•Czech hero heads SKODA podium lockout in closest IRC finish
ever•Neuville tops Peugeot challenge as Bouffier crashes on final
Jan Kopecký has claimed his first victory in the
Intercontinental Rally Challenge for more than a year after triumphing
on a thrilling Barum Czech Rally Zlín. The ŠKODA
Motorsport ace, roared on by approximately 300,000 home fans, beat
Freddy Loix by 1.2s, the closest finish in the history of the IRC.
Team-mate Juho Hänninen took third to make it a ŠKODA
podium lockout.
Kopecky started the final stage with a two-second margin over Loix.
Despite the BFO-SKODA driver going fastest through the closing test,
Kopecky was able to hold on to first place and trim Hanninen’s
title lead to three points with four IRC rounds remaining.
Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg’s Thierry Neuville was the
leading Peugeot 207 driver in fourth after Bryan Bouffier crashed his
Peugeot France entry on Sunday’s opening stage. However,
Neuville faced strong opposition from SKODA UK Motorsport’s
Andreas Mikkelsen, who slashed his margin to 6.1s with a succession of
stage wins.
Kopecky, whose last win in the IRC was on Rally Islas Canarias El
Corte Ingles in May 2010, thought his hopes of victory were over when
his car’s powersteering faltered on Sunday’s first stage,
which resulted in his overnight lead of 19.7s being slashed to 5.6s.
Although he and co-driver Petr Stary were able to fashion makeshift
repairs by using a spare pipe to bypass the oil cooler to the
powersteering pump, they were unable to prevent the advancing Loix
from closing to within one second at the midday service halt in
In a tense finish, Kopecky held his nerve to win and banish the
memories of 2010 when he crashed out of the lead of his home event on
the final day. His efforts earned him the prestigious Colin McRae IRC
Flat Out Trophy, awarded to the driver whose performance best embodies
the spirit of the rallying legend.
Hanninen began the final day equal on time with Loix in second but
dropped out of contention when he slid wide on stage 12 and lost a few
precious seconds in the mistaken belief that he had a puncture.
Anxious to preserve his championship lead, the Finn settled for third
rather than pushing for a fourth win of the campaign.
Neuville found Sunday’s faster and flowing stages more to his
liking, which increased his confidence and ability to push, despite
heavy overnight rain leaving the roads damp in places. His capture of
fourth completed an encouraging showing on his second appearance on
the demanding asphalt event following a handful of set-up issues on
day one.
Mikkelsen’s bid to make up lost ground following his puncture
on Saturday began with a brace of stage wins in his SKODA UK
Motorsport Fabia. Stage 12 proved less successful for the Norwegian
when he went off the road and then overshot a junction. But two
further stage wins in the afternoon underlined the 22-year-old’s
huge potential on his way to fifth position.
Finn Toni Gardemeister overcame two clutch failures and a 10-second
penalty for a jumped start in his TGS Worldwide SKODA to fend off
Craig Breen for sixth position. Both drivers impressed on their first
appearances in Zlin with Breen’s performance particularly
noteworthy. Seeded 20th, the 21-year-old from Ireland was the
highest-placed M-Sport Ford Fiesta driver at the finish following an
error-free outing.
Guy Wilks, languishing in 12th at the start of the day following his
costly puncture on Saturday afternoon, battled back to eight position
in his Peugeot UK 207 after posting several impressive stage times.
But his frustrating visit to Czech Republic ended with alternator
failure prior to the 13th stage.
Roman Kresta’s eagerness to secure maximum Czech championship
points after rivals Pavel Valousek and Vaclav Pech both hit trouble on
Saturday meant he was happy to settle for eighth. His only major
concern during the rally was his puncture on stage five.
Swede PG Andersson survived a spin and a broken propshaft on stage 12
to clinch his first IRC points in his PROTON Motorsports’ Satria
Neo in a highly encouraging ninth place. Estonian teenager Karl Kruuda
rounded out the top 10 in his SKODA with Pole Michal Solowow 6.3s
behind in 11th in an M-Sport Fiesta.
SKODA Sweden’s Patrik Sandell was 12th after upping his pace
and confidence on his first visit to the Zlin stages. Irishman Robert
Barrable charged a wall on Sunday morning but kept his composure to
finish 13th in his privateer Fabia, one place ahead of PROTON driver
Giandomenico Basso. SKODA Auto Deutschland duo Mark Wallenwein and
Matthias Kahle were 19th and 20th on their Zlin debuts.
Bryan Bouffier was in the thick of the battle for a podium finish
entering Sunday’s opening test only to go off the road two
kilometres from the end of the stage. Impact with a boulder ripped two
wheels from his Peugeot France 207 and resulted in his instant
“I was trying, doing my best when I went off, hit a boulder and
broke off two wheels,” said the Rallye Monte-Carlo winner.
“For sure I’m very disappointed but this is the race and I
was trying to keep my position and also fight the guys in front of
IRC Production CupIn the fight for the IRC Production Cup Jaroslav
Orsak, in a Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX R4, triumphed by a
healthy margin over Subaru Impreza driver Daniel Behalek. Martin
Bujacek finished third in a Lancer with Vaclav Arazim next up in
another Lancer. Vaclav Pech had been leading the class when he dropped
out with suspension failure on stage six. He returned under SupeRally
regulations on Sunday. Fumio Nutahara, in his Yokohama-supported
Impreza R4, crashed into retirement on stage five.
IRC 2WD CupStefano Albertini shone on his Zlin debut to clinch IRC
2WD Cup spoils for the first time in his Clio R3. The young Italian
edged Czech rising star Vaclav Dunovsky, who struggled with rear
suspension problems for much of the event in his Ignis. Jean-Michel
Raoux boosted his IRC 2WD Cup title hopes in third position after
overcoming an exhaust failure on his Clio. Overnight leader Petr
Zednik, in an M-Sport Fiesta, dropped back to fourth following
intercom and engine problems on the final day. Martin Kangur was the
leading Honda Civic finisher in sixth place.
Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic), SKODA Fabia S2000, first overall:
“It was a nice fight with Freddy until the last metre of the
last stage and we enjoyed it a lot. Many people were much more nervous
than me, I was quite relaxed and felt no pressure. I have to say it is
my best win and we come back in the championship now but there is
still a long way to go.”
Freddy Loix (Belgium), SKODA Fabia S2000, second overall: “I
was hoping I could win but the first four stages I wasn’t so
quick and didn’t have the feeling with the car. I was also
missing a bit the rhythm. But then we changed the car and started to
fight back from sixth to a few seconds from Jan. It was a great race
for me and Jan was very quick.”
Juho Hanninen (Finland), SKODA Fabia S2000, third overall:
“Okay I wanted to win but sometimes it’s better to accept
not winning and take some points, which is important for the
championship. The boys in front of me were on full attack and when I
made a small mistake on stage 12 and thought I had a puncture they won
eight seconds from me and that was it.”
1 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Petr Stary (CZE) SKODA Fabia S2000 2h15m51.7s2
Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frederic Miclotte (BEL) SKODA Fabia S2000 +1.2s3
Juho Hanninen (FIN)/Mikko Markkula (FIN) SKODA Fabia S2000 +37.4s4
Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000
+1m59.6s5 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) SKODA Fabia
S2000 +2m05.7s6 Toni Gardemeister (FIN)/Tapio Suominen (FIN) SKODA
Fabia S2000 +3m43.2s7 Craig Breen (IRL)/Gareth Roberts (GBR) M-Sport
Ford Fiesta S2000 +3m47.4s8 Roman Kresta (CZE)/Petr Gross (CZE) SKODA
Fabia S2000 +4m21.5s9 PG Andersson (SWE)/Emil Axelsson (SWE) PROTON
Satria Neo S2000 +4m41.1s10 Karl Kruuda (EST)/Martin Jarveoja (EST)
SKODA Fabia S2000 +4m54.4sIRC Production Cup: Jaroslav Orsak
(CZE)/Karel Vajik (CZE) Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX R4IRC 2WD Cup:
Stefano Alberto (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Renault Clio R3
Drivers after round seven of 111 Juho Hanninen (Finland) 98pts2 Jan
Kopecky (Czech Republic) 95pts3 Freddy Loix (Belgium) 88pts4 Bryan
Bouffier (France) 61pts5 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) 60pts6 Andreas
Mikkelsen (Norway) 58pts7 Guy Wilks (United Kingdom) 47pts8 Toni
Gardemeister (Finland) 28pts9 Hans Weijs (Netherlands) 18pts10 Karl
Kruuda (Estonia) 15pts= Michal Solowow (Poland) 15pts etc
Manufacturers after round seven of 111 SKODA 275pts2 Peugeot
184pts3 M-Sport 70pts4 Subaru 51pts5 Ralliart 49pts6 PROTON 33pts7
Honda 28pts8 Abarth 14pts
IRC Production Cup after round seven of 111 Florian Gonon
(Switzerland) 50pts2 Jose Luis Barrios (Spain) 25pts= Jonas
Langenakens (Belgium) 25pts= Ricardo Moura (Portugal) 25pts= Jaroslav
Orsak (Czech Republic) 25pts= Volodymyr Pechenyk (Ukraine) 25pts7
Vojtech Stajf (Czech Republic) 24pts8 Toshi Arai (Japan) 18pts= Daniel
Behalek (Czech Republic) 18pts= Vitor Lopes (Portugal) 18pts= Anthony
Martin (Belgium) 18pts= Yuriy Shapovalov (Ukraine) 18pts etc
IRC 2WD Cup drivers after round seven of 111 Jean-Michel Raoux
(France) 64pts2 Stefano Albertini (Italy) 40pts3 Pierre Campana
(France) 25pts= Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi (France) 25pts= Paulo Maciel
(Portugal) 25pts= Kris Princen (Belgium) 25pts= Joan Vinyes (Spain)
25pts8 Eric Mauffrey (France) 22pts9 Gorka Antxustegi (Spain) 18pts=
Michael Burri (Switzerland) 18pts= Vlad Cosma (Romania) 18pts= Tommy
Doyle (Ireland) 18pts= Vaclav Dunovsky (Czech Republic) 18pts= Guy
Fiori (France) 18pts etc
IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers after round seven of 111 Honda 158pts2
Peugeot 149pts3 M-Sport 116pts4 Abarth 58pts5 SKODA 30pts
SS1: Juho HanninenSS2: Andreas MikkelsenSS3-15: Jan Kopecky
Day one (Friday 26 August and Saturday 27 August):SS1: SSS Zlin
(9.36kms): Juho HanninenSS2: Biskupice 1 (8.89kms): Guy WilksSS3:
Pindula 1 (12.95kms): Jan KopeckySS4: Trojak 1 (28.69kms): Jan
KopeckySS5: Semetin 1 (11.49kms): Bryan BouffierSS6: Biskupice 2
(8.89kms): Freddy LoixSS7: Pindula 2 (12.95kms): Juho HanninenSS8:
Trojak 2 (28.69kms): Freddy Loix and Jan KopeckySS9: Semetin 2
(11.49kms): Freddy Loix 
Day two (Sunday 28 August):SS10: Majak 1 (22.69kms): Andreas
MikkelsenSS11: Kudlovice 1 (10.48kms): Andreas MikkelsenSS12:
Halenkovice 1 (24.37kms): Freddy LoixSS13: Majak 2 (22.69kms): Andreas
MikkelsenSS14: Kudlovice 2 (10.48kms): Andreas MikkelsenSS15:
Halenkovice 2 (24.37kms): Freddy Loix
IRC rally wins in 2011 (drivers)Juho Hanninen: 3Bryan Bouffier: 1Jan
Kopecky: 1Freddy Loix: 1Thierry Neuville: 1
IRC rally wins in 2011 (manufacturers)SKODA: 5Peugeot: 2 
IRC stage wins in 2011 (drivers)Andreas Mikkelsen: 18Juho Hanninen:
17Jan Kopecky: 14Freddy Loix: 14Thierry Neuville: 12Guy Wilks: 8Bryan
Bouffier: 8Stephane Sarrazin: 4Giandomenico Basso: 1Francois Delecour:
1Bruno Magalhaes: 1Patrik Sandell: 1Nicolas Vouilloz: 1
Stage wins in 2011 (manufacturers)SKODA: 65Peugeot: 34

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