*KODA UK driver makes it 25 wins in the IRC for the Czech manufacturer
*Colin McRae Trophy goes to Flodin as Pushkar and Consani score in support categories
Andreas Mikkelsen and co-driver Ola Fløene have claimed KODAs 25th victory in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge with a dominant performance on the Sibiu Rally, which finished in Romanias picturesque Transylvania region this evening.
Mikkelsen, driving a KODA UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, led from Fridays opening stage and drove without fault to claim his second win of the season, a result that puts him 49 points clear in his bid to become the first driver to secure back-to-back IRC titles.
Sepp Wiegand was on course for his maiden IRC podium when broken right-rear suspension forced his retirement on stage 10. The KODA Auto Deutschland drivers misfortune promoted Patrik Flodin to second place after the Petter Solberg Engineering driver had fought back from 45th position following early delays. His heroics earned him the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy.
François Delecour completed the podium after the 49-year-old French legend overcame a spate of damper failures in his Munaretto Sport Peugeot 207 Super 2000. Delecour was also able to celebrate finishing as the leading Romanian championship runner. Vitaliy Puskhar claimed his first IRC Production Cup event win, while Robert Consani bagged his maiden success in the IRC 2WD Cup after former champion Harry Hunt hit trouble in the closing stages while leading.
Mikkelsen began day two with a comfortable 2m44.1s margin having won all seven stages on Friday and by profiting when several of his key rivals suffered significant time loss. Although Wiegand topped Saturdays opener, Mikkelsen wasnt flustered, citing his cautious approach and his decision to carry two spare tyres compared to one on Friday for his small drop off in pace.
The Norwegian was less circumspect on the mixed-surface Șanta Max run that followed to go fastest before a front-right puncture five kilometres from the finish of stage 10 helped Flodin to a first stage best. But two further stage wins in the afternoon, including the event-closing superspecial on the outskirts of Sibui, ensured a comfortable winning margin of more than five and a half minutes, an IRC record.
We won with a good margin, but it was a very tough event, said Mikkelsen. The roads were very rough and for us it was a case of taking no risks and driving to avoid all the big rocks, especially after wed opened up a big gap by the end of day one. This victory is a fantastic feeling for the whole KODA UK Motorsport team, and if it wasnt for their great work I wouldnt be here. Weve been so close in the last rounds with a lot of second places, so its great to be back on the top step of the podium.
Flodin completed day one in sixth place and frustrated after a costly puncture on stage two caused by a broken wheel rim and the significant delay encountered in the dust clouds that proved such a menace on stages four and seven. But a brace of top-two stage times on Saturday morning rejuvenated the Swede who moved into third when Delecour had to drive through stage nine with a broken front-right shock absorber. Flodin suffered problems of his own on day two, with a broken driveshaft and powersteering glitch affecting his pace through stage 11. However, with Delecour suffering more broken shock absorber woes, Flodins second place was never truly threatened.
Wiegand was almost 2m40s clear in second place when he picked up a puncture on stage 10. Rather than stopping to change the damaged wheel the 21-year-old rising star elected to carry only for his cars right-rear shock absorber to break and force his retirement when a connection failed.
Having been plagued by a spate of punctures on day one, Swiss Michaël Burri was hoping for a change of fortune on Saturday. Instead, an errant stone broke the timing belt on his Saintéloc Racing Peugeot 207, which caused the cars engine to fail. His team-mate Mathieu Arzeno didnt restart following his stage-two exit due to a crack being discovered in the shock absorber top mounting.
Marco Tempestini was in seventh place when his privateer Fabia suffered clutch failure. Dan Girtofan continued under restart rules on day two and set some impressive times in his KODA Romania-backed entry. A broken right-rear wheel ended Gergély Szabós challenge after stage eight. The Hungarian had run as high as second in his Eurosol Fabia, which he was using in competition for the first time.
IRC Production Cup
Valeriy Pushkar impressed with his maiden IRC Production Cup win after fighting back from a double puncture on Saturdays opener. Valentin Porcisteanu started the day leading the category as the top Romanian driver when disaster struck on stage nine: After three kilometers from the start we got a puncture and it damaged the steering, he said. Then the car fell down from the jack, later Vitaliy passed us and we didn’t see anything in the dust. Porcisteanu eventually finished third in class behind team-mate Edwin Keleti. Slovenian lady driver Aska Zupanc took fourth with Bogdan Marisca fifth and Marius Klein sixth. Title leader Andreas Aigner did not restart in his Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI following his exit on stage two with broken suspension.
IRC 2WD Cup
Robert Consani landed his first victory in the IRC 2WD Cup in a hugely impressive sixth overall at the wheel of his Renault Clio R3. The French ace trailed Harry Hunt by almost a minute with three stages remaining but took advantage when Hunt was slowed by a broken right-rear shock absorber, which caused two punctures and his rear brakes to falter. Despite the numerous setbacks Hunt fought his way to the finish in second with Vlad Cosma third and Alexandru Filip fourth in another Clio R3. Serban Tomita gave Honda reason to celebrate by heading home category regular Davide Catania in ninth place. The Japanese makes lead driver Martin Kangur was a favourite for victory but a succession of punctures wrecked his hopes, which were finally ended when a rock broke his Civic Type Rs fuel tank on Fridays final run. He elected not to restart on day two.
TOP 10 IRC POSITIONS: SIBIU RALLY (19-21 JULY)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) KODA Fabia S2000 2h15m28.0s
2 Patik Flodin (SWE)/Göran Bergsten (SWE) M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000 +5m33.8s
3 François Delecour (FRA)/Dominique Savignoni (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +11m56.9s
4 Vitaliy Pushkar (UKR)/Ivan Mishyn (UKR) Ralliart Lancer Evolution X +13m57.2s
5 Edwin Keleti (ROM)/Botond Csomortani (UKR) Ralliart Lancer Evolution X +14m45.6s
6 Robert Consani (FRA)/Cédric Beynet (FRA) Renault Clio R3 +17m26.7s
7 Valentin Porcisteanu (ROM)/Daniel Dobre (ROM) Ralliart Lancer Evolution X +18m04.6s
8 Asja Zupanc (SLO)/Spela Trcek (SLO) Ralliart Lancer Evolution IX +21m14.0s
9 Bogdan Marisca (ROM)/Sebastian Itu (ROM) Ralliart Lancer IX +21m43.3s
10 Alexandru Filip (ROM)/Bogdan Iancu (ROM) Renault Clio R3 +24m39.1s
IRC Production Cup: Vitaliy Pushkar (UKR)/Ivan Mishyn (UKR) Ralliart Lancer Evolution X
IRC 2WD Cup: Robert Consani (FRA)/Cédric Beynet (FRA) Renault Clio R3
IRC STANDINGS (BEST OF EIGHT SCORES COUNT, ALL POINTS PROVISIONAL)
IRC drivers after round eight of 13
1 Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) 132pts; 2 Jan Kopecký (Czech Republic) 83pts; 3 Juho Hänninen (Finland) 68pts; 4 Sepp Wiegand (Germany) 52pts; 5 Giandomenico Basso (Italy) 40pts; 6 Patrik Flodin (Sweden) 28pts; 7 Bryan Bouffier (France) and Umberto Scandola (Italy) 27pts; 9 Dani Sordo (Spain) 25pts; 10 Craig Breen (Ireland) and Freddy Loix (Belgium) 18pts.
IRC co-drivers after round eight of 13
1 Ola Fløene (Norway) 132pts; 2 Pavel Dresler (Czech Republic) 83pts; 3 Mikko Markkula (Finland) 68pts; 4 Timo Gottschalk (Germany) 52pts; 5 Mitia Dotta (Italy) 40pts; 6 Göran Bergsten (Sweden) 28pts; 7 Guido DAmore (Italy) and Xavier Panseri (France) 27pts; 9 Carlos del Barrio (Spain) 25pts; 10 Gareth Roberts (United Kingdom) and Lara Vanneste (Belgium) 18pts.
IRC manufacturers after round eight of 13
1 KODA 307pts; 2 Peugeot 169pts; 3 M-Sport 102pts; 4 Renault 86pts; 5 Subaru 63pts; 6 Honda 36pts.
IRC Production Cup drivers after round eight of 13
1 Andreas Aigner (Austria) 50pts; 2 Marco Tempestini (Romania) 48pts; 3 Robert Consani (France) 47pts; 4 Vitaliy Pushkar (Ukraine) 41pts; 5 Garry Jennings (United Kingdom), Ricardo Moura (Portugal), Jarkko Nikara (Finland) and Massimiliano Rendina 25pts; 9 Johan Heloïse (France) 22pts; 10 Toshi Arai (Japan), Bob Colsoul (France), Donagh Kelly (Ireland), Sérgio Silva (Portugal) and Gergély Szabó (Hungary) 18pts.
IRC Production Cup co-drivers after round eight of 13
1 Daniela Ertl (Austria) 50pts; 2 Dorin Pulpea (Romania) 48pts; 3 Nicolas Klinger (France) 47pts; 4 Ivan Mishyn (Ukraine) 41pts; 5 Sancho Eiró (Portugal), Jarkko Kalliolepo (Finland), Barry McNulty (United Kingdom) and Mario Pizzuti (Italy) 25pts; 9 Thibault Gorczyca (France) 22pts; 10 Tom Colsoul (France), Kevin Flanagan (Ireland), Borbely Karoly (Hungary), Dale Moscatt (Australia) and Fernando Nunes (Portugal) 18pts.
IRC 2WD Cup drivers after round eight of 13
1 Harry Hunt (United Kingdom) 76pts; 2 Robert Consani (France) 50pts; 3 Martin Kangur (Estonia) 33pts; 4 Petru-Antone Boschetti (France), Simone Campedelli (Italy), Paulo Maciel (Portugal), Marty McCormack (United Kingdom) and Joan Vinyes (Spain) 25pts; 9 Davide Catania (Italy) 22pts; 10 Gorka Antxustegui (Spain), Melissa Debackere (Belgium), François Delecour (France), Paolo Diana (Italy), Tommy Doyle (Ireland) and Énio Medeiros (Portugal) 18pts.
IRC 2WD Cup co-drivers after round eight of 13
1 Robbie Durant (United Kingdom) 76pts; 2 Cédric Beynet (France), Danilo Fapani (Italy), Filipe Gouveia (Portugal), Nicolas Klinger (France), Benoit Manzo (France), Jordi Mercader (Spain), David Moynihan (Ireland) and Andres Ots (Estonia) 25pts; 10 Cindy Cokelaere (Belgium), Andrea Mini (Italy), Liam Moynihan (Ireland), Paulo Rego (Portugal), Dominique Savignoni (France) and Gabriel Suarez (Spain) 18pts.
IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers after round eight of 13
1 Renault 262pts; 2 Honda 98pts; 3 M-Sport 60pts; 4 Peugeot 41pts; 5 KODA 8pts.
Go to www.ircseries.com for full standings, including IRC Production Cup and IRC 2WD Cup.
SS1-12: Andreas Mikkelsen
Day one (Friday 20 July):
SS1: Dobârca I (7.30kms): Overall: Mikkelsen/IRC PC: Pushkar/IRC 2WD: Kangur
SS2: Crinți I (28.70kms): Mikkelsen/Porcisteanu/Stage cancelled for IRC 2WD Cup drivers
SS3: Dobârca II (7.30kms): Mikkelsen/Pushkar/Kangur
SS4: Crinți II (28.70kms): Mikkelsen/Porcisteanu/Consani
SS5: Superspeciala I (1.90kms): Mikkelsen and Porcisteanu/Porcisteanu/Cosma
SS6: Paltiniș (10.00kms): Mikkelsen/Marisca/Hunt
SS7: Șanta (16.00kms): Mikkelsen/Porcisteanu/Hunt
Day two (Saturday 21 July):
SS8: Gâtu Berbecului I (28.50kms): Wiegand/Porcisteanu/Hunt
SS9: Şanta Max I (20.70kms): Mikkelsen/Pushkar/Consani
SS10: Gâtu Berbecului II (28.50kms): Flodin/Porcisteanu/Consani
SS11: Şanta Max II (20.70kms): Mikkelsen/Pushkar/Consani
SS12: Superspeciala II (1.90kms): Mikkelsen/Porcisteanu/Hunt
IRC rally wins in 2012 (drivers)
Juho Hänninen 2; Jan Kopecký 2; Andreas Mikkelsen 2; Giandomenico Basso 1; Dani Sordo 1.
IRC rally wins in 2012 (manufacturers)
KODA 6; MINI 1 (note: MINI is not currently eligible for IRC manufacturers points); M-Sport Ford 1.
IRC stage wins in 2012 (drivers)
Andreas Mikkelsen 46; Juho Hänninen 23; Jan Kopecký 17; Giandomenico Basso 7; Freddy Loix 5; Dani Sordo 3; Pierre Campana 2; Sepp Wiegand 2; Germain Bonnefis 1; Bryan Bouffier 1; Patrik Flodin 1.
Stage wins in 2012 (manufacturers)
KODA 88; Peugeot 9; M-Sport Ford 8; MINI 3.
Go to www.ircseries.com for more information.
Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 31 August-2 September