Jan Kopecký produced a fine comeback to secure the Barum Czech Rally Zlín win in the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship, his seventh on the event.
After a soaking wet first day, Kopecký in his Skoda Fabia R5 had 16.7s to make up going into Sunday’s remaining stages as he trailed championship leader Alexey Lukyanuk going into day two. The margin wasn’t helped with the fact the man on home soil suffering three punctures on Saturday.
But the Czech driver started as he meant to go on, beating Lukyanuk on the first stage of the day and then going fastest of all on the two following tarmac tests, meaning he trailed by just 2.6s as the crews hit service with three stages remaining.
Sunday afternoon saw another two stage wins for Kopecký as he leapfrogged his rival into the lead and eventually took the win by 7.5s.
He said on his win: “This means a lot, especially after the problems we had with the punctures. It was unbelievable, like a nightmare but after showed some good performance yesterday I was still believing when I woke up today. We really used the support from the fans, it was really important.”
Behind the battle at the front was Hyundai factory driver Dani Sordo who survived a remarkable challenge from Miroslav Jakeš to hang on to third. After deciding to gamble to use wet tyres on his i20 R5, the stages weren’t wet enough for his car and as a result Sordo struggled with grip but held on by just 0.3s to take the final place on the podium.
Jakeš late charge, that included taking the final stage victory, saw the Czech driver climb ahead of ERC Junior U28 winner Nikolay Gryazin into fourth with the Russian choosing to make sure of the class win rather than battling for overall position.
Sixth and second in ERC U28 was German Fabian Kreim who keeps his championship lead despite not making it two victories in a row. Going into the final stage, it looked as if Filip Mareš was going to finish strongly on his home event, but the local driver crashed and was forced to retire as a result.
Chris Ingram took third in ERC Junior U28 as a result and finished just 9.6s adrift of Kreim. The British driver looked set for seventh overall before a time penalty dropped him to eighth on the event and behind Jaromír Tarabus.
Bruno Magalhães could only manage ninth overall as his pursuit of the overall title took another blow. The Portuguese driver struggled with setup issues across the weekend and he looks set to lose out to Lukyanuk for the championship with only two more rounds remaining in 2018. Laurent Pellier rounded out the top 10 overall and took fourth in ERC Junior U28.
Mārtiņš Sesks sealed his second successive win in the ERC Junior Under 27 class in the ADAC Opel Rallye Junior Team Opel Adam R2 despite a spirited charge by Simon Wagner on Sunday.
The Austrian driver managed to trim his 41.4s overnight lead to 25.2s by midday service and he continued to keep pushing across the last three stages, but still finished 17.3s behind. Sesks’s teammate, Tom Kristensson rounded out the top three in the class.
ERC2 saw Tibor Érdi Jr seal his second title in as many years in the Czech Republic, while Catie Munnings beat Emma Falcón to the ERC Ladies Trophy.
The next round of the 2018 FIA European Rally Championship is PZM Rally Poland between August 21-23.