ERC: Bouffier brings Kopecky's reign to an end in Corsica
19 May 2013
Coming into the Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse, Jan Kopecky had every hope that he would be able to extend his run of success in the FIA European Rally Championship even further into 2013, and after going into the overnight break in the lead from Peugeot's Bryan Bouffier albeit only by 3.6s it was looking as through he was on course to do just that.
But instead, Kopecky struggled in the slippery conditions on Saturday's opening test and the Skoda slipped behind while Bouffier took the event lead, which the Frenchman then widened still further on the second stage of the day. Not that Kopecky was done: he set the fastest time on stage nine and cut Bouffier's lead to 10.7s heading into service in Ajaccio with two stages remaining, leaving everything to play for.
Unfortunately it was in the service area that the wheels quite literally came off Kopecky's campaign. Believing it was going to rain, the Czech Republic driver opted for soft-compound Michelin tyres for the final part of the rally; but when the rain failed to materialise, Kopecky was left struggling in damage limitation mode as Bouffier receded into the distance ahead of him with the help of the Peugeot's hard-compound selection to claim the victory.
“To join the illustrious list of French drivers who have won Monte Carlo and Corsica makes me very happy,” said Bouffier after coming home almost 40 seconds ahead of Kopecky at the end of the rally, which makes him a three-time ERC winner. "I am also happy to win this event on French territory. Against some very strong opposition this is a significant achievement."
Kopecky lost further time after the engine in his Skoda dropped to three cylinders in the final kilometers, and all-in-all he was left ruing a catalogue of misfortune on Saturday.
“I had no confidence on the first stage this morning so I reduced my speed," he explained of how he came to lose the lead in the first place. "We took some time out of Bryan on stage nine but we took soft tyres for the final stages thinking it would rain. Finally we had some problems with the engine and finished second, which is still not bad for the championship."
And indeed it's not: he's now 37 points ahead of Ireland's Craig Breen, who ended up in fourth place in Corsica after sliding into a bridge parapet on stage seven. Despite his car suffering significant damage, it didn't seem to do that much to impair his actual speed on the subsequent stages and he ended up losing out on the battle for third place to MINI John Cooper Works' Stéphane Sarrazin by only just over three seconds.
"I was very happy to have the drive on this event given the quality of the field," said Sarrazin. "Finishing on the podium was a very big ask because of the strength of the drivers here but I did a good rally with no mistakes and was able to be at the finish."
While the Le Mans 24 Hours racer and former F1 driver celebrated finishing on the podium in his first rally since last September, Breen had to be content with taking away the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy instead, which he said he was "thrilled" to receive.
"It's a very good feeling after a difficult weekend for me," said the 23-year-old. "I showed some very good speed [on Friday] but unfortunately a strange choice of tyre compounds this morning knocked my confidence. But this year is all about learning and for my second time here I've gained some good experience. Now I'm looking forward to putting that into practice when I come back next year."
François Delecour, who was a late addition to the entry list for the event that he won 20 years ago, achieved his stated aim of a top six finish by claiming fifth place behind Breen, having overcome an assortment of problems with the Munaretto Sport Peugeot on day 1.
Julien Maurin took sixth place ahead of Andreas Aigner, who was the leading ERC Production Car Cup driver at the end of the race in his Yokohama-shod Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI after winning an early battle for position with Renault's Germain Bonnefis thanks to an incorrect morning tyre choice by the Frenchman which dropped him to ninth by the end of the rally bit which still meant top points for Renault Sport Technologies in the ERC Production Car Cup for Team
Jean-Mathieu Leandri recovered from a late puncture to take eighth for Saintéloc Racing, which meant that he also picked up the honour of being the top Corsican driver home after Jean-Marc Manzagol had retired on stage nine. Behind Bonnefis, Jean-Michel Raoux completed the top ten in a Delta Peugeot.
Kornél Lukács was first home in the ERC two wheel drive championship after a puncture and an off wrecked long-time leader Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi's hopes. Molly Taylor secured the ERC Ladies' Trophy with a strong second-in-class, with Vasily Gryazin third.
Elsewhere, Antonín Tlusák was the GPD Mit Metal Racing Team's top finisher in 11th once place ahead of his team-mate Jaroslav Orsák, a result that hands the Czech squad a comfortable lead in the European Rally Championship for Teams.
Marco Tempestini was the leading Napoca Rally Academy driver home in 16th, but there was late disappointment for Daniel Oliveira who went off the road on the final stage when running in the top 10.
Former F1 driver Robert Kubica spent Saturday watching from the sidelines, after Citroën opted not to restart him after his mechanical failure on the first day of the Tour de Corse.
"It's a pity that we retired as I felt very good behind the wheel," he said as he watched the climax of the rally. "I was in the lead without having done any mistakes and I am satisfied with this and our tyre choices, which were very complicated with the changing weather conditions. I was here to learn and although the rally was short for me I've got more important experience."
1. #5 Bryan Bouffier (FRA)/Xavier Panseri (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 2:41:58.2s
2. #1 Jan Kopecky (CZE)/ Pavel Dresler (CZE) Skoda Motorsport, Skoda Fabia S2000 +39.8s
3. #8 Stéphane Sarrazin (FRA)/Jacques Julien Renucci (FRA) MINI John Cooper Works S2000 +1:37.6s
4. #2 Craig Breen (IRL)/Paul Nagle (IRL) Peugeot Rally Academy, Peugeot 207 S2000 +1:40.8s
5. #3 Francois Delecour (FRA)/Dominique Savignoni (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +3:25.0s
6. #11 Julien Maurin (FRA)/Nicolas Klinger (FRA) Ford Fiesta S2000 +3:37.6s
7. #17 Andreas Aigner (AUT)/Jurgen Heigl (AUT) Stohl Racing, Subaru Impreza R4 +7:53.9s PD
8. #9 Jean-Mathieu Leandri (FRA)/Renaud Jamoul (BEL) Sainteloc Racing, Peugeot 207 S2000 +8:47.8s
9. #16 Germain Bonnefis (FRA)/Olivier Fournier (FRA) Team Renault Sport Technologies +9:16.8s PD
10. #14 Jean Michel Raoux (FRA)/Francis Mazotti (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +13:54.3s
11. #22 Antonin Tlusták (CZE)/Lukáš Vyoral (CZE) GPD Mit Metal Racing Team, Skoda Fabia S2000 +15:24.6s
12. #15 Jaroslav Orsák (CZE)/David Šmeidler (CZE) GPD Mit Metal Racing Team, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX-R4 +15:50.1s PD
13. #47 Kornél Lukács (HUN)/Mark Mesterhazi (HUN) Tatai Arena Se, Citroen C2 +16:24.4s 2WD
14. #39 Molly Taylor (AUS)/Sebastian Marshall (GBR) United Rally Management, Citroen DS3 +19:38.9s 2WD, L
15. #44 Vasily Gryazin (LVA)/Dmitry Chumak (RUS) Sports Racing Technologies, Ford Fiesta R2 +20:02.4s 2WD
16. #30 Marco Tempestini (ROU)/Dorin Pulpea (ROU) Napoca Rally Academy, Subaru Impreza R4 +21:50.8s PD
17. #32 Laszlo Vizin (HUN)/Gabor Lsiros (HUN) Subaru Impreza R4 +22:40.7s PD
18. #31 Jean Paul Ayme (FRA)/Brigitte Ayme (FRA) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX-R4 +24:05.7s PD
19. #33 Bogdan Marisca (ROU)/Sebastian Itu (ROU) Napoca Rally Academy, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX-R4 +24:49.1s PD
20. #45 Jean Jacques Andreani (FRA)/Jéremy Voglimacci (FRA) Citroen C2 +25:17.0s 2WD
21. #48 Ekaterina Stratieva (BGR)/Veronica Boni (ITA) Citroen C2 +30:14.9s 2WD, L
22. #34 Pierre Quilici (FRA)/Anthony Gorguilo (FRA) Peugeot 208 R2 +31:34.1s 2WD
23. #53 Claude Bensimon (FRA)/Alexandre Muzi (FRA) Citroen C2 +33:24.6s 2WD
24. #54 Mauro Scotto (ITA)/Nicola Molinelli (ITA) Fiat Punto S1600 +34:06.3s 2
25. #57 Lukasz Kabacinski (POL)/Szymon Gospodarczyk (POL) Renault Clio RS +36:11.8s 2WD
PD = Production Car Cup
2WD = Two wheel drive
L = Ladies Trophy