Rally Germany: Good start for ŠKODA at World Championship rally among the vineyards

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  • Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm finish the first day in second place in the WRC 2 standings
  • Last year’s winners Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler are having to catch up after tyre problems and are currently in fifth
  • Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer lead their home rally in the ŠKODA FABIA R5

A promising start for ŠKODA at the Rally Germany. Three ŠKODA teams have claimed the top three positions after the first day of this classic event on asphalt among the vineyards of the Moselle, near Trier. Five out of 18 stages have been completed and German drivers Armin Kremer/Pirmin Winklhofer are leading their home rally. They are followed by the ŠKODA Motorsport duo Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN). In third place: the Belgian drivers Ghislain de Mevius and Johan Jalet, who are also competing in a ŠKODA FABIA R5 at the ninth race in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2).

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Armin Kremer set two best times in the first two special stages to catapult himself to the top of the WRC 2 standings – and last year’s winner Jan Kopecký was close behind early on. However, tyre problems on the second stage meant that the Czech driver, an asphalt specialist, lost about one and a half minutes. Kopecký recorded two best times on Friday afternoon to claw back the lost time and he ended the first of three rally days around Trier in fifth place (+1:34.8 minutes).

“Of course I am a bit disappointed because of the tyre problems,” said Kopecký. “That was just bad luck as I really don’t know how it happened. But this is a long rally and the hardest part is yet to come. We will continue to give our all and then we will see what result is still possible. As we all know: Everything can change on the Panzerplatte.”

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And it is true that the nine special stages scheduled to take place over 148.57 kilometres on the second day of the rally could well play a decisive role in determining the winner. The drivers will tackle the legendary “Panzerplatte” at the military base in Baumholder five times, a challenge that will separate the wheat from the chaff at the Rally Germany. The tracks themselves are medium to fast – a mixture of asphalt roads and concrete paving that will be a severe test for the drivers and their cars.

Esapekka Lappi is well placed to enjoy a successful second day of rallying. On Friday, the winner of the Rally Finland took some controlled risks to finish in second place (+28.4 seconds). “I didn’t drive right at the limit, as I wanted to start the rally withoutany major incidents,” said Lappi. “But we still spun round three times on the first two stages. That has never happened to me before! Luckily, nothing serious happened. I am still a bit inexperienced in these conditions. I am intrigued to see how things go tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to the great atmosphere at the Panzerplatte, where we hope that thousands of fans will be cheering us on.”

The ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland duo of Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian (D/D) did not enjoy quite as much luck as Lappi. The leaders of the German Rally Championship (DRM) were in eighth place, but were left standing at the start of the fourth special stage due to a technical problem. On Saturday, they will return thanks to the Rally2 regulations, and will hope to put on a really good show for the many German fans at the track.

On the subject of a good show: on Friday, the ŠKODA works duo of Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S) put on a superb performance in the third FABIA R5 in ŠKODA Motorsport colours. Their stage times would have been good enough to land them in third place in the WRC 2 standings. However, the Swedish drivers had not registered for the WRC 2 class at the Rally Germany, which means that they can‘t score any world championship points.

Classifications Rally Germany (WRC 2) after five of 18 stages:

Kremer/Winklhofer (D/D) ŠKODA FABIA R5 1h 2m 45.7s
Lappi/Ferm (FIN/FIN) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 28.4s
de Mevius/Jalet (B/B) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 1m 8.7s
Loubet/Landais (F/F) Citroën DS3 R5 + 1m 29.6s
Kopecký/Dresler (CZ/CZ) ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 1m 34.8s

 The number of the day: 200

ŠKODA had something to celebrate on Friday: Jan Kopecký’s best time on the fifth special stage was the 200th stage win for the FABIA R5 in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2). The high-tech four-wheel drive car from Mladá Boleslav debuted on the world stage in April 2015. The works duo of Pontus Tidemand/Emil Axelsson (S/S) claimed the fourth consecutive APRC title for ŠKODA in the very first season with the new ŠKODA FABIA R5. This rally car has also won five national titles.