Kopecky wins thriller in Gran Canarias

Jan Kopecký has claimed a dramatic final-stage victory on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés after an engine misfire slowed rival Andreas Mikkelsen with his first win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge on asphalt in his grasp.

Kopecký, in a factory ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, had trailed Mikkelsen’s ŠKODA UK entry by 3.6s starting the final 16.12-kilometre test. But with Mikkelsen losing vital speed due to a broken injector connector, he was powerless to defend his advantage as Czech Kopecký raced to his first victory in the IRC this season and his second on Gran Canaria following his maiden triumph in 2010.

Mikkelsen, from Norway, had to settle for the runner-up spot, 28.3s behind Kopecký, but extends his lead in the IRC drivers’ standings, while ŠKODA, now unbeaten on this event for the three years, claims maximum IRC manufacturers’ points for the second time this season.

Luis Monzón was the top Peugeot finisher in third with Joan Vinyes clinching IRC 2WD Cup honours for the second year in a row in an impressive sixth overall. Monzón was selected as the winner of the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which goes to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rally legend on each round of the IRC. In the IRC Production Cup, Robert Consani bagged his and Renault’s first category win ahead of Marco Tempestini’s Subaru Impreza.

“We were pushing quite much on the last three stages and finally Andreas had some problems with the car,” said Kopecký. “I must say I don’t feel so happy because I wanted to beat him in a fight. But this is what can happen in rallying so thanks to ŠKODA because they gave us an opportunity to be here and thanks to my new co-driver Pavel Dresler because today he improved himself a lot and did a great job.”

A dejected Mikkelsen, who led after all but two stages of the 15-stage rally, said: “The car started misfiring three kilometres from the end of the penultimate stage. We tried to make some repairs but there was nothing we could do. There was no power at all – we were just hoping we could get through the stage. It’s so disappointing this happens when we think we’re going to win.”

Luis Monzón was the top Peugeot finisher and the leading Spaniard in an impressive third overall with Sepp Wiegand a fine fourth on his Canarias debut for ŠKODA Auto Deutschland. Monzón hadn’t driven a Super 2000-specification car until this week but shrugged off his lack of recent experience to produce a faultless drive.

With fourth-place all but secured following Hermann Gassner Jr’s crash on Saturday’s first stage, Wiegand spent the afternoon experimenting with different car set ups ahead of the upcoming asphalt rallies in Northern Ireland and Corsica. It was the second event in a row that the 21-year-old German has finished fourth, thereby underlining his huge potential.

Spaniard Jonathan Perez took fifth in another Peugeot 207 with Joan Vinyes winning the IRC 2WD Cup for the second year in a row in sixth position, closely followed by Gorka Antxustegui and Honda driver Angel Marrero. With Vinyes and Antxustegi not eligible for overall IRC points, Marrero collects sixth-placed points.

Hungary’s Janós Puskádi, competing in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000 for the first time, impressed on his way to ninth overall and seventh-placed points. Skydive Dubai Rally Team’s Rashid Al-Ketbi finished 10th to bag four IRC points with Honda driver Germán Hernandez and Renault’s Robert Consani rounding out the IRC point scorers.

IRC Production Cup:
Young French driver Robert Consani secured IRC Production Cup honours for the first time in his Renault Mégane RS, despite completing the final stage and subsequent road section to the finish in Las Palmas with the car’s gearbox oil supply depleted.

Partnered by new co-driver Nicolas Klinger for the first time, Consani drove without error throughout the event to head Romania-based Italian Marco Tempestini, whose Subaru Impreza R4 STI repeatedly lost its brakes nearing the ends of stages.

IRC 2WD Cup:
Joan Vinyes once again excelled in the IRC 2WD Cup, while his Suzuki Motor Iberica team-mate Gorka Antxustegui was fastest in class on four stages today as Vinyes eased his pace. Angel Marrero impressed in third and reported that his Honda Civic Type R ran without fault. Germán Hernandez finished fourth in another Honda to put the Japanese make top of the IRC 2WD Cup manufacturers’ standings with Robert Consani fifth.

Harry Hunt had been on course for fifth in his Citroën DS3 R3T only for the car’s engine to cut out two kilometres from the finish of the final stage. And it would get worse for the former IRC 2WD Cup champion when a broken fuel injector meant he was unable to reach the finish, handing what became sixth position in the category to Yeray Lemes in an M-Sport Ford Fiesta R2. Bulgarian Ekaterina Stratieva just missed out on a point at the start of her IRC 2WD Cup campaign.

TOP 10 IRC POSITIONS AFTER DAY TWO*
1 Jan Kopecký (CZE)/Pavel Dresler (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 2h21m46.5s
2 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR)/Ola Fløene (NOR) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +28.3s
3 Luis Monzón (ESP)/Jose C Deniz (ESP) Peugeot 207 S2000 +3m13.6s
4 Sepp Wiegand (GER)/Timo Gottschalk (GER) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +4m32.0s
5 Jonathan Perez (ESP)/Enrique Velasco (ESP) Peugeot 207 S2000 +7m29.3s
6 Angel Marrero (ESP)/Victor Marrero (ESP) Honda Civic Type R +11m27.4s
7 Janós Puskádi (HUN)/Barna Gódor (HUN) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +12m03.3s
8 Rashid Al Ketbi (UAE)/Khalid Al Ketbi (UAE) ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +14m43.2s
9 Germán Hernandez (ESP)/Israel Pereira (ESP) Honda Civic Type R +15m13.8s
10 Robert Consani (FRA)/Nicolas Klinger (FRA) Renault Mégane RS +16m13.5s
– Credit: IRC Media.