Jan Kopecký leads round seven of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, Barum Czech Rally Zlín, after a fast, furious and very hot opening leg in his ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia R5.
Co-driven by Pavel Dresler, Kopecký is on course to win the event for the fourth time and clinch another Czech national title after a dominant performance on a blisteringly hot day in southern Moravia.
“It’s been a great day for us,” said Kopecký. “The Fabia R5 has worked very well. We hit a big hole on the first stage this morning, which shows how strong the car really is. We have made no mistakes, we have a good pace and we have built up a nice gap behind us.”
Last year’s event winner Václav Pech is second, 35.4s behind Kopecký, in his Mini John Cooper Works S2000 - his local knowledge of the fast, bumpy and narrow stages ensuring an exciting battle for victory.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz has a great chance to further extend his lead in the ERC, after a magnificent day in his Pirelli-shod LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. The Polish driver has been pushing hard – so hard, that he arrived at the end of SS5 with his brakes on fire.
Craig Breen arrived in the Czech Republic second in the championship, but lost two and a half minutes and all hopes of victory after picking up a puncture on SS5. The number of punctures had increased to three by the end of the day, and the fight is now on to salvage the best result he can and maintain his strong fight for the ERC title in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16. He is 11th overnight.
Despite it only being his second Tarmac rally, Alexey Lukyanuk is fourth in his Ford Fiesta R5 – the Russian and Estonian champion driving brilliantly in such unfamiliar conditions, saying that the experience he is gaining is “enormous”.
Pavel Valoušek is fifth in his ŠKODA Fabia S2000 after an excellent mistake-free day. He is ahead of promising youngster Miroslav Jakeš (Citroën DS3 R5), while former ERC Junior star Jan Černý is seventh in a Fabia S2000.
After a brief pre-event test in the wet, French 208 Rally Cup champion Charles Martin was unhappy with the set-up of his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16 at the start of the event. He lost 35s with a right rear puncture on SS2, but has felt increasing happier with the car and snatched eighth place on today’s final stage.
Hermen Kobus is going well in his ŠKODA Fabia R5, and with a new car on a new event, the Dutch driver was rightly pleased with to be ninth after a good leg one performance. Antonín Tlusťák damaged the front of his Tajmac-ZPS Fabia S2000 on SS2, but a good run sees him complete the top 10.
GPD Orsák Rally Sport Fabia S2000 team-mates Petter Kristiansen and Martin Hudec are enjoying themselves. The Norwegian driver is 17th after a trouble-free day, while the Czech former motocross rider is 18th on only his second rally since the Circuit of Ireland.
Plenty of other drivers hit problems on leg one. SS4 was stopped after Martin Vlček crashed his ŠKODA Fabia S2000 into a gas pipe, and escaping gas forced a re-route of competitors! Sepp Wiegand had a disastrous start when an injector problem slowed his GPD Orsák Rally Sport-run ŠKODA Fabia S2000 on the opening Zlín super special. With no power, he pulled over to let a faster car overtake, but in doing so hit some railings and broke the right rear suspension. The 2014 ERC vice-champion then had to stop and replace a puncture on SS7.
Number six seed Jaromír Tarabus stopped in SS3 with an electrical fault that led to a failure of his ŠKODA Fabia R5’s high-pressure fuel pump. Ford Fiesta R5 driver Roman Odložilik hit a log that stops drivers from cutting corners, and broke the connection to the left-front wheel. Raul Jeets crashed his MM-Motorsport Ford Fiesta R5 into a house on SS4 and Tomáš Kostka retired his stunning green Fabia R5 from fourth place after SS7.
Consani unhurt after huge crash
Robert Consani suffered one of the biggest ERC accidents ever captured by the Eurosport helicopter, when he rolled his Citroën DS3 R5 at high speed on SS2. The 33-year old Frenchman changed co-drivers for the event, but his new navigator Jérôme Cornebise fell ill just before the recce. He therefore had Frenchman Benoit Manzo alongside him, despite the fact they only met four days ago. “We are out after having rolled many times,” said Consani. “But we are OK. I'm so disappointed, this rally will never be mine.” Consani’s crash means he’s now retired from the Czech event in each of the past six starts he’s made.
Rivals have no answer to Botka’s ERC2 pace
A change to Pirelli tyres, a new fuel supplier and a new co-driver in the form of Peter Szeles has done wonders for Dávid Botka. The Hungarian driver is dominating ERC2 in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX, and leads the class by 1m07.3s after leg one. With no answer to Botka’s pace, Vojtěch Štajf has decided to keep the battle for the title at the forefront of his mind, and from an early stage, the Subaru Czech National Team Impreza WRX STI driver has settled for second and maintaining his ERC2 lead. Dominykas Butvilas lost three minutes when he stopped to change a puncture on SS2. He then lost more time with fuel problems in his Subaru Poland Rally Team Impreza WRX STI on SS7. Inessa Tushkanova was a non-starter.
Bergkvist leads Opel one-two, as Griebel closes in on ERC Junior runner-up spot
Emil Bergkvist is showing why he is such a worthy ERC Junior champion by setting a blistering pace in his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Adam R2. Two punctures didn’t stop the young Swedish driver open up a 45s lead at the end of leg one. Second is his Opel team-mate Marijan Griebel, who is in pole position to clinch the runner-up spot in the Michelin-backed series. The other four drivers fighting to become vice-champion have all had problems – some a lot bigger than others. Ralfs Sirmacis overshot a junction on SS7 and then had to avoid part of a tree in the middle of the road. The Sport Racing Technologies Peugeot 208 R2 driver is fourth, having lost third on the final stage by just 0.8s. Norway’s Steve Røkland lost two minutes with a front left puncture on SS3. He continued at a slower pace, but his 208 was caught on a narrow section of road by Peugeot Rally Academy driver Diogo Gago. Gago made contact with the back of Røkland’s car as he attempted to overtake, and in doing so went off and retired. Chris Ingram lost five minutes on SS4 when he skidded on a patch of gravel that wasn’t there on the recce, snapping the front left wheel clean in two. With the jacking point squashed, it took the talented Peugeot UK driver five minutes to replace with wheel. Brake problems during the day didn’t help, and he reached the finish characteristically promising to keep on pushing, but he is down in ninth. Outside the vice-champion battle, Aleks Zawada put his Adam R2 off into a ditch on SS2 – which might be a good omen, for the last time he did that he when on to win ERC Juniors in Ypres. More of a concern was that Cathy Derousseaux was losing her voice – until her mother came to the rescue with hot milk and honey! Zawada is a strong third overnight. Sweden’s Mattias Adielsson is enjoying a trouble-free run in his re-shelled 208 and is fifth. Łukasz Pieniążek is regretting having a black roof and black overalls, as the young Pole battles bravely on in oven-like conditions. He is sixth, but worryingly his engine temperature hit 140°C on today’s final stage. On his first rally in the Czech Republic, young Belgian ace Joachim Wagemans is eighth in his Peugeot. Kristóf Klausz has been ill all week, and the high 208 cockpit temperature isn’t making the Hungarian teenager feel any better. He ended the day with intercom problems and is 10th. ADAC Opel Rallye Cup champion Julius Tannert hit a kerb and bent the rear axle on his Adam R2 on SS5, and had to do that and the next two stages with the rear left wheel sticking out at an angle – costing him a lot of time. He is bringing up the ERC Junior rear in 11th, finishing the final stage of the day with no brakes. Romanian driver Florin Tincescu retired his Napoca Rally Academy 208 with a broken clutch pedal.
Home favourite Bisaha holds best non-Junior ERC3 position
Home favourite Ondřej Bisaha leads the ERC3 battle for the non-ERC Junior drivers, despite bending the rear axle on his new Citroën DS3 R3T Max on SS5. Double Romanian 2WD champion Alex Filip picked up a front puncture in his Colina Motorsport-run Renault Clio R3 Maxi on SS6, and then was given a 10s penalty for being late – having been delayed at a railway crossing by a train on a road section! He is second overnight.
Leg two on Sunday (30 August) starts at 07h20 and contains a further six stages, totalling 87.36kms. The day features two runs over the Semetín, Troják (the longest test at 23.01km) and Žlutava stages. The service area remains in Otrokovice and the finish takes place back in Zlín’s city square at 16h00.
MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION (all timings local for Sunday 30 August)
Podium ceremony and prize-giving: 16h00, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Post-event press conference: 17h00, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín. The top three drivers and co-drivers plus the winning ERC Junior crew will be in attendance
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy presentation: Immediately following the post-event press conference at the Town Hall, Zlín
Headquarters: Building 21, Zlín
Service park: Barum Factory, Otrokovice
Media centre: Tomáš Bat’a University centre UTB, nám. T.G.M. 5555, 760 01 Zlín
Opening times: 08h00-20h00
Satellite media centre: Vestibul AB Continental Barum, Objízdná 1628, 765 31 Otrokovice
Opening times: 07h00-16h00
Event media contact: Roman Ordelt, email@example.com, +420 606 710 214
Television coverage: A preview show, daily highlights and the post-event Inside ERC magazine programme will be broadcast on Eurosport
ERC Rally Radio: Live throughout the event at Fiaerc.com or through the ERC app
Results, standings, live timing and text commentary: Fiaerc.com
Rights-free images: Register at the media lounge section of Fiaerc.com
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