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Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler have begun the second half of the FIA European Rally Championship season in style with victory number four of their campaign on the Sibiu Rally in Romania’s stunning Transylvania region.
The mixed-surface spectacular took place in bright sunshine with warm temperatures and attracted huge numbers of spectators, while throwing up some serious competition thanks to three different leaders, as well as plenty of on-stage drama.
François Delecour, the rallying legend and reigning Romanian champion, set the pace on Friday’s opening stage only to slip behind Bryan Bouffier at the completion of the next stage when his fellow Frenchman outgunned him as a powersteering glitch slowed Kopecký. But following repairs at service in Sibiu, Kopecký hit back with the fastest time through stage three.
Bouffier’s bid was over on the next test when a broken suspension mount triggered a succession of mechanical failures on his Peugeot 207 Super 2000. With Delecour easing his pace due to an overheating engine, the result of a water leak, Kopecký moved in front for the first time. The Czech then extended his advantage by going quickest on stage five and the all-asphalt sixth stage. But he had no answer to Delecour on the final test, which the 50-year-old won by 10.6s to narrow Kopecký’s lead starting Saturday’s final leg of seven stages to 15.4s.
By winning Saturday’s first stage, the all-asphalt Sadu test, Kopecký was able to gradually pull clear as Delecour focused on preserving his Romanian championship lead following a scare when a broken front-right shock absorber on his Peugeot caused a puncture nearing the finish of the mixed-surface Șanta Max test. But there were no such problems for Kopecký, who drove without error in his Michelin-shod ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 to complete a lockout of day two stage wins on his debut on the demanding event.
“I’m really happy we got this opportunity from ŠKODA to be here and take my second win on gravel,” said the ERC title leader. “It was a really tough event: the hot weather was not such a problem but there were a lot of rocks and loose stones on the stages and you had to use your head to decide when and where to push. I was enjoying a big battle with Bryan and François until they had problems but this is motorsport and this can happen.”
Toshi Arai, European Rally ChampionshipBehind Delecour, Toshi Arai (with Australian Anthony McLaughlin) battled a stomach upset to top the FIA ERC Production Car Cup classification in third overall with a Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI, which marked tyre firm Yokohama’s first podium in this year’s ERC. Napoca Rally Academy’s Marco Tempestini finished a fine fourth with Dávid Botka recovering from a broken turbo to take fifth.
Vali Porcisteanu overcame a succession of mechanical failures to finish sixth in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The Romanian driver’s rapid stage times and heroics in driving through two stages with broken suspension earned him the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.
Jaroslav Orsák was the leading GPD Mit Metal Racing Team finisher in seventh despite a host of technical issues slowing his progress. János Puskádi nursed his Eurosol-backed Fabia S2000 and its troublesome gearbox home in eighth with Antonín Tlusťák making it two GPD Mit Metal Racing entries in the top 10 in ninth overall.
Sebastian Barbu, in a Citroën DS3 R3T, beat Renault Clio R3 driver Alex Filip to the ERC 2WD Championship win by outpacing his rival on the very last stage. Points leader Zoltan Bessenyey fought back to finish sixth in his Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R following a time-consuming puncture and broken exhaust on stage two. Title rival and fellow Hungarian Kornél Lukács dropped out of contention with a throttle valve issue on Friday afternoon while leading the category.
Molly Taylor clinched the ERC Ladies’ Trophy following a controlled display in her United Business Rally Team Citroën. Ekaterina Stratieva crashed into retirement on Friday’s second stage.
Edwin Keleti and Dan Girtofan started day two locked in a close battle to be the top Romanian finisher in third overall but both hit trouble. Girtofan stopped on stage nine with a rear hub failure while a suspected front suspension fault ended Keleti’s hopes three stages later.
A brand-new app for iPhone and android provides live timing, news and other essential information as well as live ERC Rally Radio. Visit the official ERC website, www.fiaerc.com. Follow the ERC on Facebook and Twitter and watch the action on Eurosport and Eurosport Player.
TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 14 stages, 216.34 kilometres)
1 Jan Kopecký (CZE)/Pavel Dresler (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia 2000 2h18m07.8s
2 François Delecour (FRA)/Dominique Savignoni (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m12.8s
3 Toshi Arai (JPN)/Anthony McLoughlin (AUS) Subaru Impreza R4 STI +6m03.6s
4 Marco Tempestini (ROU)/Lucio Baggio (ITA) ŠKODA Fabia 2000 +7m33.1s
5 Dávid Botka (HUN)/Péter Mihalik (HUN) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX R4 +7m48.3s
6 Vali Porcisteanu (ROU)/Dan Dobre (ROU) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X +8m39.8s
7 Jaroslav Orsák (CZE)/Lukáš Kostka (CZE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX R4 +9m15.6s
8 János Puskádi (HUN)/Barna Gódor (HUN) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +9m59.4s
9 Antonín Tlusťák (CZE)/Jan Škaloud (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +11m39.1s
10 Sebastian Barbu (ROU)/Horatiu Baltador (ROU) Citroën DS3 R3T +18m33.0s
ERC Production Car Cup:
Toshi Arai (JPN)/Anthony McLoughlin (AUS) Subaru Impreza R4 STI
ERC 2WD Championship:
Sebastian Barbu (ROU)/Horatiu Baltador (ROU) Citroën DS3 R3T
ERC Ladies’ Trophy:
Molly Taylor (AUS) Citroën DS3 R3T
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy:
Vali Porcisteanu (ROU)
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