Andreas Mikkelsen leads a fierce battle for the lead on the opening
day of the 45th Canon Mecksek Rallye. Driving a SKODA UK Motorsport
Fabia S2000, Mikkelsen holds sway over factory pilot Jan Kopecky by
just 8.7s, with Peugeot ace Thierry Neuville a further 12.7s behind.
This is the first time the Canon Mecsek Rallye, based around the
historic city of Pecs, has been part of the Intercontinental Rally
Challenge, and all the drivers coming here for the first time felt
that they would struggle to reconcile the slow pace of the recce
(performed in road cars at legal speeds) with the high velocities they
would achieve in racing trim once the roads were closed.
Nobody expected to arrive with the perfect set-up straight out of the
box. Thus the recurring motif during the morning’s opening loop was
one of frustration with pacenotes and set-up: braking for corners that
should be flat out, and finding the suspension either too pliable or
so stiff that the cars were jumping over the bumps. For the most part,
it was the drivers who adapted most quickly who prevailed.
Mikkelsen won all but one of the morning’s loop of four stages,
holding back by his own admission on stage three, a stage he was not
yet comfortable with. Kopecky initially complained that his Fabia was
too stiff, and that he did not like some aspects of the course, but
between the stages he finessed the set-up of his car and by the
afternoon he was on a roll, setting commandingly the quickest time on
all three stages after the lunchtime service. The last test of the
day, due to be held in the evening, was cancelled because there were
too many spectators.

Thierry Neuville was on impressive form in the Team Peugeot
Belgium-Luxembourg 207 S2000, occupying second place overall for the
first four stages and showing a thoroughly mature outlook. He made it
very clear that he wasn’t going to risk his car by pushing to keep up
with Mikkelsen, but still managed to post stage times within the top
three on all but one occasion. He too made set-up changes throughout
the day to improve the car, and finished the final stage with a firm
grip on the final podium position.
For the opening two stages a clearly delighted Frigyes Turan held
third place in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000, but the top 10 was so
tightly contested that no mistake went unpunished. On stage three he
posted the 10th quickest stage time and lost three places overall.
Although he recovered, moving back up to fifth, in the heat of the
afternoon he made a mistake shortly before the end of stage five,
clipping one of the logs at the apex of a corner and rolling off the
BFO-SKODA Rally Team’s Freddy Loix spent the morning recreating his
exploits on the final day of last month’s Barum Czech Rally
Zlin, matching Kopecky’s pace to the tenth of a second. But he failed
to find the same level of set-up improvements and on the second run
through the stages he slipped back to a baffled fourth, unable to
understand where he was losing time. "We tried some more things after
the last service but it did not work," he said.
Peugeot UK’s Guy Wilks worked through the morning to improve the
set-up of his 207 S2000, feeling that it was moving around too much. A
calculated gamble to run the harder tyre compound paid off on stage
three when he set the fourth quickest time, but his day ended by the
roadside on stage five after a coolant hose retaining clip came off
and his engine overheated.
"Something splashed on the windscreen," he said. "I thought it was
from the water bottle, but when I turned on the windscreen wipers I
realised it was coolant."
Bryan Bouffier had a problematic morning in the Peugeot France 207
S2000, losing confidence in his pacenotes from the first stage when he
found tyre barriers which had been laid down on corners to prevent
‚cutting‘ had been removed since the recce. Then in stage four he had
to back off when he rounded a corner to find spectators crossing the
route. In that stage alone he lost 12.2s to the leader, but the
retirements of Turan and Wilks enabled him to end the day in fifth
After battling brake problems during the morning, Toni Gardemeister
overhauled local privateer Robert Butor for seventh place in stage
six, but he still felt that the TGS Worldwide Fabia had too short a
top gear. "In the fast sections I was bouncing off the limiter," he
There was trouble early on for PROTON when Giandomenico Basso halted
after stage one with an engine issue, then PG Andersson hit a kerb in
stage two and damaged a wheel. The Swede was able to continue but the
impact had also damaged his Satria Neo S2000’s rear diff, adversely
affecting the handling. Since the issue did not manifest itself until
after the mid-morning service halt, Andersson had to take it easy
through stages three and four. This made his aim of a top 10 finish an
even tougher task, even before he had to stop with a technical issue
on stage six.
Hermann Gassner Jr found some of the opening stages too slippery for
his liking in the Red Bull SKODA, but ended the day ninth, 8.1s ahead
of Hungarian entrant Norbert Herczig in a similar car.
Outside the top 10 local knowledge really told as a host of entrants
from the Hungarian championship dominated the midfield, especially on
the tighter stages. Multiple Hungarian champion Janos Toth would have
finished higher in his Peugeot-Total Hungaria Rally Team 207 S2000 but
for a recurring diff problem in the morning which cost him over two
Bruno Magalhaes quickly realised he had badly misjudged the gears of
his Peugeot 207 S2000 when he reached the first flat out section and
found himself hitting the rev limiter in top gear. After that it was
along road back to the top 10, and he ended the day just outside in
11th place.
"For sure it was a big mistake with our gear ratios this morning," he
said. "This afternoon has been much better."
SKODA Auto Deutschland drivers Mark Wallenwein and Matthias Kahle
were 16th and 23rd overnight. Kahle was leaving morning service when
his engine dropped on to two cylinders. The problem was traced to a
broken fuel injection pipe, but it was a lengthy fix and Kahle checked
in to the next time control late, incurring a penalty.
IRC Production Cup: In the opening stages Gyorgy Aschenbrenner and
Piko Zsuzsa were untouchable in their Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evo
IX, not only pulling clear of the IRC Production Cup rivals but also
regularly posting top 10 stage times. IRC regular Toshi Arai, driving
the latest spec Subaru Impreza R4, admitted that he found the stages
scarily fast and lost almost two minutes to Aschenbrenner over the
morning alone, ending the day seventh. Aschenbrenner leads Beppo
Harrach by 1m09.9s.
IRC 2WD Cup: Menyhert Kroszer, driving a Citroen DS3 R3T, led from
the first stage but 2WD Cup regular Stefano Albertini’s Renault Clio
R3 was never far behind. Kroszer leads by 15.0s, with third placed
Olle Sasa 1m12.1s behind in his Suzuki Swift S1600. Ferenc Levai is
the highest placed Honda Civic Type R3 driver in fifth. Title leader
Jean-Michel Raoux holds fourth spot.
Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR), SKODA Fabia S2000, first overall:
“It’s been a really good day, and to be leading overnight
is a great feeling. Even though it’s quite bumpy, these roads
are like a race track and you have to use racing lines. I’m
really enjoying myself out there. We’ve got a long way to go on
this rally. It’s been very fast and Jan has been pushing us very
Jan Kopecky (CZE), SKODA Fabia S2000, second overall: “Andreas
pushed hard this morning so now we have to catch up. We will see. Much
depends on the conditions of the stages tomorrow. Already we have seen
a lot of loose gravel on the surface of the last stage.”
Thierry Neuville (BEL), Peugeot 207 S2000, third overall:
“It’s been a very good day and we’re exactly where
we want to be. On the last stage I couldn’t see the road properly
because it was so dark. I didn’t want to damage the car on the last
stage. Tomorrow we go on more attack!”
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Floene (NOR) SKODA Fabia S2000
1h06m41.6s2 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Petr Stary (CZE) SKODA Fabia S2000
+8.7s3 Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000
+21.4s4 Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frederic Miclotte (BEL) SKODA Fabia S2000
+32.7s5 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000
+1m20.9s6 Gyorgy Aschenbrenner (HUN)/Piko Zsuzsa (HUN) Ralliart Lancer
Evo IX R4 1m29.0s7 Toni Gardemeister (FIN)/Tapio Suominen (FIN) SKODA
Fabia S2000 +1m46.6s8 Robert Butor (HUN)/Igor Bacigal (HUN) Peugeot
207 S2000 1m52.8s9 Hermann Gassner Jnr (GER)/Timo Gottschalk (GER)
SKODA Fabia S2000 +1m58.2s10 Norbert Herczig (HUN)/Kalman Benics (HUN)
SKODA Fabia S2000 +2m06.3sIRC Production Cup: Gyorgy Aschenbrenner
(HUN)/Piko Zsuzsa (HUN) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX R4IRC 2WD Cup: Menyhert
Kroszer (HUN)/Gyorgy Papp (HUN) Citroen DS3 R3T
Special stages: SixSpecial stage distance: 107.40kmsLiaison distance:
183.89kmsTotal distance: 322.69kmsService F: Expo Center Pecs
(0:15hrs), 08:10hrsSS9: Zobak 1 (12.00kms), 09:08hrsSS10: Arpadteto 1
(24.00kms), 09:51hrsSS11: Nyarasvolgy 1 (17.70kms), 10:44hrsService G:
Expo Center Pcs (0:30hrs), 12:04hrsSS12: Zobak 2 (12.00kms),
13:17hrsSS13: Arpadteto 2 (24.00kms), 14:00hrsSS14: Nyarasvolgy 2
(17.70kms), 14:53hrsService H: Expo Center Pecs (0:10hrs),
15:56hrsFinish: Expo Center Pecs, 16:18hrs
Owing to bad weather in the US, which has forced the US Open Tennis
to be rescheduled, Eurosport, the Intercontinental Rally
Challenge’s media partner and Europe’s leading sports
entertainment group, has amended the timing of its coverage of the
Canon Mecsek Rallye as follows:
Saturday 10 September:23:30hrs-24:00hrs: Day one highlights
(Eurosport)*26:15hrs-26:45hrs: Day one highlights (Eurosport
Asia-Pacific)*Subject to the end of the US Open Tennis semi-finals
Sunday 11 September:08:30hrs-09:00hrs: Day one highlights repeated
(Eurosport)11:15hrs-11:45hrs: Day one highlights repeated (Eurosport
Asia-Pacific)19:45hrs-20:15hrs: Day two highlights
(Eurosport)26:15hrs-26:45hrs: Day two highlights (Eurosport
Asia-Pacific)Daily highlights will also be shown at www.rally-irc.com
and via the IRC iPhone and iPad App. All times are CET.

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