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ERC: Kopecky leads after Kubica malfunction

18 May 2013

Jan Kopecky continued his seemingly unstoppable run in the FIA European Rally Championship, taking the overnight lead in the Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse on Friday.

However it's by no means a foregone conclusion and the battle remains wide open, with Peugeot's Bryan Bouffier only three and a half seconds behind Kopecky's SKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 going into the second and final day of the rally on Corsica.

With the demanding asphalt stages around Ajaccio in the south west of the island dominating the action on Saturday, there's still very much all to play for and Kopecky knows all too well that anything could yet happen to derail his perfect run so far in the 2013 ERC season.

“It's been an exciting battle but it's not over yet and there's still a long way to go,” said Kopecky.

Bouffier meanwhile admitted that he'd had no answer for the Czech Republic driver's pace on Friday but insisted that he hadn't given up hopes for the second day.

“Jan was really flying," agreed the Frenchman. "I tried to push but it was not enough. Still, it will be a big battle tomorrow and I will really try."

Bouffier had led the event after Robert Kubica's Citroën DS3 RRC developed a mechanical fault in stage 5 while running out in front. The car was brought back to Ajaccio overnight where it was subjected to a detailed technical inspection. Although Kubica would have been eligible for leg bonus points if he had restarted, championship regulations specify that

Since under the ERC event rules Kubica would not have appeared in the final classification if he restarted on Saturday, and could only have hoped to pick up leg bonus points, the team decided that there was little point in fielding the pole for the second day.

"Robert and the team have decided not to restart for leg two with no real stakes nor possibility for points scoring for the championship," said a statement from Citroën Racing on their Facebook page.

Also hitting problems early was Ireland's Craig Breen, who ran wide into a bank while leading on stage four and picked up a puncture on his Peugeot Rally Academy entry. Breen fought back his way back into contention by going fastest on the penultimate stage before completing the last run just 0.1s slower than Kopecky to go into the overnight rest just 39.8s adrift of the lead having won a total of four stages during the day.

Meanwhile Le Mans 24 Hours and former F1 racer Stéphane Sarrazin went into the overnight stop in fourth position, driving 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, while 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. Bonnefis and Aigner will be running first and second on the road respectively on Saturday morning, although in fact Bonnefis will be assisted by the wheel tracks of Kris Meekes is is driving the course-opening zero car (a Peugeot 208 R2) as a road sweeper ahead of them.

Daniel Oliveira is 11th for the Brazil World Rally Team with Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi leading the ERC two wheel 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, while 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 on Saturday and compete over a demanding route that takes in five stages for a combined distance of 109.65 kilometres, begining with the Carbuccia-Tavera stage at 10:48am local time.

Saturday's first and second runs through Sarrola–Liamone will both be broadcast live by Eurosport and France 3 Corsica: SS8 is at 12noon local time with SS11 at 6pm local time.

End of Day 1

1. #1 J Kopecky (CZE)/P Dresler (CZE) Skoda Motorsport 1:28:49.0s
2. #5 B Bouffier (FRA)/X Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 3.6s
3. #2 C Breen (IRL)/P Nagle (IRL) Peugeot Rally Academy + 39.8s
4. #8 S Sarrazin (FRA)/J Renucci (FRA) First Motorsport + 54.0s
5. #3 F Delecour (FRA)/D Savignoni (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 1:59.0s
6. #11 J Maurin (FRA)/N Klinger (FRA) Ford Fiesta S2000 + 2:08.6s
7. #10 J Manzagol (FRA)/E Patrone (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 3:42.6s
8. #9 J Leandri (FRA)/R Jamoul (BEL) Sainteloc Racing + 4:20.6s
9. #17 A Aigner (AUT)/J Heigl (AUT) Stohl Racing + 4:30.4s (PD)
10. #16 G Bonnefis (FRA)/O Fournier (FRA) Renault Sport Technologie + 4:34.9s (PD)
11. #4 D Oliveira (BRA)/C Magalhães (PRT) Brazil World Rally Team + 4:39.2s
12. #36 P Guglielmi (FRA)/J Porcu (FRA) Renault Clio R3 + 4:59.6s (2WD)
13. #20 J Marchi (FRA)/X Nanni (FRA) Erreffe Rally Team + 5:42.9s (PD)
14. #14 J Raoux (FRA)/F Mazotti (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 + 7:01.0s
15. #47 K Lukács (HUN)/M Mesterhazi (HUN) Tatai Aréna SE + 8:19.6s (2WD)
16. #15 J Orsák (CZE)/D Šmeidler (CZE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX R4 + 8:43.6s (PD)
17. #22 A Tlusták (CZE)/L Vyoral (CZE) GPD Mit Metal Racing Team + 8:52.6s (PD)
18. #44 V Gryazin (LVA)/D Chumak (RUS) Sports Racing Technologies + 9:44.4s (2WD)
19. #50 L Pomponi (FRA)/S Savoie (FRA) Peugeot 208 R2 + 10:26.4s (2WD)
20. #39 M Taylor (AUS)/S Marshall (GBR) United Rally Management + 10:58.6s (2WD)
21. #34 P Quilici (FRA)/A Gorguilo (FRA) Renault Mégane RS + 11:06.3s (2WD)
22. #52 A Agostini (FRA)/A Leandri (FRA) Renault Clio Sport + 11:41.7s (2WD)
23. #38 P Boschetti (FRA)/B Manzo (FRA) Renault Clio Sport + 12:07.1s (2WD)
24. #30 M Tempestini (ROU)/D Pulpea (ROU) Napoca Rally Team + 12:08.3s (PD)
25. #29 J Sanchez (FRA)/J Scelo (FRA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X R4 + 12:10.7s

PD = Production Car Cup
2WD = Two wheel drive


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