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IRC: Debut victory for Sordo, MINI in Corsica

13 May 2012

Dani Sordo claimed victory on round four of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse, following a faultless performance in a MINI John Cooper Works S2000 on his debut in the all-action series.

Jan Kopecký beat Corsican hero Pierre Campana in a thrilling battle for second place that raged up until the end of the final stage and, with MINI not registered for IRC manufacturer points, the Czech's effort means ŠKODA extends its lead in the battle for makes' points, while fifth place for Andreas Mikkelsen ensures the Norwegian continues to top the drivers' standings after four rounds. Kopecký also secured the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, awarded to the driver who best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend on each round of the IRC. The Czech was fastest on five of Saturday's six stages based north of Bastia.

Elsewhere, Subaru's Andreas Aigner marked his return to international competition with victory in the IRC Production Cup. There was a first win in the IRC 2WD Cup for local driver Petru Antone Boschetti, who excelled in his Renault Clio.

While Sordo's success was aided when rivals Giandomenico Basso and Mikkelsen both hit trouble earlier in the rally, the Spaniard admitted maintaining his advantage on the tricky Corsican stages was by no means a foregone conclusion.

“I'm really happy to win this rally but it was really hard,” he said, “The competition was very strong and even though I was leading I had to keep pushing to keep the concentration up and not make any mistakes. I really like this IRC series; it's competitive and is at a high level. And my MINI is also a very, very good car.”

Kopecký began day three leading Campana by 4.4secs but a sluggish run through stage eleven, which he put down to a lack of confidence in his pacenotes, enabled Campana to power ahead. But the Peugeot driver couldn't maintain the place and slipped back with two stages remaining. Kopecký has now made it three podiums out of three starts in this year's IRC.

“I must say I made two mistakes on this rally, but to finish second in the end is a good result,” he said.

Behind Campana, Bryan Bouffier overcame illness and car-handling issues to finish a strong fourth overall on his first start in the IRC since the SATA Rallye Açores in February. He could have challenged for a podium but for a spin on Saturday's opener and a problem with his pacenotes on the next run.

Defending IRC champion Mikkelsen completed a frustrating event in fifth position, his chances of a first series win on asphalt evaporating when he went off the road early on day two while leading. Unable to get back into the podium fight due to the excessive time loss, Mikkelsen spent the final day experimenting with various set-up options in readiness for the remainder of the IRC season.

Craig Breen's rapid recovery from the delay he suffered with a broken driveshaft on day one netted sixth overall for Saintéloc Racing. Jean Marc Manzagol took seventh on a rare outing, while ŠKODA Auto Deutschland's Sepp Wiegand built on his encouraging start to his IRC campaign with a points finish for the fourth event in a row in eighth place. Red Bull Team's Hermann Gassner Jr overcame a puncture on day one to demote Jean-Mathieu Leandri to tenth on the final stage.

French rising star Mathieu Arzeno had been fifth prior to Friday's closing test only for a differential fault and a puncture to drop him down the order. He finished eleventh on the back of several strong stage times. Marty McCormack's competitive debut in a Super 2000 car netted 17th overall after the Northern Irishman lost ground when he picked up two punctures on the same stage on Friday in his Petter Solberg Engineering Fiesta. Oleksii Tamrazov failed to make it to first service within the time limit due to a crank sensor failure on his Dream Team Ukraine Fiesta. Rashid Al-Ketbi finished 22nd in his Skydive Dubai-backed Fabia.

Subaru driver Andreas Aigner marked his return to international competition with victory in the IRC Production Cup. The Stohl Racing driver led from start to finish and, apart from a minor gear lever issue on Friday, nothing troubled the Austrian, who underlined his potential with a stirring display. Toshi Arai finished second in a Tommi Mäkinen Racing Impreza, with rallying legend François Delecour completing the podium on his debut in the category in a Renault Mégane RS after Jarkko Nikara dropped out with a gearbox fault following stage nine.

With pre-event favourites Pierre-Antoine Guglielmi and Emmanuel Guigou both failing to go the distance, it was left to Petru Antone Boschetti to claim top honours in the IRC 2WD Cup in his Renault Clio R3. François Delecour added to his success in the IRC Production Cup with second in the two-wheel-drive division. Former category champion Harry Hunt secured his first podium of 2012 in style, having lost ground on day one with a fuel pump glitch and a puncture on day two.


Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse - Top ten IRC positions (after day three)

1. Dani Sordo/Carlos del Barrio MINI John Cooper Works S2000 3h22m01.6s
2. Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +17.9s
3. Pierre Campana/Sabrina de Castelli Peugeot 207 S2000 +32.4s
4. Bryan Bouffier/Xavier Panseri Peugeot 207 S2000 +53.5s
5. Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +4m19.0s
6. Craig Breen/Gareth Roberts Peugeot 207 S2000 +5m28.7s
7. Jean-Marc Manzagol/Etienne Patrone Peugeot 207 S2000 +6m22.1s
8. Sepp Wiegand/Timo Gottschalk ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +6m54.8s
9. Hermann Gassner Jr/Klaus Wicha ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +7m10.2s
10. Jean-Mathieu Leandri/Pierre-Marien Leonardi Peugeot 207 S2000 +7m39.9s

IRC Production Cup: Andreas Aigner/Daniela Ertl (Subaru Impreza R4 STI)
IRC 2WD Cup: Petru-Antone Boschetti/Benoît Manzo (Renault Clio R3)

IRC standings (after round four of 13) - Top ten*

1. Andreas Mikkelsen 71pts
2. Jan Kopecký 58pts
3. Juho Hänninen 43pts
4. Sepp Wiegand 34pts
5. Bryan Bouffier 27pts
6. Dani Sordo 25pts
7. Craig Breen 18pts
8. Pierre Campana 15pts
= Luis Monzón 15pts
10. Mathieu Arzeno 12pts
= Hermann Gassner Jr 12pts

* - best eight rounds to count

IRC manufacturers' standings (after round four of 13)

1. ŠKODA 166pts
2. Peugeot 102pts
3. Renault 37pts
4. Subaru 12pts
5. M-Sport 24pts
6. Honda 18pts


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