Freddy Loix leads Skoda 1-2-3 in Rally Madeira
- 9th August 2010, 10:31am
Juho Hanninen continues to lead the IRC drivers' standings but, by finishing behind team-mate Jan Kopecky in third, the Finn's title advantage has now been trimmed to seven points with four rounds remaining. It was the third time this season that Skoda has filled all three podium places.
Co-driven by fellow Belgian Frederic Miclotte, Loix didn't put a wheel wrong throughout the event in his Fabia S2000 Facelift. Following an early battle with Abarth Grande Punto driver Luca Rossetti, Loix moved into a lead he would never relinquish on stage seven. To underline his dominance he was fastest on 14 of the rally's 21 all-asphalt stages, despite nursing an injured left shoulder, which he sustained falling off his motorbike two weeks ago.
Defending IRC champion Kris Meeke started leg two in second but failed to go beyond stage 17 when his Peugeot UK 207 suffered a terminal engine failure 2.8 kilometres into the test. Meeke had been embroiled in a close scrap with Kopecky for the runner-up spot. After dropping behind the Czech when an alternator glitch developed on stage 15, Meeke hit back following rapid repairs by going fastest of all on stage 16 to retake the place only to stop on the very next run.
"It was very sudden and is a real blow," said Meeke. "It leaves the championship hanging by a thread but I have to be pleased with my performance because I don't think I've ever driven as well on a Tarmac rally as I did this weekend."
Meeke's retirement almost brought about disaster for Kopecky and Hanninen, who were both competing in Madeira for the first time. The Skoda drivers were running behind Meeke on the road when they encountered a coating of oil on the road, which had been dropped by Meeke's stricken Peugeot.
Kopecky managed to survive a wild slide on the third-gear sweeping left-hand corner, while Hanninen could not avoid brushing a concrete retaining wall. The impact caused damage to his Fabia's right-rear corner, which triggered a puncture eight kilometres from the end of the stage and dropped the Finn behind local driver Miguel Nunes.
But with Nunes concentrating on maximising points in the Madeira championship rather than maintaining third place, Hanninen faced little opposition on his charge to the final podium spot. Nunes, who only began competing in 2006, revealed his surprise at his final position at the wheel of a Peugeot 207, especially after his original engine failed during a pre-event test.
Vitor Sa overcame an oil pressure problem to claim fifth with Filipe Freitas finishing as the leading Group N runner in sixth overall following Rui Pinto's crash on stage 16 in a similar Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer. The final IRC points went to Joao Magalhaes in seventh and Pedro Peres in eighth. Ricardo Moura took ninth with Belgian Dominique Bruyneel completing the top 10 on his first visit to Madeira since 1993.
Burcu Cetinkaya achieved her objective of reaching the finish in her Peugeot Sport Turkey 207 as she continues to gain vital experience during her transition to four-wheel drive competition. Brazil's Daniel Oliveira also completed the full distance in his Stohl Racing-prepared 207 after a mature drive.
Duarte Ramos secured IRC 2WD Cup honours in his Peugeot 206 after long-time leader Luis Serrado went out on Friday's final stage. Not only did Ramos, who becomes the seventh different winner in the two-wheel drive class this season, cover the event's 298.20 competitive kilometres, he also doubled as a mechanic due to a shortage of helpers in his privately-run team. Filipe Carvalho, at the wheel of a Peugeot 106, finished second.
Luca Rossetti's challenge came to an end with a sizeable accident on Friday's penultimate stage. Although his Procar-run machine was badly damaged, neither Rossetti nor co-driver Matteo Chiarcossi suffered any injuries.
Loix had double reason to celebrate after the finish in Funchal when he was handed the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which is presented to the most spectacular driver on all remaining rounds of this year's IRC as part of the association between Eurosport Events, promoter of the IRC, and the Colin McRae Vision charity. Loix was chosen as the winner by IRC's Jean-Pierre Nicolas, Eurosport's Gilbert Roy and Jim McRae, Colin's father.
Freddy Loix (Belgium), Skoda Fabia S2000, first overall: "It's been a good, clean drive from the start. I had a two-hour test on Wednesday evening and straightaway I had a perfect feeling with the car and there was never a problem. Okay, I hurt my shoulder but it was fine in the stages because this car is so good and easy to drive. I'm very happy."
Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic), Skoda Fabia S2000, second overall: "It was a shame when Kris stopped because we were having a nice battle but it also caused me to have a big moment. I had a great test in Spain before the rally and this is a really good result."
Juho Hanninen (Finland), Skoda Fabia S2000, third overall: "Before the start I would not have believed I could be third because this is such a specialist rally and it has not been easy for me. But I am lucky to finish because I hit the wall really hard on stage 17."
TOP 10 IRC POSITIONS AFTER LEG TWO
1 Freddy Loix/Frederic Miclotte (Skoda Fabia S2000) 3h08m14.3s
2 Jan Kopecky/Petr Stary (Skoda Fabia S2000) +37.8s
3 Juho Hanninen/Mikko Markkula (Skoda Fabia S2000) +2m25.8s
4 Miguel Nunes/Victor Calado (Peugeot 207 S2000) +2m42.7s
5 Vitor Sa/Nuno Rodrigues (Peugeot 207 S2000) +3m13.7s
6 Filipe Freitas/Daniel Figueiroa (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X) +9m03.2s
7 Joao Magalhaes/Jorge Pereira (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X) +9m29.0s
8 Pedro Peres/Tiago Ferreira (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX) +10m39.8s
9 Ricardo Moura/Antonio Costa (Ralliart Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX) +11m06.3s
10 Dominique Bruyneel/Lara Vanneste (Peugeot 207 S2000) +12m38.9s
Leading IRC 2WD Cup finishers: Duarte Ramos/Luis Ramos (Peugeot 206 S1600)
Drivers after round eight of 12
1 Juho Hanninen (Finland) 54pts
2 Jan Kopecky (Czech Republic) 47pts
3 Bruno Magalhaes (Portugal) 30pts
4 Guy Wilks (United Kingdom) 25pts
5 Kris Meeke (United Kingdom) 23pts
6 Freddy Loix (Belgium) 20pts
7 Thierry Neuville (Belgium) 11pts
8 Mikko Hirvonen (Finland) 10pts
9 Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway) 9pts
10 Paolo Andreucci (Italy) 8pts etc
Manufacturers after round eight of 12
1 Skoda 116pts
2 Peugeot 79pts
3 M-Sport 26pts
4 Ralliart 19pts
5 Subaru 11pts
IRC 2WD Drivers after round eight of 12
1 Rafael Tulio 20pts
2 Pierre Campana 16pts
3 Kevin Abbring 10pts
= Harry Hunt 10pts
= Yeray Lemes 10pts
= Kris Princen 10pts
= Duarte Ramos 10pts
= Marcos Tokarski 10pts
9 Carlos Oliveira 9pts
10 Filipe Carvalho 8pts
= Enrique Cruz 8pts
= Luis Gius 8pts
= Pablo Pelaez 8pts
= Colin R Smith 8pts
= Luis Tedesco 8pts etc
IRC 2WD Manufacturers after round eight of 12
1 Peugeot 72pts
2 M-Sport 68pts
3 Abarth 19pts
4 Honda 16pts
5 Skoda 5pts
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