ERC Barum Czech Rally Zlín preview: Huge 143-car entry, as exciting ERC battle takes to Czech Tarmac

A massive 143-car entry will line up for round seven of the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship, Barum Czech Rally Zlín, from 28-30 August with drivers from 26 countries in action on the challenging Tarmac event.

The ERC moves is moving to critical stage of the season, with the hopes and dreams of drivers and teams pinned on the remaining four rounds – two on Tarmac (this and the Rallye International du Valais finale) and two mainly on gravel (the Cyprus and Acropolis rallies).

Asphalt specialists have turned out in force for the classic Czech Republic event next weekend, although there will be many gravel masters present too, eager not to lose ground with less than half the season remaining. The result is a magnificent ERC entry, with 22 R5 and Super 2000 cars in the ERC1 category, four title rivals in ERC2 and 19 in ERC3, within which are 14 ERC Juniors.

The rally will run on fast, narrow and often bumpy Tarmac roads in southern Moravia, made all the more demanding by changeable grip levels and unpredictable weather. Qualifying gets the 45th edition of Barum Czech Rally Zlín underway with ERC-registered drivers tackling the 4.71km Pohořelice stage on Friday 28 August, with the top 15 fastest selecting their starting positions for leg one. The ceremonial start takes place later that day in Zlín’s bustling city square at 17h00, before the traditional opening stage of the event – three laps of the Zlín city superspecial stage and around the Bata factory (where Tomáš Baťa founded the shoe factory in 1894), starting at 21h15, with cars running in reserve order.

Leg one continues the following day with eight more stages – a 48.2km loop of four stages, tackled twice. After a total of 141.85kms leg one draws to a close at 23h30. The second and final leg on Sunday (30 August) gets underway 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 finish takes place back in Zlín’s city square at 16h00. As normal, the service park will be located in Otrokovice.

Kajetanowicz heads strong international field, as ERC title battle intensifies
ERC leader Kajetan ‘Kajto’ Kajetanowicz will lead a strong international field at Barum Czech Rally Zlín, and with the event based just 90 kilometres from the Polish border, the LOTOS Rally Team Ford Fiesta R5 driver will have plenty of fans cheering him on. Kajto has enjoyed a good pre-event test on the high-speed bumpy roads of Cieszyn Silesia and will be aiming to extend his slender five-point advantage at the top of the drivers’ standings in his Pirelli-shod car. Second-placed Craig Breen is contesting this weekend’s ADAC Rallye Deutschland in his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16, so the Irishman should be Tarmac-tuned and ready for action. Breen also leads the ERC Asphalt Masters by 77 points, with just this event and Rallye International du Valais (October 30-1 November) remaining. Victory on auto24 Rally Estonia in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X moved Alexey Lukyanuk up to third in the drivers’ standings, and the reigning Russian and Estonian champion is back in a Ford Fiesta R5 for only his second full Tarmac rally. Robert Consani finished fifth on the recent Madeira Rally and will be looking to regain his third position in the series in a Citroën DS3 R5. French 208 Rally Cup champion Charles Martin will drive a Peugeot Rally Academy 208 T16, having already finished fifth this year on the Circuit of Ireland and ninth on the SATA Rallye Açores. Austria’s Hermann Neubauer was fourth before an oil leak stopped him on the Jännerrallye and after a recent third-place finish on Rallye Weiz in his native Austria, he returns to the ERC with renewed confidence in his Ford Fiesta S2000. Two more to look out for are Estonia’s Raul Jeets, always fully committed in his MM-Motorsport Fiesta R5, and Dutch driver Hermen Kobus, who set fastest time on all 12 stages to win the Rally van Staden in West Flanders first time out in his new ŠKODA Fabia R5 recently.

Huge local field aim for home Barum Rally victory
Czech drivers have a strong record of winning their home round of the ERC, with four victories in the last six years, including the last two editions. And despite impressive visiting opposition, they’ll be hard to beat this year too, with some of the country’s top drivers among the 92 Czechs entered – including former European champion Jan Kopecký, in his factory ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia R5. Also posing a strong challenge will be last year’s winner Václav Pech in a Mini John Cooper Works S2000, while Jaromír Tarabus makes his first ERC appearance in a privately entered Fabia R5. Racer turned rally driver Tomáš Kostka, who has twice finished third in Zlín (in 2012 and 2014), will drive a Fabia R5 run by Rufa Sport. There are a number of ŠKODA Fabia S2000s entered driven by the likes of Pavel Valoušek, former ERC Junior star Jan Černý, Martin Vlček, Jan Jelínek and Antonín Tlusťák, who runs with a new Tajmac-ZPS colour scheme. Roman Odložilik appears in a Ford Fiesta R5, while promising youngster Miroslav Jakeš drives a Citroën DS3 R5.

R5 verses Super 2000 in battle for supremacy
All four R5 cars currently eligible for competition will appear on the Zlín stages in the form of four ŠKODA Fabia R5s, four Ford Fiesta R5s, two Citroën DS3 R5s and two Peugeot 208 T16s. They will go head-to-head against an impressive turnout of top Super 2000 cars, namely eight ŠKODA Fabia 2000s, two Mini John Cooper Works S2000 and a Fiesta S2000.

ERC return for ŠKODA Motorsport
ŠKODA Motorsport will make its first start in the 2015 ERC when the Mladá Boleslav-based team runs a factory Fabia R5 for three-time event winner Jan Kopecký. Co-driven by Pavel Dresler, Kopecký could wrap up another Czech national title in Zlín, and his experience and speed makes him pre-event favourite for overall victory. ŠKODA Motorsport drivers have won the last three ERC titles – Juho Hänninen (2012), Kopecký (2013) and Esapekka Lappi (2014).

Four ERC Fabia S2000s for GPD Orsák Rally Sport
GPD Orsák Rally Sport will run four ERC registered ŠKODA Fabia S2000s in Zlín, with a strong international line-up of drivers. Sepp Wiegand makes a welcome first ERC start of 2015. The German was vice-champion in 2014 and contested his home Thüringen Rallye with GPD Orsák Rally Sport earlier this year. Having contested Rally Liepāja and the Circuit of Ireland, former motocross rider Martin Hudec also returns. The Czech was runner-up in the ERC Production Car Cup last year with the team. After an encouraging performance on the Ypres Rally, Norway’s Petter Kristiansen is back for more ERC asphalt action, while GPD Orsák Rally Sport will also run the colourful Fabia S2000 of rapid Czech pilot Martin Vlček. The team’s driver-owner, Jaroslav Orsák, will be busy on management duties and won’t be getting behind the wheel!

Štajf aims to stamp his authority at critical time in ERC2 battle
Vojtěch Štajf is aiming to stamp his authority on the ERC2 battle as he enters his home round of the series with a 19-point lead. With four remaining rounds, and only two on his favourite Tarmac surface, Štajf will be aiming for nothing less than maximum points in his Subaru Czech National Team Impreza WRX STI. Equally determined will be his Hungarian rival Dávid Botka, who also brings a lot of asphalt experience and speed with him in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX. Dominykas Butvilas (Subaru Poland Rally Team Impreza WRX STI) is currently third in the series, a further 25 points behind Botka – but such is the Lithuanian driver’s speed on both Tarmac and gravel that he remains a serious title contender. Inessa Tushkanova drives her Lancer Evolution IX, the Russia-based glamour model hoping to claim the outright lead in the ERC Ladies’ Trophy.

Five drivers fight for ERC Junior runner-up spot
Five drivers will be fighting to become ERC Junior vice-champion in Zlín as the 2015 series draws to an exciting climax. Ralfs Sirmacis is currently second in the Michelin-supported contest, although the Sport Racing Technologies Peugeot 208 R2 driver is only eight-points ahead of third-placed Steve Røkland. Tarmac isn’t Røkland’s favourite surface, but for the first time this year the young Norwegian driver will have a pre-event test in his 208 – and if his speed without testing is anything to go by, he’ll be very fast indeed. Just four points cover Røkland, fourth-placed Chris Ingram (208) and fifth-placed Marijan Griebel (ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team). Ingram hopes to celebrate a 12-month partnership with Peugeot UK by taking the silverware, while Griebel has contested two rallies in his native Germany in the last three weeks and will hit the ground running in his Adam R2. However, all four could be leapfrogged by Portuguese Peugeot Rally Academy driver Diogo Gago, who could still catapult himself from sixth to second in the ERC Junior standings. He might have already clinched the ERC Junior title, but that hasn’t made Emil Bergkvist any less determined. He heads to Zlín in his ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Adam R2 looking for another win and has warned his rivals that he’s not there for a joyride! Aleks Zawada scored his maiden ERC Junior podium result with third last year and, following his victory on Tarmac in Ypres, will be full of confidence this time out in his Adam R2. Also full of confidence is Julius Tannert, who leads the ADAC Opel Rallye Cup in Germany after three wins from four rounds. The talented 25-year-old will be aiming to end the ERC Junior season on a high after a year of stunning speed but bad luck. Sweden’s Mattias Adielsson has re-shelled his 208 following a major rebuild after auto24 Rally Estonia and is hoping for a smooth run. This will be Kristóf Klausz’s third attempt at the Barum Rally and the Hungarian teenager hopes to reach the finish for the first time in his Peugeot, while Romanian Florin Tincescu hopes to end a turbulent ERC season on a high in his Napoca Rally Academy 208. Łukasz Pieniążek will have a new engine installed in his 208 and will be aiming to carry the great form shown in his native Polish championship into the final ERC Junior encounter. Northern Ireland’s Jon Armstrong (208) has entered, but will be a non-starter.

International battle for best non-Junior ERC3 honours
There will be a good ERC3 fight for competitors outside the ERC Junior category, with four quality drivers from four countries battling in four different makes of car. Home favourite Ondřej Bisaha has swapped his Renault Clio R3 for a Citroën DS3 R3T Max and will be one to watch. Double Romanian 2WD champion Alex Filip will be quick in his Colina Motorsport-run Renault Clio R3 Maxi and is match fit after a good run on his home Transylvania Rally. Hungary’s Szabolcs Várkonyi appears in a Peugeot 208 R2 having previously rallied a Honda, while Poland’s Grzegorz Sikorski sticks with his rapid Civic Type R. Portugal’s Renato Pita will non-start following a recent injury.

ERC registrations reach 118
A total of 118 registrations have now been received for the 2015 FIA European Rally Championship. The figure far exceeds the target set by series promoter Eurosport Events and highlights the increasing popularity of the series among drivers and teams. There is little doubt that the quality of the 10 events, the TV and media package, incentives like the privateer prize money fund, close competition, big crowds and the friendly atmosphere has struck a chord with competitors, giving them a series they really want to be a part of. In terms of class breakdown, 56 drivers are now registered for ERC1, 17 for ERC2 and 45 for ERC3 – 27 of which are ERC Junior entries.

Kajetanowicz tops ERC privateer prize money leaderboard
Having won 29,000 Euros already this season, Kajetan Kajetanowicz currently tops the ERC privateer prize money leaderboard! Alexey Lukyanuk is second in the rankings with 15,000 Euros, while Robert Consani is third with 12,000 Euros. A total of 28 drivers have shared the 150,000 Euros that ERC promoter Eurosport Events has so far given away in privateer prize money. The prize winners include seven ERC2 drivers and four ERC Juniors. Eurosport Events will give away another 20,000 Euros to the top seven privateers in Zlín. To be eligible for ERC privateer prize fund drivers must register for the ERC, receive no manufacturer support*, use tyres from one of the three ERC partner companies (Michelin, Pirelli and Yokohama) and not compete in a Regional Rally Car.  *Eurosport Events will determine privateer status in consultation with the manufacturer in question.

Rally to Marrow call for bone marrow donors visiting Zlín
Rally fans visiting Zlín next weekend will have the opportunity to help save someone’s life, just by taking a small blood test, as the event’s Rally to Marrow initiative aims to help increase the number of bone marrow donors in the Czech Republic. At the moment, only 0.75 per cent of Czech nationals are on the bone marrow register. Despite the test only lasting five minutes and taking just two millimetres of blood, one in four tests match a donor in urgent need of treatment. And new bone marrow cells can help treat and often cure many life-threatening conditions including leukaemia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and various immune system disorders. Rally to Morrow has gained the support of some of the ERC and Czech Republic’s leading competitors. “Rallying has taught me big humbleness and fighting spirit,” says three-time Barum Czech Rally Zlín winner Roman Kresta. “Every disease has to be beaten, so let’s help all who are in the biggest fight. The fight for their lives.” Blood sample collection points will be available during the rally at the start and finish in Zlín, and in the service park at Otrokovice.

Q&A with Jan Kopecký
Jan Kopecký has contested the Barum Czech Rally Zlín 10 times, won it three times and never finished off the podium. Fiaerc.com thought there was no one better to ask about the secrets behind making a successful assault on the Czech round of the ERC.

You have won four rallies in a ŠKODA Fabia R5, more than any other driver. Can you make it five wins in Zlín?
“The whole of the ŠKODA Motorsport team will do the maximum to win the Barum Rally, so yes I think it is possible! But for sure you have to be well prepared for the rally with all small details.”

You have won the Barum Rally three times. What is the key to success on the event?
“Great team, great car, fast driving without any mistakes and good luck in your choice of tyres because the weather can be very changeable. If all these things come together you can win the Barum Rally.”

You did the rally last year as course car driver in a development version of the Fabia R5. How much has the car changed during the last 12 months?
“The biggest difference is in the overall look, because last year we did the Barum Rally as Course Car with the S2000 body shell and R5 components inside. But for sure during the year the car has been improved from the engine side as well as from the suspension side.”

You are a master of Czech rallying. How special is the ERC event to Czech drivers and fans?
“The Barum Rally is the longest rally in the Czech championship and it is very challenging for each Czech driver because every year there is huge competition. If you can beat all the great drivers from many different countries, this is something special! Czech fans are among the best in the world and you can feel the support from them from the very first day you come to Zlín!”

You will start this year’s event as favourite, but you’ll have some very tough competition. What will be your strategy?
“Our strategy is to win the Czech championship this year and we are very close to that so this the main target during the Barum Rally. Personally I am looking for the first place overall for sure!”

With 10 starts in Zlín under your belt, the first back in 2001, what advice can you give to the ERC Junior drivers who are making their debut on this event?
“To have a huge respect for this rally because it is very fast on bumpy roads, and to be really concentrated from the first day of recce until the finish of the rally.”

FIVE BARUM CZECH RALLY ZLÍN FACTS
*The popularity of Barum Czech Rally Zlín is once again clear for the 45th running of the event in 2015, which has attracted an entry of 143 crews from 26 nations. Among the expected frontrunners will be 2013 ERC champion Jan Kopecký in a works ŠKODA.
*This year’s rally includes a campaign to increase the number of bone marrow donors in the Czech Republic, which currently stands at less than one per cent of the population. ‘Rally to Marrow’ will appeal to people aged under 35 in particular to join the national register and help save lives.
*Budding photographers among the thousands of fans who attend Barum Czech Rally Zlín have the chance to win up to 1000 Euros in a competition open to professionals and amateurs. Anyone wishing to enter can submit up to five jpeg images in the contest organised by Autoclub Barum Zlín with Zlín Press. The closing date is October 5, with the results included online and in next year’s rally programme.
*Kopecký is one of five three-time winners of Barum Czech Rally Zlín, with victories for ŠKODA in 2009, 2011 and 2013. Other triple winners include fellow Czechs Roman Kresta and Vladimír Hubáček, Norwegian John Haugland and Italian Enrico Bertone.
*The rally, which started as an amateur competition in 1971, has been part of the ERC since 1983 and ever-present since the ERC’s restructuring in 2004.

ON THIS EVENT IN 2014…
ŠKODA had been unbeaten on Barum Czech Rally Zlín since 2009, but Václav Pech put an end to that run with victory in his MINI John Cooper Works S2000. Co-driven by Petr Uhel, victory also secured Pech his seventh Czech championship title. Sepp Wiegand (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) beat Tomáš Kostka (Ford Fiesta R5) to the runner-up spot by just 0.2s in a thrilling finish. Jaroslav Orsák did just enough to keep fellow Czech Jaromír Tarabus at bay in the Fabia S2000 battle for what became fourth place when they both moved ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Fiesta R5) on the final stage. Tarabus’ recovery, after he went off the road on SS7, earned him the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy. Ott Tänak finished seventh after power issues slowed his Fiesta, Martin Vlček (Fabia S2000) took eighth with ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusťák (Fabia S2000) ninth and Bruno Magalhães completing the top 10 after he battled set-up and gearshift issues on his all-new Peugeot 208T16. Martin Březik won the ERC Production Car Cup despite a driveshaft failure on his Mitsubishi Lancer, after a broken gearbox on his Subaru Impreza forced out András Hadik prior to the start of the final stage. Stéphane Lefebvre fought back from a stage nine puncture and gearbox woes to claim his third win in the inaugural ERC Junior Championship and extend his title lead. Esapekka Lappi (Fabia S2000) crashed out on leg one but restarted on leg two and won three stages to land five bonus points for completing the final leg in third place. Course Car driver Jan Kopecký gave the thousands of fans who lined the route a glimpse of ŠKODA’s ERC future by demonstrating a Fabia Super 2000 equipped with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that will form the basis of its R5 challenger.

EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local)
Starts:
19h00, Friday 28 August, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Finishes: 16h00, Sunday 30 August, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Headquarters: Building 21, Zlín
Service park: Barum Factory, Otrokovice
ERC appearances (since the restructuring in 2004): 11
Stages: 15
Stage distance: 229.21 kilometres (141.85 kilometres leg one, 87.36 kilometres leg two)
Liaison: 414.29 kilometres
Total: 643.50 kilometres
Surface: All asphalt

MEDIA EVENTS AND INFORMATION (all timings local)
Media accreditation/media centre:
Tomáš Bat’a University centre UTB, nám. T.G.M. 5555, 760 01 Zlín
Opening times: 08h00-23h00, Thursday 27 August; 07h00-24h00, Friday 28 August; 08h00-23h00, Saturday 29 August; 08h00-20h00, Sunday 30 August
Satellite media centre: Vestibul AB Continental Barum, Objízdná 1628, 765 31 Otrokovice
Opening times: From 06h30, Friday 28 August
Friday 28 August
Free Practice (for priority drivers):
07h30-09h10, Pohořelice to Komárov (4.71km). Located 13kms from Zlín / 5kms from Otrokovice
Qualifying Stage (for priority drivers): 09h15-10h10, see above
Optional Shakedown (for non-priority drivers): 10h15-13h00, see above
Pre-rally press conference: 15:30hrs, Rally HQ, Building 21 (16th floor), Zlín.
Start order selection: 16h30, Ceremony Room, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín
Ceremonial start: 17:00hrs, Town Hall, Náměstí Míru square, Zlín

Sunday 30 August
Podium ceremony and prize-giving:
16h00, Town Hall, 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
​Event media contact:
Roman Ordelt, zlinpressmedia@seznam.cz, +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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