•SKODA driver snatches IRC title lead with second straight
victory•Peugeot’s Neuville clinches Colin McRae IRC Flat
Out Trophy for charging drive
SKODA Motorsport’s Jan Kopecky won the 45. Canon Mecsek Rallye by the
smallest margin in the history of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge
after a dramatic final day of action. In an event marked by close
battles throughout the field, Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg’s
Thierry Neuville won the final stage but lost out to the Czech driver
overall by just 0.8s.
Right up until the penultimate stage, this rally looked like it
belonged to SKODA UK’s Andreas Mikkelsen. The overnight leader started
the day strongly, built an advantage with a commanding early stage win
("On the first stage this morning I was sleeping," Kopecky said), then
backed off too much on the first stage of the afternoon. With the
pressure back on, 6.2km into SS13 Mikkelsen slid wide on gravel in a
fast right-hand corner and the back of his car hit a tree. He was able
to keep the heavily damaged Fabia S2000 moving until the next
junction, where he was able to park it safely.
“We had the perfect weekend up until stage thirteen," he said.
"We had led from the start, I was driving smart, Ola [Floene] was
doing an amazing job and the car was faultless. I’m so
disappointed about what happened.
“Our rally came to an end on an uphill fast right-hand corner
over a crest, and where it tightened a little there was gravel all
over the road. It was a repeat of a stage we’d done this this
morning, and the first time through there was no gravel. Even on the
second run there was a nothing on the road until that point. When we
hit the gravel there was no grip at all and we slid off the road in
sixth gear and hit a tree.
“We are getting so close to winning a rally now, it’s
just a shame we couldn’t fulfil it here."
The battle for the lead between the SKODA team-mates wasn’t the only
story of the day. Peugeot’s Thierry Neuville was third overnight and
began the day within striking distance of the leader. There could be
no question of team orders up front as Neuville racked up a succession
of stage wins, and after Mikkelsen’s retirement Neuville ended the
penultimate stage 8.1s behind new leader Kopecky.
To close the gap over the remaining 17.7km would be a tall order, and
so it proved. Neuville won the final stage convincingly but fell just
short of overall victory, by 0.8s. Could they have snatched victory in
the final stage? Neuville and co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul will be
pondering that between now and the next round.
"Unfortunately I absolutely wanted to modify a pace note in a very
fast section, and I didn’t have time to tell him the pace note
for afterwards,” said Gilsoul. “The corner tightened so we
had a big moment. But Thierry has very good car control and we had a
bit of luck."
Freddy Loix brought his BFO-SKODA home third. Having shown speed on
the opening day, he couldn’t hit the same heights on the second.
"It’s a combination of factors," he said. "The feeling of the car is
better, I have a good feeling but I’m losing a few seconds here and
there. I can see where I’m losing but I can’t react for the stage
after, so it’s always the same silly mistakes.
"It’s not a question of gravel on the road. If I feel well, like in
the Barum Rally, gravel is no problem. It’s more about being on the
big attack and about confidence."
Confidence had been a problem for Peugeot France’s Bryan Bouffier on
the opening day as he struggled with set-up issues and lack of trust
in the veracity of his pace notes. Today he was within the top five on
every stage, but the overall gap to the leaders was too great for the
Rallye Monte-Carlo winner to overcome.
"The car worked very well today," he said. "I had a better feeling
and we took some points."
Fifth fell to Hermann Gassner Jr in only his second asphalt rally in
the Red Bull SKODA. Gassner improved continuously throughout the
event, beginning just outside the top 10 and ultimately passing more
experienced entrants on merit. By Sunday morning he was posting stage
times well within the top 10, and was fourth quickest over the last
two stages.
It was only on the penultimate stage that Gassner unseated local IRC
Production Cup entrant Gyorgy Aschenbrenner, who used his local
knowledge to remarkable effect. Regularly setting top 10 stage times
aboard his Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX, Aschenbrenner delighted the
local fans and drew one of the biggest crowds in the service park.
Brake problems on the first day consigned Toni Gardemeister to the
lower portion of the top 10, and his counter-attack this morning was
hindered by a misfire on SS1. "It felt like bad turbo lag," he said.
"It would pause, there was nothing, then the power would come in. I
stopped after the stage and went under the bonnet, played with some
connections, but we had to look at it in the service park."
In the afternoon, though, the TGS Worldwide SKODA came on song and
Gardemeister had no complaints. "The car is working brilliantly," he
said, "and we’ve learned a lot about this new rally."
Hungarian entrant Robert Butor finished eighth after a strong run,
beating several IRC regulars in his Peugeot 207 S2000: "We are very
happy. For us the Hungarian championship was the most important and in
this we are second, so it’s good."
Bruno Magalhaes was ninth in the Peugeot Sport Portugal 207 S2000,
having solved the set-up and gear ratio issues that hindered him on
the first day. "This rally was very tough," he said. "It was hard to
run against local drivers – they were fast."
Beppo Harrach rounded out the top 10 in a Ralliart Lancer Evolution
IX, though Karl Kruuda – who suffered a puncture in SS12 – was just
2.1s behind after the final stage.
"This result is much more than we expected before the rally," said
Harrach. "To be able to fight with all the Super 2000 cars ahead of us
– amazing!"
IRC Production Cup: Gyorgy Aschenbrenner and Piko Zsuzsa continued
their dominance in their Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, remaining
in the top 10 throughout the day. Aschenbrenner had some handling
issues in the morning’s final stage but the timing was opportune,
since a service halt followed immediately. Second placed Beppo Harrach
also finished inside the top 10, 24.5s ahead of David Botka, both in
Lancer Evolution IXs. IRC regular Toshi Arai, driving the Subaru
Impreza R4 in its third event, found it hard to match the pace of the
Hungarian drivers but set-up improvements overnight enabled him to
finish seventh in class.
IRC 2WD Cup: Menyhert Kroszer, driving a Citroen DS3 R3T, held an
overnight lead of 15.0s over IRC 2WD Cup regular Stefano Albertini’s
Renault Clio R3, but Albertini attacked from the very first stage and
by the lunchtime service had moved into the lead. The battle continued
throughout the afternoon and Albertini won by just 1.9s. Olle Sasa was
2m22.6s behind in his Suzuki Swift S1600. Jean-Michel Raoux continues
to top the IRC 2WD Cup standings after finishing seventh. Honda moved
clear in the makes‘ classification with two cars in the top six.
Jan Kopecky (CZE), SKODA Fabia S2000, first overall: “It was
very difficult racing, a very quick rally. Finally we are in first
place – okay, we were lucky, but we didn’t make any
mistakes, we stayed on the road, we didn’t spin or go off, and
the car was working perfectly. The result was first place.”
Thierry Neuville (BEL), Peugeot 207 S2000, second overall: “We
changed the set-up and the car felt much better, and I felt more
confident. I continued to push and push and we felt really good. We
had just a little moment on the last stage today, Nicolas was maybe a
little too late with the pace note, but we managed it and we could
continue. Maybe we lost the rally there but yesterday I was not
driving so good on a few stages, so it’s hard to say. Today it
was like we switched off and went flat out.”
Freddy Loix (BEL), SKODA Fabia S2000, third overall: “It was
certainly not my most easy rally because I could never do the speed of
the first three cars. I was always doing the third or fourth time, so
today when I came in for the first service I had a small talk with my
engineer, he was pushing me and I said, ‘Look, I want to finish
the rally like this because at the moment I can’t go quicker,
and maybe with some luck by the end of the day I will be on the
1 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/Petr Stary (CZE) SKODA Fabia S2000 2h00m06.7s2
Thierry Neuville (BEL)/Nicolas Gilsoul (BEL) Peugeot 207 S2000 +0.08s3
Freddy Loix (BEL)/Frederic Miclotte (BEL) SKODA Fabia S2000 +1m00.0s4
Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m25.6s5
Hermann Gassner Jr (GER)/Timo Gottschalk (GER) SKODA Fabia S2000
+2m32.5s6 Gyorgy Aschenbrenner (HUN)/Piko Zsuzsa (HUN) Ralliart Lancer
Evo IX 2m38.2s7 Toni Gardemeister (FIN)/Tapio Suominen (FIN) SKODA
Fabia S2000 +3m05.6s8 Robert Butor (HUN)/Igor Bacigal (HUN) Peugeot
207 S2000 3m16.8s9 Bruno Magalhaes (POR)/Paulo Grave (POR) Peugeot 207
S2000 +3m51.7s10 Beppo Harrach (AUT)/Andreas Schindlbacher (AUT)
Ralliart Lancer Evo IX 2m38.2sIRC Production Cup: Gyorgy Aschenbrenner
(HUN)/Piko Zsuzsa (HUN) Ralliart Lancer Evo IX R4IRC 2WD Cup: Stefano
Albertini (ITA)/Simone Scattolin (ITA) Renault Clio R3
Drivers after round eight of 111 Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) 120pts2
Freddy Loix (Belgium) 1033 Juho Hanninen (Finland) 98pts4 Thierry
Neuville (Belgium) 78pts5 Bryan Bouffier (France) 73pts6 Andreas
Mikkelsen (Norway) 58pts7 Guy Wilks (United Kingdom) 47pts8 Toni
Gardemeister (Finland) 34pts9 Hans Weijs (Netherlands) 18pts10 Bruno
Magalhaes (Portugal) 16pts
Manufacturers after round eight of 111 SKODA 285pts2 Peugeot
199pts3 M-Sport 70pts4 Ralliart 67pts5 Subaru 61pts6 PROTON 33pts7
Honda 31pts8 Abarth 14pts
IRC Production Cup after round eight of 111 Florian Gonon
(Switzerland) 50pts2 Gyorgy Aschenbrenner (Hungary) 25pts= Jose Luis
Barrios (Spain) 25pts= Jonas Langenakens (Belgium) 25pts= Ricardo
Moura (Portugal) 25pts= Jaroslav Orsak (Czech Republic) 25pts=
Volodymyr Pechenyk (Ukraine) 25pts8 Toshi Arai (Japan) 24pts= Vojtech
Stajf (Czech Republic) 24pts10 Daniel Behalek (Czech Republic) 18pts=
Beppo Harrach (Austria) 18pts= Vitor Lopes (Portugal) 18pts= Anthony
Martin (Belgium) 18pts= Yuriy Shapovalov (Ukraine) 18pts etc 
IRC 2WD Cup drivers after round eight of 111 Jean-Michel Raoux
(France) 70pts2 Stefano Albertini (Italy) 65pts3 Pierre Campana
(France) 25pts= Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi (France) 25pts= Paulo Maciel
(Portugal) 25pts= Kris Princen (Belgium) 25pts= Janos Puskadi
(Hungary) 25pts= Joan Vinyes (Spain) 25pts9 Eric Mauffrey (France)
22pts10 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= Menyhert
Krozser (Hungary) 18pts etc
IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers after round eight of 111 Honda 201pts2
Peugeot 149pts3 M-Sport 116pts4 Abarth 58pts5 SKODA 30pts
SS1-SS12: Andreas MikkelsenSS13-SS14: Jan Kopecky
Day one (Friday 9 September and Saturday 10 September):SS1: Hetvehely
1 (18.21kms): Andreas MikkelsenSS2: Orfu 1 (28.00kms): Andreas
MikkelsenSS3: Pecsvarad 1 (12.00kms): Jan KopeckySS4: Alsomocsolad 1
(14.02kms): Andreas MikkelsenSS5: Hetvehely 2 (18.21kms): Jan
KopeckySS6: Orfu 2 (28.00kms): Jan KopeckySS7: Pecsvarad 2 (12.00kms):
Jan KopeckySS8: Alsomocsolad 2 (14.02kms): Stage cancelled due to
safety reasons
Day two (Sunday 11 September):SS9: Zobak 1 (12.00kms): Andreas
MikkelsenSS10: Arpadteto 1 (24.00kms): Jan KopeckySS11: Nyarasvolgy 1
(17.70kms): Thierry NeuvilleSS12: Zobak 2 (12.00kms): Thierry
NeuvilleSS13: Arpadteto 2 (24.00kms): Thierry NeuvilleSS14:
Nyarasvolgy 2 (17.70kms): Thierry Neuville
IRC rally wins in 2011 (drivers)Juho Hanninen: 3Jan Kopecky: 2Bryan
Bouffier: 1Freddy Loix: 1Thierry Neuville: 1
IRC rally wins in 2011 (manufacturers)SKODA: 6Peugeot: 2
IRC stage wins in 2011 (drivers)Andreas Mikkelsen: 22Jan Kopecky:
19Juho Hanninen: 17Thierry Neuville: 16Freddy Loix: 14Guy Wilks:
8Bryan Bouffier: 8Stephane Sarrazin: 4Giandomenico Basso: 1Francois
Delecour: 1Bruno Magalhaes: 1Patrik Sandell: 1Nicolas Vouilloz:
Stage wins in 2011 (manufacturers)SKODA: 74Peugeot: 38
Eurosport, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge’s media partner
and Europe’s leading sports entertainment group, will show
coverage of the Canon Mecsek Rallye as follows:
Saturday 10 September:24:00hrs-24:30hrs: Day one highlights
(Eurosport)26:15hrs-26:45hrs: Day one highlights (Eurosport
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
Monday 12 September:10:15hrs-10:45hrs: Day two highlights repeated
(Eurosport Asia-Pacific) 
Tuesday 13 September:23:15hrs-23:45hrs: Rally Review
(Eurosport)24:15hrs-24:45hrs: Day one highlights repeated (Eurosport
Asia-Pacific)24:45hrs-25:15hrs: Day two highlights repeated (Eurosport
Wednesday 14 September:05:45hrs-06:15hrs: Rally Review (Eurosport
Asia-Pacific)26:15hrs-26:45hrs: Rally Review repeated (Eurosport
Friday 16 September:13:30hrs-14:00hrs: Rally Review repeated
(Eurosport 2)
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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