Pech wins dramatic ERC counter

Pech wins dramatic ERC counterFrom ERC Media [ 31/08/2014 ].
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Václav Pech and co-driver Petr Uhel have won Barum Czech Rally Zlín for the second time following four years of ŠKODA domination on the FIA European Rally Championship qualifier. ŠKODA had been unbeaten in Zlín since 2009 with its Fabia Super 2000 but Pech’s success in his Michelin-shod MINI John Cooper Works S2000 breaks that long-running sequence.

But while ŠKODA’s winning run might be over, reigning European champion Jan Kopecký gave the thousands of fans who lined the route a glimpse of the company’s ERC future by demonstrating a Fabia Super 2000 equipped with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that will form the basis of ŠKODA’s R5 challenger from next season.

Pech, who became Czech champion for a seventh time by winning Saturday’s leg, claims his first win in the ERC since its restructuring in 2004 having lost out to Robert Kubica in a final-stage showdown on Austria’s Jännerrallye at the start of the season. He also makes it seven different winners from eight rounds of this year’s ERC.

“The competition was really great so we didn’t have high hopes for the best positions and we were realistic about our chances of being in the top three,” said Pech. “In the beginning we had some engine problems in Slušovice. My greatest fear was to get to the service. It was only a small repair we needed to do but we couldn’t do it on the road. Thanks to the mishaps of others we were able to get to the top. Even though we had a one-minute advantage we didn’t want to make any unnecessary mistakes so we drove carefully to the finish.”

Sepp Wiegand beat Tomáš Kostka to the runner-up spot by 0.2s in a thrilling finish. Czech driver Kostka moved in front of his German rival on stage 13 but an engine problem on his Ford Fiesta R5 for the final two tests slowed him down and allowed Wiegand to get back ahead.

Wiegand was unhappy after being unintentionally delayed behind Robert Consani’s slowing Peugeot 207 S2000 on stage 14 but his second-place finish means he closes the gap to ŠKODA team-mate Esapekka Lappi in the race to become European champion. Lappi, who crashed out on Saturday, restarted on leg two and won three stages to land five bonus points for completing the final leg in third place. After eight rounds, Lappi’s advantage over Wiegand stands at 19 points.

Jaroslav Orsák, the leading Pirelli-shod driver, just did enough to keep fellow Czech Jaromír Tarabus at bay in the battle for what became fourth place when they both moved ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz on the final stage. Tarabus was fastest on two stages today and won the leg as he battled back from his delay when he went off the road on stage seven, which cost him a shot at victory. His determination was rewarded with the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy. Kajetanowicz, meanwhile, achieved his aim of a points finish on his first start in the ERC since SATA Rallye Açores in May in his LOTOS Rally Team Fiesta.

Ott Tänak, who won auto24 Rally Estonia last month, finished seventh after power issues slowed his Fiesta. Martin Vlček took eighth with ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusťák ninth and Bruno Magalhães completing the top 10 after he battled set-up and gearshift issues on his all-new Peugeot 208T16. Neil Simpson was 11th in his ŠKODA UK-supported Fabia S2000.

Robert Consani was in the top 10 when a mechanical problem forced his exit on the penultimate stage. Robert Barrable, who restarted on leg two, dropped out on stage 13 with reported suspension issues. Peugeot Rally Academy team-mates Kevin Abbring and Craig Breen both hit trouble on stage four an neither was able to return to the action on Sunday.

ERC Production Car Cup: Heartbreak for Hadik as Březik battles back
Czech Martin Březik’s bid to win the ERC Production Car Cup looked to be over when a driveshaft failure on his Mitsubishi Lancer dropped him behind András Hadik. However, when the gearbox in the Hungarian’s Subaru Impreza broke prior to the start of the final stage, Bř ezik took the victory. Polish driver Sebastian Frycz finished second with Martin Hudec overcoming a dislocated collarbone to finish third and move into the championship lead after Vitaliy Pushkar retired on the final morning with a mechanical failure.

ERC 2WD Championship: Kobliha in control
Adam Kobliha claimed another home win by taking the ERC 2WD Championship laurels in his Renault Clio R3. He moved in front of Egon Smékal on Saturday’s opening stage and was never headed thereafter. Top ERC Junior Stéphane Lefebvre finished third with category rivals Marijan Griebel and Aleks Zawada next up. Lefebvre’s result puts him ahead of Honda’s defending champion Zoltán Bessenyey in the championship standings after the Hungarian was forced to miss the event after injuring ankle ligaments while training for the rally.

ERC Junior Championship: Dramatic hat-trick for Lefebvre
Stéphane Lefebvre fought back from a stage-nine puncture and gearbox woes to claim his third win in the inaugural ERC Junior Championship and extend his title lead. The Frenchman started the final day’s six stages 22.8s behind Andrea Crugnola but moved ahead when the Italian went off early on Sunday’s first test and lost more than a minute. Lefebvre had problems of his own when his Peugeot 208 R2’s gearbox started to malfunction, which required a replacement unit to be fitted in penultimate service. Marijan Griebel (OPEL Adam R2) and Aleks Zawada (208 R2) claimed their maiden ERC Junior podiums in second and third respectively with Crugnola fourth, Gino Bux fifth and erstwhile championship pacesetter Jan Černý a disconsolate sixth following several delays. Fabio Andolfi took seventh following an off-road moment in Pindula, Alex Parpottas was eighth after exhaust issues on Sunday morning, Chris Ingram finished ninth with Tomáš Pospíšilík scoring his first ERC Junior finish in 10th.

TOP POSITIONS (unofficial / after 15 stages, 237.33 kilometres)
http://www.rallye-info.com/event_results.asp?event=636

FIA ERC Production Car:
Martin Březík (CZE)/Marek Omelka (CZE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX

FIA ERC 2WD:
Adam Kobliha (CZE)/Karel Žáček (CZE) Renault Clio R3

FIA ERC Junior:
Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Thomas Dubois (FRA) Peugeot 208 R2

ERC Ladies’ Trophy:
Ekaterina Stratieva (BGR)/Carmen Poenaru (BGR) Citroën C2 R2

Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy:
Jaromír Tarabus (CZE)

RALLY LEADERS
SS1-SS3: Kevin Abbring
SS4: Roman Kresta
SS5-SS15: Václav Pech

CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS (unofficial)
http://irc.rallye-info.com/points.asp?sid=11

What’s next?
Cyprus Rally, 19-21 September 2014: With mixed-surface stages, the Nicosia-based Cyprus Rally, which is also a round of the FIA Middle East championship, is a tough test for car and crew. High ambient temperatures add to the challenge.