From IRC media [ 22/08/2009 ].
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Jan Kopecky has withstood the weight of expectations from an army of devoted fans, plus the furious pace of his rivals and a deluge over the final three stages to lead the 2009 Barum Czech Rally Zlin by more than a minute at the end of the opening leg.
Kopecky has taken six stage wins from the eight run today in a towering performance. The extremely fast and often very rough stages were described by the Skoda Motorsport driver as ‘brutal’ with no quarter being given among the leading contenders. Nevertheless he was able to build his lead through the day despite losing stage victories to championship leader Kris Meeke and his team mate Juho Hanninen.
Second place at the overnight halt is held by Freddy Loix, the Belgian Peugeot driver having run consistently in the top group and benefitted from the bizarre turn of events on SS8. Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso crashed heavily from third place, causing the stage to be stopped. As is usual the time of the last car through the stage is given as a default to all those who were unable to set a time – and the last car to get cleanly through the stage was Kopecky with the fastest time.
This quirk of fate gave Loix and the remainder of the field a handy boost to their times – particularly useful for Loix who is once again fighting a rearguard action against the Peugeot UK entry of championship leader Kris Meeke.
Having started the day in 33rd place, Meeke charged up into fourth place over the first three stages of the day. Thereafter he found it difficult to close in on the top three runners despite winning SS4, but as conditions worsened his pace improved and, with Basso’s dramatic departure from the event, he holds third place and is just 8.4s behind Loix.
Fourth place is held by the second works Skoda of Juho Hanninen, who won last night’s city centre stage in Zlin and SS6, but struggled to maintain his pace in between these two victories. He has nevertheless recovered and is now battling to hold off the Peugeot of three-time Barum Czech Rally Zlin winner Roman Kresta.
Having initially struggled to acclimatise to his new Peugeot 207 S2000, BF Goodrich Drivers Team entry Martin Prokop has got up to speed and has climbed up to sixth place at the overnight halt, ahead of fellow WRC regular Evgeny Novikov’s privately-entered Skoda. Luca Rossetti in the second works Abarth has overcome a difficult first day to resume his place in the points-winning positions, ahead of the leading Ralliart contender, local man Vaclav Pech.
In the IRC 2WD Cup the talents of the local drivers have prevailed after front-running Honda competitors Marcel Piepers and Martin Knudsen crashed out. At the overnight halt the lead is held by the Abarth of Jiri Skoupil from a quartet of Hondas led by Egon Smekal, with IRC regular Denis Millet holding sixth in his Peugeot 207.
1 Kopecky (CZ) – Skoda – 1hr 27m 22.1s
2 Loix (B) – Peugeot – +1m 1.6s
3 Meeke (UK) – Peugeot – +1m 10.0s
4 Hanninen (FIN) – Skoda – +1m 29.3s
5 Kresta (CZ) – Peugeot – +1m 42.2s
6 Prokop (CZ) – Peugeot – +2m 20.5s
7 Novikov (RUS) – Skoda – +2m 42.0s
8 Rossetti (I) – Abarth – +2m 50.9s
1 Millet (F) – Peugeot – 1hr 33m 13.6s
2 Skoupil (CZ) – Abarth – +6m 17.8s
3 Laszlo (HUN) – Honda - +7m 32.0s