- Second place for ŠKODA works driver Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler at the Rally France in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
- Five stage wins for the Czech champions
Works driver Jan Kopecký (CZ) claimed the 20th podium finish for ŠKODA Motorsport with the FABIA R5 in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2). The experienced Czech and his co-driver Pavel Dresler (CZ) finished second at the infamous Rally France on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Asphalt specialist Kopecký was embroiled in a thrilling battle with eventual winner Elfyn Evans (GB) over 390.92 kilometres against the clock, and underlined his class with victory on five of the ten special stages.
“We would obviously have liked to win, but congratulations to Elfyn Evans on his deserved victory. We are pleased to have reached a small milestone. We are proud to have racked up 20 podium finishes for ŠKODA Motorsport on the global platform that is WRC 2 since our FABIA R5 made its debut last year. Our thanks go out to the entire team,” said Michal Hrabánek. The ŠKODA Motorsport Director will accept nothing less than success: “We will continue to work hard to improve. There’s no time to catch one’s breath: we want to be back in contention again next time out at the Rally Spain.”
Endless corners, blazing sunshine, and heavy showers on Saturday – the “Rally of 10,000 Corners” put the drivers and cars through their paces over the three days on Corsica. This was underlined by the fact that only four cars in the WRC 2 class completed all stages of the rally. These included two ŠKODA FABIA R5. Frenchman Julien Maurin, at the wheel of his customer car, finished fourth at his home rally.
ŠKODA works driver Kopecký thrilled thousands of spectators along the route with his battle for class victory with Ford driver Elfyn Evans. The very first stage, “Aqua Doria – Albitreccia 1”, ultimately proved to be pivotal, with Kopecký dropping 17.9 seconds over the course of 49.72 kilometres. The 34-year-old Czech was playing catch-up from this point on, and although able to close the gap to Evans, courtesy of some blistering times, he was unable to overtake the experienced WRC driver in the overall standings.
As such, Kopecký once again had to settle for second place at the “Tour de Corse” – the same position he occupied for three years in a row between 2011 and 2013. The rally formed part of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) in 2011 and 2012, and belonged to the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) in 2013. The iconic rally returned to the world championship calendar last year. “I’m happy with my performance, although I would obviously have liked to win. The routes on Corsica are always a real test for the tyres and brakes – but this time the rain also made it slippery, and thus even more complicated, for the first time,” said the ŠKODA works driver.
The previous seven rounds of the WRC 2 had all been won by a driver in ŠKODA FABIA R5. Works driver Esapekka Lappi (FIN) won his home rally in Finland and in Germany, while team-mate Pontus Tidemand (S) triumphed at the Rally Portugal. Teemu Suninen (FIN) was victorious in a FABIA R5 in Mexico, at the Rally Italy on Sardinia and at the Rally Poland. Nicolás Fuchs (PE) won for ŠKODA at the Rally Argentina.
Elfyn Evans extended his overall lead in the WRC 2 class, and now has 120 points to his name. However, the title race is still wide open, as the Brit has no further opportunities to score points. He has already contested the maximum seven races, in which it is possible to score points towards the overall standings. Suninen (93 points) and ŠKODA works driver Lappi (82) both have a further two opportunities in their FABIA R5 with three races remaining and 25 points on offer for a race win.
The other two ŠKODA works drivers, Jan Kopecký (55 points) and Pontus Tidemand (49), also still have a mathematical chance of clinching the title. For this to be possible, however, they would have to win all three remaining rallies. The first opportunity for Kopecký and Tidemand to underline their title credentials comes at the Rally Spain from 13 to 16 October, where they will represent the ŠKODA Motorsport team.