Jan Kopecky holds a 14.4-second lead on Rally Islas Canarias heading into the event's final leg today [Saturday].
Cheered on by thousands of enthusiastic spectators, Kopecky tops a Skoda Fabia one-two-three following a dramatic day of action on Gran Canaria's challenging roads, venue for round four of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
Kopecky had trailed Peugeot UK's Kris Meeke with two stages of the day remaining but moved in front when Meeke's 207 Super 2000 suffered a front-left puncture and slipped to sixth overall, almost 90 seconds off the lead.
"It's unlucky what happened to Kris because without that I don't think I could have caught him,” Kopecky conceded. “He has been very fast all day. Now I must try to keep my lead tomorrow. It won't be easy because there is still a long way to go but I will try."
Juho Hanninen is second overnight after recovering from a sluggish start, which left him languishing in fifth overall after the first stage when he said he was unsure about the level of grip he had available. He hit back with the fastest time through stage two only to fall behind Kopecky at the start of the second loop of stages.
"We have been clean and tidy, nothing good, nothing bad. We lost a lot the tyres on the long stage but it hasn't been so bad,” Hanninen said. “We will try to improve our position tomorrow."
Guy Wilks holds third in his Skoda UK Motorsport Fabia but conceded he is still not entirely satisfied with the handling of his car, despite efforts to improve the set-up by using stiffer springs for the middle loop of stages. Wilks also dropped time on the second stage when his Fabia's brakes faded midway through the test, which he completed with the airbox split in two. However, Wilks is on course to maintain his impressive start to the season and second place in the drivers' standings.
"I haven't been one hundred per cent confident with the balance of the car,” Wilks stated. “We knew the opening day of the event was going to difficult but I'm confident we will be able to finish on the podium."
Bruno Magalhaes had been on the cusp of the final podium spot in the morning only for transmission failure to shatter his hopes on stage three. A replacement front-left driveshaft rectified the problem and the Peugeot Sport Portugal driver was soon back on the pace in the afternoon. He holds fourth place overnight, 17.9s behind Wilks after dropping time when his engine lost power on the stage eight.
Alberto Hevia is on course to achieve his aim of beating fellow Spaniard Sergio Vallejo. At the completion of leg one, Hevia is fifth overall in his Fabia, while Vallejo is seventh in his M-Sport Ford Fiesta despite picking up a two-minute penalty for leaving penultimate service late.