The only other driver to finish within a minute of Kopecky was Ricardo Moura in the Skoba Fabia, who managed to get in front of Bruno Magalhãesecs during Saturday as the Peugeot driver wrestled with set-up issues. That converted what had looked to be a tight battle for third place into a walkover as the Skoda pulled out an impressive margin of more than a minute and a half.
"We were growing up in confidence with the car," said Moura, who won the coveted Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy for his efforts this weekend. "At the end of the day if we could start the rally next week we could do some different times. But it's okay, it's part of the process to go step by step in a sustained way."
Overnight, Bernardo Sousa had looked set to be part of that third place playoff but that all came unravelled on a fog-hit stage 13, which also claimed the Peugeot 207 of Jean-Michel Raoux who had been up into seventh place at the end of the previous day's running. Their exits from the proceedings allowed Jérémi Ancian to finish up in fifth place, an impressive result on his first visit to the spectacular Açores archipelago.
Kopecky had only taken the lead for the first time midway through Day 2, after the overnight leader Robert Kubica haemorrhaged time in thick fog in the first run through stage 7 (Sete Cidades) just before lunch. Kubica then put himself out of any remaining contention for the race win by rolling his Citroen DS3 in what proved to be the final stage on Friday. After overnight repairs, Kubica did manage to rebound on what proved to be a very welcome much calmer Saturday for the former F1 driver. It allowed him to reclaim two of the positions he'd lost at the end of he previous day, and he finished in sixth place a little over nine minutes off Kopecky's unbeatable race-winning time.
“It has been a difficult weekend for us especially today on some stages when we didn't have the right pace notes because of the fog in the recce,” said Kubica after the rally concluded. "But it has been a good lesson and definitely there is some experience out of this weekend.
"It's quite difficult to run at a proper pace the first time you are here on a rally," he added. "I need to learn at a good pace, not by backing off."
Kubica had more than five minutes in hand as a safety cushion over Alex Bruschetta, who was the top finisher in the ERC Production Car Cup battle. He was a minute and a half ahead of Luis Rego, who was handicapped in the closing stages by an issue with his Mitsubishi Lancer's turbo. Ninth place meant back-to-back points finishes for Antonin Tlustak and the GPD Mit Metal Racing Team, while it was a first time in the top ten for Marco Tempestini, whose Napoca Rally Academy now heads the ERC Production Car Cup for teams' classification outright having previously been tied with Team Renault Sport Technologies.
Going into the final stage, Tempestini had trailed János Puskádi, but he was able to outpace the Hungarian by 5.2s in that last run. Miguel Barbosa finished a minute and a half further back, while 13th went to Mark Wallenwein after overnight repairs to his Skoda Fabia following its Friday roll, the German champion buoyed up heading into Saturday after members of two other teams helped to fix the damage.
Zoltan Bessenyey extends his lead in the two-wheel drive category with a 14th place finish to the race, following his main rival Hannes Danzinger's retirement on stage 17 after breaking his Renault Clio's suspension hitting a wall. Diogo Gago was also forced to drop out on the final stage of the rally when his Citroen C2 R2 ground to a halt.
In all, 21 cars finished the rally. None of the drivers eligible for the ERC Ladies' Trophy completed the event: Ekaterina Stratieva had been on course for her second win in the competition but was forced to retire with one stage remaining; Molly Taylor had already stopped, while avoiding a stranded car on stage eight.
All finishers at end of Rally
1. #1 Jan Kopecky Skoda Motorsport 2hrs 26mins 32.2secs
2. #2 Craig Breen Peugeot Rally Academy + 32.2secs
3. #6 Ricardo Moura Skoda Fabia + 58.8secs
4. #8 Bruno Magalhãesecs Peugeot + 2mins 37.6secs
5. #9 Jérémi Ancian Peugeot Rally Academy + 3mins 27.4secs
6. #4 Robert Kubica Citroen DS3 + 9mins 19.1secs
7. #25 Alex Bruschetta Napoca Rally Team + 14mins 57.4secs
8. #19 Luis Rego Mitsubishi Lancer + 16mins 36.0secs
9. #14 Antonin Tlustak GPD Mit Metal Racing Team + 17mins 42.1secs
10. #16 Marco Tempestini Napoca Rally Team + 18mins 10.6secs
11. #12 János Puskádi Eurosol Racing Team + 18mins 15.8secs
12. #18 Miguel Barbosa Mitsubishi Lancer + 19mins 50.4secs
13. #7 Mark Wallenwein Skoda Fabia + 20mins 45.1secs
14. #28 Zoltan Bessenyey Eurosol Racing Team + 25mins 47.4secs
15. #27 Luis Mota Competisport + 28mins 02.5secs
16. #31 Stéphane Lefebvre Peugeot Rally Academy + 34mins 51.2secs
17. #39 Florin Tincescu Dacia Logan + 37mins 17.4secs
18. #35 Tobia Giuseppe Citroen DS3 + 37mins 54.0s
19. #43 Rafael Botelho Citroen Saxo Cup + 47mins 20.5secs
20. #42 Claudio Batista Citroen C2 + 47mins 45.2secs
21. #40 Marco Soares Citroen Saxo Cup 55mins 16.4secs