missed a junction on stage four and fell into Bryan Bouffier’s clutches only for a front-left puncture on stage eight to wreck the Frenchman’s hopes. “It was a wide road, we were leaving this main road to a small one, like a chicane and coming back to the main road,” said Bouffier. “I follow the lines but then I felt this big shock and we had to stop. Okay we were not able to fight for the lead but a podium would have been great.”
ERC Junior Under 28 pacesetter Marijan Griebel is a fine fourth overall with local legend Roman Kresta fifth and Tomáš Kostka sixth following transmission issues. The former circuit racer is one place ahead of Jan Černý, who demoted European championship leader Kajetan Kajetanowicz for seventh – and a potentially crucial leg point – on the day’s closing test with Kajetanowicz struggling for pace throughout the day. Martin Koči and Pavel Valoušek complete the top 10 in ninth and P10 respectively. Bruno Magalhães, who topped the ERC standings at the halfway point of the season, is P12 overnight behind Nikolay Gryazin, while former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas has battled back from two punctures and a broken engine mounting in his Porsche 997 GT3. Polish champion Grzegorz Grzyb retired with engine damage following a crash on SS3.
ERC Junior Under 27: Zawada battles hard
Aleks Zawada has delivered a rapid – and battling – performance to lead the ERC Junior Under 27 division in his MSZ Racing Opel ADAM. Hit first by an engine idling issue and then a gear selection glitch, the Polish driver recovered from a high-speed off on stage eight to head ERC Junior U27 rookie Julian Wagner with Filip Mareš third. The ACCR Czech Team driver was eight seconds off the lead when he picked up a puncture on stage eight. Simon Wagner and Chris Ingram hit the same rock and also suffered front-left punctures. Wagner is fifth behind Czech Domink Brož with Ingram languishing in eighth following his SS1 exit due to a broken wishbone. Buǧra Banaz is sixth for Castrol Ford Team Turkey with Tamara Molinaro leading the ERC Ladies’ Trophy in seventh. After stopping to change a broken wheel on SS1, Catie Munnings overcame early brake problems to finish leg one in ninth place. Jari Huttunen was 1.2s behind Zawada in second when he rolled out on stage four. The Opel driver is due to restart on day two. “It’s been a crazy day but I’ve never felt as lucky as I do right now,” said Zawada, who also heads the ERC3 category. While her R3-specification rules her out of ERC Junior points, Emma Falcón is battling Molinaro for ERC Ladies’ Trophy honours. The Canary Islander is 6.1s behind her Italian rival after nine stages.
ERC Junior Under 28: Griebel going for gold in Czech Republic
Marijan Griebel is on course for his third class win of 2017 as he closes on a dream drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the world championship next season, the prize offered to the winner of the inaugural ERC Junior Under 27 Championship. Apart from a “big moment” in a bumpy stretch on stage six and a puncture on a liaison section, little has truly troubled the German driver. But with Czech federation-backed Jan Černý just 11.1s behind, Griebel’s victory is far from guaranteed with 95 kilometres of competitive action left. Nikolay Gryazin admitted his eagerness to finish after a spate of recent DNFs was masking his true pace with the Russian teenager third overnight. Josh Moffett was fastest in class on stage five but damaged his Fiesta’s steering hitting a marker pole on stage seven. And it would get worse for the Irishman when he completed the day’s closing test on three wheels after going off into a ditch, but he was able to carry out emergency repairs and continue. José Suárez was delayed by two punctures and a brush with a tree. He’s fifth, one place ahead of Peugeot Rally Academy team-mate Pepe López.
ERC2: Érdi Jr opens big Zlín lead
Tibor Érdi Jr is in control in the production category although Zelindo Melegari’s title bid is on track in second. The Italian trailed Sergey Remennik until the Russian dropped time stopping to change a puncture on stage four, which he actually picked up driving off the road to pass another car to get into position for the stage start. Remennik retired from the leg at the penultimate service with mechanical issues. “It’s a good day but not so good for the championship because I need Sergey to finish in front of Zelindo,” said Érdi Jr, who lost victory on the previous round when he retired at the stop line of the final stage.
What’s next? The battle for FIA European Rally Championship glory on Barum Czech Rally Zlín concludes on Sunday 27 August with six stages over a competitive distance of 95.12 kilometres. First up is the 8.15-kilometre Maják Opel stage from 08h38 local time. The finish is scheduled at Zlín’s city square from 16h25. Click here for live timing and results:
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