- Despite tyre damage, Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler go into the final 62.80 kilometres of the Rally Spain with a 14.3-second lead over team-mates Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson
- Works driver Kopecký takes best time in seven of the eight stages on Saturday in the ŠKODA FABIA R5
Asphalt expert Jan Kopecký (CZ) has taken the lead in the thrilling ŠKODA duel at the Rally Spain. Together with his co-driver Pavel Dresler (CZ), the Czech champion built a 14.3-second lead over the second works duo, Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S), despite tyre damage. The last 62.80 kilometres of this leg of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2) on Sunday will decide whether ŠKODA Motorsport can celebrate a one-two victory on the Costa Daurada like it did in 2015.
“Sunshine instead of rain, and on top of that first and second place for ŠKODA – you can’t help but beam after a day like today. We pushed a bit more on the asphalt and that gave us the top position. The puncture shaved some time off our lead though,” commented Kopecký. For that reason, the 34-year-old is by no means confident of winning as he looks towards the last four special stages: “The duel with Pontus has not been decided yet. Anyway, what matters for the team is that we celebrate a one-two victory here in Spain.”
Saturday was all about switching from rain to sunshine and from gravel to asphalt. Pontus Tidemand had a 3.0-second lead going into the two-way battle with his team-mate Kopecký. However, this slim cushion had been whittled away after the very first stage of the day and the Czech then took the lead over the course the following stage kilometres on his favourite surface, asphalt, bagging a total of seven best times. In “Querol 2”, the third to last stage on Saturday, a slow puncture cost him more than 20 seconds against Tidemand, however. “That makes the whole thing more exciting,” said Kopecký. Thousands of spectators lined the courses and relished the ŠKODA duel for top position in the WRC 2.
“Jan is quite simply really good on asphalt. And I didn’t take too many risks: after all, I want to get the car over the finishing line,” explained Tidemand. He hasn’t yet given up hope of repeating last year’s victory, when he triumphed ahead of Jan Kopecký: “Anything can happen in rallying, especially at the Rally Spain.” This was also illustrated by WRC 2 title contender Teemu Suninen (FIN), who managed to make a comeback by working his way into fifth place for a privateer team after his ŠKODA FABIA R5 suffered a defect the previous day.
The rally on the Costa Daurada is the only “hybrid rally” on the WRC calendar, at which the tracks switch between gravel and asphalt. It is considered particularly challenging as a result. The rally ends on Sunday with what must be the most spectacular roundabout in the WRC. The rally drivers have to complete a full “donut” of a roundabout as part of the final stage, “Duesaigües”. If they fail to do this, they are awarded a 30-second penalty. Thousands of fans will travel to see the spectacle, when the ŠKODA duel will also be decided.
Interim standings Rally Spain (WRC 2):
|1||Kopecký/Dresler (CZ/CZ)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||2:42:54.4 hrs|
|2||Tidemand/Andersson (S/S)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||+ 0:14.3 min.|
|3||Turan/Zsiros (H/H)||Peugeot 208 R5||+ 12:20.2 min.|
|4||van den Heuvel/Dockx (NL/NL)||Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X||+ 21:13.5 min.|
|5||Suninen/Markkula (FIN/FIN)||ŠKODA FABIA R5||+ 28:29.0 min.|
The number of the day: 0.0
It may be almost unbelievable, but it’s true: after stage 8 of the Rally Spain, the two ŠKODA works drivers, Pontus Tidemand and Jan Kopecký, had exactly the same time, down to a tenth of a second. The two drivers covered the 125.38 stage kilometres up to that point in exactly 1:27:10.4 hours, putting them jointly in the lead.