EVENT PREVIEW: 2016 FIA European Rally Championship, round eight of 10
Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 26-28 August
*Series frontrunners take on past champion and local expert Kopecký
*Lukyanuk and Sirmacis out to halt Kajetanowicz charge
*Stakes raised in intense ERC Junior title fight
The leading drivers in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship go up against former champion, factory ŠKODA ace and home hero Jan Kopecký on Barum Czech Rally Zlín next weekend (26-28 August).
Kopecký is chasing a record-extending fifth win on the ERC event, but is just one of several rapid drivers that will take to the asphalt roads in the Czech Republic. Kajetan Kajetanowicz is on a high after his home win on Rally Rzeszow but rivals Alexey Lukyanuk and Ralfs Sirmacis are bidding to stop him successfully defending his title. It’s all to play for meanwhile in the ERC Junior Championship between Opel team-mates Chris Ingram and Marijan Griebel, as their title fight resumes on the penultimate round.
First run in 1971, the Barum Rally has been ever-present on the ERC calendar for over 30 years and is always popular with the rally-mad locals. Based in the city of Zlín in Moravia in the east of the Czech Republic, it takes place over fast, bumpy and sometimes broken asphalt through forests, with changing grip levels and unpredictable weather. After the Qualifying Stage on the morning of Friday 26 August, the rally will begin that evening with the popular Zlín superspecial stage. The remainder of leg one on Saturday features eight stages split into three loops, before six more on Sunday.
Kajetan Kajetanowicz (LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5): After breaking his win duck for 2016 last time out in Poland, Kajetanowicz has a 76-point advantage, and though 117 points remain up for grabs, a top result here could put his second title beyond doubt. He took third in Zlín last year.
Jan Kopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia R5): Armed with a works ŠKODA Fabia R5, Kopecký could be hard to beat, with four ERC wins in Zlín and a run of 10 straight rally victories on home soil. A win would be his first in back-to-back years however, having taken his last four wins in alternate years.
Bryan Bouffier (Gemini Clinic Rally Team Citroën DS3 R5): French asphalt ace makes a third appearance of the season with Czech team, having been firmly in the lead fight in Ypres and Rzeszow. His first Barum start for five years, but made podium in 2006 and 2008 and was close to victory in 2011.
Alexey Lukyanuk (Ford Fiesta R5): A big landing while leading in Estonia dented the spectacular Russian’s car, finances and title hopes, but he returns on an event where he finished fourth at the first attempt last year with his locally-based H-Racing squad.
Ralfs Sirmacis (Sports Racing Technologies ŠKODA Fabia R5): Latvian sensation has entered the event after a funding push to expand his campaign onto asphalt. Is more at home on gravel, but having finished second in ERC Junior in Zlín last year, he’s not without previous form.
The event always attracts a strong contingent of local drivers and this year is no different. ERC regulars Jaromír Tarabus and Antonín Tlusťák will hope for strong home results in their ŠKODA Fabia R5s, the former chasing a repeat of his Acropolis podium. Pavel Valoušek is always one of Kopecký’s closest challengers on the national scene, and he and ex-ERC Junior frontrunner Jan Černý are both armed with Fabia R5s, as is Tomáš Kostka, a podium finisher in both 2012 and 2014. Roman Odložilík and Martin Vlček drive Ford Fiesta R5s, while Tomás Růžička and Jan Jelínek will pilot ŠKODA Fabia S2000s. Dutchman Hermen Kobus returns to Barum for a second year in his Fabia R5 after fourth in Ypres, with Cédric Cherain making the trip from Belgium in a similar car. Polish champion Łukasz Habaj (Fiesta R5) continues his campaign after sixth in Estonia and fourth in Rzeszow. Promising talent Fabian Kreim makes his debut in a Fabia R5, with which he currently leads the German standings. Dávid Botka (Citroën DS3 R5) returns to a rally on which he won ERC2 12 months ago.
A total prize fund of 200,000 Euros is on offer to competitors in the ERC again this year. A sum of 20,000 Euros is available at each of the 10 events on the calendar, shared between the seven highest-placed eligible drivers in the final rally classification regardless of category. This year, all drivers that have registered for the ERC will be eligible as long as they are using tyres from one of the championship’s partner suppliers (Michelin and Pirelli). In 2015, 38 ERC drivers earned prize money.
The class acts
The ERC is split into three categories: ERC1 for top-of-the-range R5 machinery, ERC2 for production-based models and ERC3 for two-wheel-drive cars. The ERC Junior Championship takes place on six rounds for drivers born in 1989 or later, competing in R2 machinery on Pirelli tyres.
ERC Junior: Ingram and Griebel go head-to-head for the title
The fight to become ERC Junior champion is now an all-Opel affair, but the battle between team-mates Chris Ingram and Marijan Griebel is increasing in intensity. Brit Ingram has an 11-point advantage over his German rival, but with the best four out of six scores counting and two rounds remaining, it’s all to play for. Julius Tannert, the third youngster in the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team, and private Adam R2 driver Łukasz Pieniążek remain in mathematical title contention, but would need huge results in the Czech Republic. Learning has been the priority for Dominik Brož so far in his rookie season in his Ford Fiesta R2, but he is close to a top three spot heading to his home event. Nikolay Gryazin heads to Zlín in a confident mood after winning ERC3 on Rally Rzeszow in his Sports Racing Technologies Peugeot 208 R2. Hungary’s Kristóf Klausz will hope to show more of his speed in a similar 208 R2 on an event he knows well, with three previous starts.
It’s Scattolon versus Érdi round two in ERC2
For the second time this season, ERC2 will be a battle between Mitsubishi drivers Giacomo Scattolon and Tibor Érdi Jr. Hungarian Érdi will hope to seek revenge after losing a near-certain win in Ypres to the young Italian, who will attempt to delay any celebrations that the absent points leader Wojciech Chuchała might be planning.
Returning Rossetti aims for ERC3 victory in Toyota
Three-time ERC champion Luca Rossetti returns with the aim of proving the performance of Toyota Motorsport GmbH’s rear-wheel drive GT86 CS-R3 challenger. Joining him in taking on the ERC Junior drivers in ERC3 are Castrol Ford Team Türkiye ace Murat Bostanci (Ford Fiesta R2T) and László Német (Peugeot 208 R2), who finished third and second on asphalt in Poland. Renato Pita returns (Fiesta R2T) while Artur Muradian (Renault Clio R3) and Jiří Navrátil (208 R2) make debuts.
Jaromír Tarabus (T&T Czech National Team ŠKODA Fabia R5): “It's great that we can compete in the ERC event at our home rally. We are both from Zlín and one of the stages even passes the village where I live now. We have the great support of fans and stages we know well. We’ve been going to Barum Czech Rally Zlín since childhood and it has always been my dream to compete here. Since this is already my 17th start as a driver and we have a top car from the highest category, we would like to fight for the top places. The key is not to make any mistakes.”
Dominik Brož (TMS Czech National Junior Team Ford Fiesta R2): “I am really looking forward to my home event. I will be back on tarmac, which is the typical surface for Czech events. Finally there was some break after Estonia, the trio of Azores, Ypres and Estonia in a very short time was difficult for all the ERC Junior drivers. Now we are fully prepared for Barum Czech Rally Zlín.”
On this event in 2015…
Jan Kopecký won Barum Czech Rally Zlín for the fourth time after a masterful performance in his ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia R5. Having started the second and final leg in a 35.4s lead, Kopecký had a scare with a quick spin on the morning’s opening stage, but after that eased off – cruising to a start to finish 27.3s victory. The 2014 event winner Václav Pech was pleased with second place, having set two fastest stage times in his Mini John Cooper Works S2000. Poland’s Kajetan Kajetanowicz finished an excellent third in his LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5. The first non-Czech driver across the finish line broke the front left wheel rim on SS11 and was lucky to avoid a puncture, and also lost power with a pop-off valve problem on the last two stages, but his well deserved podium finish was never in doubt. Alexey Lukyanuk finished an excellent fourth in his Ford Fiesta R5, even setting fastest time on the final two stages on only his second ever Tarmac rally. Pavel Valoušek finished fifth in his family-run ŠKODA after an excellent mistake-free event, while former ERC Junior star Jan Černý was an excellent sixth in a similar Fabia S2000. Craig Breen dug deep and scored valuable ERC points after a difficult event in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16. Three punctures on leg one didn’t help his progress, but the Irishman fought back well and managed to snatch seventh place on the final stage – helped by Hermen Kobus spinning his ŠKODA Fabia R5 on the penultimate test. Dávid Botka scored a brilliant ERC2 victory, leading from start to finish in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX to win by 1m02.7s in 11th overall. In ERC Junior, champion Emil Bergkvist was in a class of his own, taking his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Adam R2 to an impressive 2m44.8s victory.
EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local and subject to change)
Starts: 16h00, Friday 26 August, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Finishes: 16h16, Sunday 28 August, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Headquarters: Building 21, Zlín
Service park: Barum Factory, Otrokovice
ERC appearances (since the restructuring in 2004): 12
Stage distance: 229.94 kilometres (127.74 kilometres leg one, 102.20 kilometres leg two)
Liaison: 509.71 kilometres
Total: 739.61 kilometres
MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION (all timings local)
Media accreditation/media centre: Tomáš Bat’a University centre, Zlín
Opening times: 08h00-23h00, Thursday 25 August; 07h00-24h00, Friday 26 August; 08h00-23h00, Saturday 27 August; 08h00-20h00, Sunday 28 August
Satellite media centre: Vestibul AB Continental Barum, Otrokovice
Opening times: From 06h30, Friday 28 August
Friday 26 August
Free Practice (for priority drivers): 07h30-09h10, Pohořelice (4.71km)
Qualifying Stage (for priority drivers): 09h15-10h10, see above
Optional Shakedown (for non-priority drivers): 10h15-13h00, see above
Pre-rally press conference: 14h30, Rally HQ, Building 21 (16th floor), Zlín.
Start order selection: 15h30, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Ceremonial start: 16h00, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Sunday 28 August
Podium ceremony and prize-giving: 16h25, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Post-event press conference: 17h30, Ceremony room, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín.
Event media contact: Roman Ordelt, firstname.lastname@example.org, +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: www.fiaerc.com
Rights-free images: Register media.fiaerc.com
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