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.
Text and photo: www.fiaerc.com