Corsican ERC counter set for thrilling showdown

There will be serious competition ahead when round five of the FIA European Rally Championship concludes on Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse tomorrow

At the completion of Friday’s opening leg, which featured four different leaders, ERC title pacesetter Jan Kopecký tops the legendary rally in his ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000. But with Bryan Bouffier just 3.5s behind in his Peugeot 207 S2000, the battle for victory remains wide open on the demanding asphalt stages around Ajaccio in the south west of the island on Saturday.

Craig Breen had been extending his lead when he ran wide into a bank on stage four and picked up a puncture on his Peugeot Rally Academy entry. That elevated Formula One race winner Robert Kubica into first place only for the Pole’s Citroën DS3 RRC to suffer a mechanical issue on stage five. A decision on whether Kubica will restart on day two won’t be taken until a full investigation has taken place overnight.

Kubica’s misfortune let in Bouffier for the lead but the Frenchman was unable to fend off the charging Kopecký over Friday’s closing run, one of two stages shown live on Eurosport and France 3 Corsica. Breen fought back into contention by going fastest on the penultimate test before he completed the last run just 0.1s slower than Kopecký. He will return to the overnight halt in Ajaccio 39.8s off the lead having won a total of four stages during the day.

“It’s been an exciting battle but it’s not over yet and there’s still a long way to go,” said Kopecký, who spent much of the day finalising an optimal set-up on his Fabia. Bouffier, meanwhile, said: “Jan was really flying. I tried to push but it was not enough. Still it will be a big battle tomorrow and I will really try.”

Le Mans 24 Hours racer Stéphane Sarrazin is in fourth position at the end of leg one in the same MINI John Cooper Works S2000 Dani Sordo used to win in Corsica last season. Rallying legend and former Tour de Corse winner François Delecour is fifth despite suffering two broken exhaust manifolds and a misted windscreen. Fellow Frenchman Julien Maurin is sixth with Jean-Marc Manzagol the leading Corsican driver in seventh, one place ahead of Jean-Mathieu Leandri. Andreas Aigner (Subaru Impreza) heads a close battle for the ERC Production Car Cup in ninth with Germain Bonnefis 4.5s behind in his Renault Mégane RS.

Daniel Oliveira is 11th for the Brazil World Rally Team with Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi leading the ERC 2WD division in a Clio R3. Kornél Lukács holds second on his Corsica debut with Vasily Gryazin third. Molly Taylor is the leading ERC Ladies’ Trophy contender in fourth.

Jaroslav Orsák is the top GPD Mit Metal Racing driver in 16th, one place ahead of team-mate Antonín Tlusťák. Marco Tempestini is the Napoca Rally Academy’s leading contender in 24th.

Lorenzo Bertelli and co-driver Mitia Dotta were unharmed when their Ford Fiesta RRC caught fire on stage five, which was halted to enable a fire unit to attend the scene. Somewhat miraculously the damage was limited and they will restart tomorrow.

Saturday’s route takes in five stages over a competitive distance of 109.65 kilometres and begins with the Carbuccia-Tavera stage at 10:48hrs local time.