From Skoda Press [ 24/08/2009 ].
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Jan Kopecký and Petr Starý have won the 39th Czech Rally Zlín. Making Škoda Motorsport's fifth appearance in this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) series and this great achievement even sweeter, Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula came third.
With record-breaking 24 vehicles on the start line of the Super 2000 category, the Czech Rally Zlín started on Friday night with a super special stage, a great attraction for the fans who, as usual in Zlín, were coming in large numbers throughout this weekend. Beating his team-mate Kopecký by one second, Juho Hänninen won the event prologue and took the lead before Saturday.
The event agenda included altogether 15 stages with a total length of 254.96 km, one on Friday, eight on Saturday and the remaining six on Sunday. Right from the start, the top ten racers with overall victory aspirations were fighting a fierce battle for each second, including Jan Kopecký who won five of Saturday's eight trials to take a 61-second lead before the last day. With one speed trial victory, Juho Hänninen was fourth. A heavy rain made the last two last trials on Saturday quite challenging, especially for those with dry-road tyres.
The first three stages on Sunday were bit of a tyre-selection lottery, as the track was still wet. Jan Kopecký did not let his rivals to get anywhere near him and, adding another speed trial win, cruised to a comfortable overall victory, Juho Hänninen took a small “trip” out of the track first but then won the last two trials and came third, which indeed is another superb achievement for the entire team after its “double” in Russia this July.
Head of Škoda Motorsport Michal Hrabánek was more than happy: “This is a great moment, we have been under enormous pressure on our home ground, and it is clear that we have to put down this great victory and the fantastic third place for the Škoda brand and the Fabia Super 2000 to excellent work put in by all members of our team. I wish to thank both our crews and all of my colleagues for this. Since the beginning of this year, when we returned to the motorsport scene, our vehicles and both our crews have been showing that they are prepared well, competitive and reliable. Furthermore, the “private” Fabias have done a good job here in Zlín, too – the Belgian team RGRS with Pavel Valoušek came sixth, A-style (Italy) with Yevgenyi Novikov dropped out shortly before the end, after achieving very good times throughout the weekend.”
Jan Kopecký: “Winning the “Barum Rally” is indeed great, as this was certainly the most competitive IRC event this year, and we've managed to come top after a series of runner-up positions. The tracks around Zlín are very difficult and the weather made things tough yesterday afternoon, and so we are glad that we have made it today. Both me and Petr wish to say a big thank you to our fans. They've been great, creating a fantastic atmosphere all the time from Friday till Sunday. We felt their support already on the start line of the super speed trial on Friday night.“
Juho Hänninen: “This was the first time me and Mikko had a chance to appear here, and I must say that it was one of the most difficult tracks we have ever experienced. We are very happy about the third place today, as the start list was indeed full of top-class names. The car was great all the time, a real pleasure to drive.“