Jan Kopecký has made it a hat-trick of wins on Rally Islas Canarias to move into the lead of the FIA European Rally Championship.
His success, at wheel of his Michelin-shod ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, followed Robert Kubica’s dramatic retirement from top spot when he damaged his Citroën DS3 RRC striking a barrier on Saturday’s second stage.
In the ERC Production Car Cup there was success for Andreas Aigner, who powered his Yokohama-supported Subaru Impreza R4 STI to first place ahead of Renault Mégane N4 rookie Germain Bonnefis. Gorka Antxustegi took top honours for Suzuki in the ERC 2WD Championship with Ekaterina Stratieva becoming the first driver to win a round of the new ERC Ladies’ Trophy.
Kubica, who was making his ERC debut, had been leading by more than one minute after going fastest on all eight stages on Friday, when he hit trouble on a right-hand bend approximately five kilometres from the finish of stage 10. His heroic performance, however, earned him the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.
“It’s a great pleasure for me to win this award,” said Kubica. “Of course Colin was a great driver and I have been supporting him when I was young. Normally winners are only at the finish but this trophy gives us a bit of satisfaction after this hard end and Colin is always in our hearts. Yesterday was a very positive day for us with a lot of positive experience. Unfortunately today was a negative experience but it’s part of driving.”
Of his accident, Kubica explained: “We were in a high-speed downhill section. It was quite big braking into a third-gear corner. Unfortunately when I hit the brakes I lost the rear of the car and I had to reduce the pressure [on the brakes] otherwise I would spin and the road was very narrow. I tried to do the corner but I didn’t reduce enough speed and I hit the barrier with the rear-left corner. Then with the front we dived into the barrier. It’s a shame but unfortunately this can happen.”
Kopecký, meanwhile, who moves back on top of the ERC drivers’ standings by 18 points following his success on the opening round in Austria, said: “I have to say it’s good for us and ŠKODA. We didn’t expect rain and that’s why we were losing so much on the first day. But the set-up of this car for the dry conditions is really perfect. And we had no problems. Robert was great but he made a mistake, which can happen in rallying.”
Behind Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler, Craig Breen continued his strong start to his career as a member of the Peugeot Rally Academy in an impressive second place alongside navigator Paul Nagle. But there was disappointment for team-mate Jérémi Ancian, who was forced to stop when he ran out of spare tyres after suffering punctures on successive stages this morning.
Local hero Luis Monzón completed the podium in his MINI after he fought back from a puncture on day one in style. Aigner took fourth, Bonnefis finished fifth with Antxustegi completing the top six. Elsewhere, János Puskádi scored his first ERC points of 2013 in seventh with Jean-Mathieu Leandri overcoming a late puncture to claim eighth overall in a 207 S2000.
Robert Consani ensured maximum points for Team Renault Sport Technologies in the FIA Production Car Cup for Teams in ninth overall despite two punctures slowing his progress on the final afternoon. Antonín Tlusťák extended GPD Mit Metal Racing Team’s lead of the overall entrants’ classification in 10th place after a faulty clutch was changed at midday service. Zoltán Bessenyey move to the top of the FIA ERC 2WD Championship standings after beating Suzuki privateer Hermann Neubauer to second following a close battle.