Jan Kopecky’s bid to make it two wins out of two on Rally Islas
Canarias El Corte Ingles remains on course after the Skoda Motorsport
driver completed the opening day of the all-asphalt competition with a
lead of 5.7s over rising star Thierry Neuville.
Kopecky, from Czech Republic, moved in front on Friday’s second
stage and remained in the lead despite the close attentions of the
chasing pack. Kopecky, in a Fabia Super 2000, is one of four drivers
covered by a margin of nine seconds heading into Saturday’s
final quartet of stages such is the intensity of the competition in
the Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Second-placed Neuville has impressed throughout day one in his Team
Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg 207. The 22-year-old hasn’t put a
wheel wrong on his first IRC event with new co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.
His only cause for concern came on the first loop of stages when he
reported a bout of oversteer, which he put down to his decision to
carry two spare tyres rather than one as part of a set-up experiment.
Juho Hanninen, the defending IRC champion, admitted to spending much
of the day trying to avoid making mistakes in order to remain in the
thick of the battle for top spot. He was fastest overall on stage six
to underline his continued emergence on asphalt and moved ahead of
Freddy Loix into third overall on stage seven.
Loix made his customary hesitant start to a rally and was down in
eighth overall after the first stage on the Gran Karting Club circuit
in the south of the island. But changes to his pacenotes for the
second loop of stages helped the BFO Skoda driver increase his pace.
He started the first night stage in second spot but slipped to fourth
after the run. With the second night test cancelled on safety grounds
he remains fourth overnight.
Guy Wilks was fastest on stages one and three but his lethargy
through the two passes of the Santa Lucia test has dented his hopes of
victory. “I lost confidence because the car was sliding at the
rear and I couldn’t commit in the fast corners,” said the
Peugeot UK driver who slipped from fifth to seventh on stage seven.
“We’ve been a bit too up and down and that has been the
frustrating part.”
Andreas Mikkelsen began Friday by winning a charity fun run in aid of
the people of Japan. He started the rally intent on landing his first
finish of the IRC season following his early exit on Rallye
Monte-Carlo in January. As a result, the Norwegian adopted a low risk
strategy in his Skoda UK Motorsport Fabia and holds fifth overnight,
one place ahead of Monte-Carlo winner Bryan Bouffier.
The Frenchman made several changes to the settings of his Peugeot
France 207 S2000 at first service in a bid to close the gap to the
leaders. He said the changes had helped his cause but he faces the
prospect of starting the final day almost 40s adrift of leader
While Thursday’s pre-event shakedown took place in bright
sunshine and high ambient temperatures, Friday was largely overcast
with fog and even a small sprinkling of rain adding to the challenge
facing the crews. Bruno Magalhaes, who was actually fastest in
shakedown in his Peugeot Sport Portugal 207, was one of several
drivers to drop time in the heavy fog that coated parts of stages
three and six. He also suffered from understeer at one point and is
eighth overnight.
Giandomenico Basso, making his debut for PROTON Motorsports, is ninth
at the completion of day one. The Anglo-Malaysian outfit is using
Basso’s extensive experience to hone its fleet of Satria Neo
S2000s, which it is continuing to develop.
Team-mate PG Andersson was just outside the top 10 when he was forced
to stop to change a punctured front-right tyre on stage five. He also
picked up a slow rear-right puncture on the same test. But with only
one spare available he had to crawl through stage six on the damaged
rubber. The Swede also lost ground with a half spin on the first Gran
Canaria stage.
Toni Gardemeister completes the top 10 on his first outing for his
new TGS Worldwide operation and his first event behind the wheel of a
Fabia S2000. Spaniard Jonathan Perez is 11th with Joan Vinyes the
leading IRC 2WD Cup runner in 12th overall.
Vinyes holds a margin of almost one minute over his nearest 2WD Cup
rival, his fellow Spaniard Gorka Antxustegi. Angel Marrero is third in
class and 15th overall in a Honda Civic Type R, one place ahead of IRC
Production Cup leader, the Subaru Impreza driver Jose Barrios.
Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic), Skoda Fabia S2000, first overall:
“It’s been a very good day and the car was perfect, no
reason to change any details. Of course it’s nice when we have
this battle and with four cars in the fight it’s really
interesting for us the drivers and of course for the
Thierry Neuville (Belgium), Peugeot 207 S2000, second overall:
“I’m really, really happy with how today has been. The car
is working very well and Nicolas and me also did a very good job for
our first time together in this car. It’s also really nice to be
on the pace with the fastest guys even if we are near to the limit for
Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabias S2000, third overall: “It
was important not to make any mistakes today because when that happens
you lose so much time. Because it is so close it is very difficult to
make that time up. The car has been good all day.”
1 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Petr Stary (CZE) Skoda Fabia S2000 55m56.3s
2 Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000
3 Juho Hanninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) Skoda Fabia S2000 +8.6s
4 Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frederic Miclotte (BEL) Skoda Fabia S2000 +9.0s
5 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) Skoda Fabia S2000 +37.6s
6 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +38.6s
7 Guy Wilks (GBR)/Phil Pugh (GBR) Peugeot 207 S2000 +40.7s
8 Bruno Magalhaes (POR)/Paulo Grave (POR) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m03.8s
9 Giandomenico Basso (ITA)/Mitia Dotta (ITA) PROTON Satria Neo S2000
10 Toni Gardemeister (FIN)/Tapio Suominen (FIN) Skoda Fabia S2000
IRC Production Cup: Jose Barrios (ESP)/Amaranto Martel (ESP) Subaru
Impreza WRX
IRC 2WD Cup: Joan Vinyes (ESP)/Jordi Mercader (ESP) Suzuki Swift
Special stages: Four
Special stage distance: 73.78kms
Liaison distance: 164.40kms
Service D: Plaza de Canarias (0:15hrs), 07:30hrs
SS9: San Mateo 1 (23.42kms), 08:35hrs
SS10: Artenara 1 (13.47kms), 09:22hrs
Service E: Plaza de Canarias (0:30hrs), 10:46hrs
SS11: San Mateo 2 (23.42kms), 12:06hrs
SS12: Artenara 2 (13.47kms), 12:53hrs
Service F: Plaza de Canarias (0:10hrs), 13:57hrs
Finish: Plaza de Canarias, 14:30hrs
The IRC’s media partner Eurosport, Europe’s leading
sports entertainment group, will show coverage of Rally Islas Canarias
El Corte Ingles on Saturday 16 April as follows:
05:00hrs-05:30hrs: Day one highlights (Eurosport Asia-Pacific)
24:00hrs-24:30hrs: Day two highlights (Eurosport)
24:30hrs-25:00hrs: Day two highlights (British Eurosport)

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