FIA European Rally Championship leader Jan Kopecky will head the near-capacity entry over the first seven stages of the Sibiu Rally in Romania on Friday, the seventh round in 2013 ERC.
The Czech star chose to run first on the road after earning the right to select his starting position first by winning the qualifying stage in his Skoda Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 on Thursday.
Normally on gravel events drivers prefer to run lower down the order to benefit from a clean and more stable road surface. However, Kopecky said the potential for small rocks being dragged onto the road by cars running in front and the possibility of hanging dust clouds on Friday night's final stage prompted him to run at the head of the star-studded field.
“Many loose stones will come out from the first cars,” said Kopecky. “I have the pacenotes and I know where they going to be if I am first on the road so I can try to go around them. But you never know where the loose stones are going to come if you start at the back. The first loop I have this advantage and in the second loop if there is no wind the dust can be very heavy in the night stage.”
Jean-Pierre Nicolas, a former international rally-winning driver and now the ERC General Co-ordinator, confirmed that the event organisers are making additional efforts to maintain the stages to a very high standard.
“They made a big investment to rebuild the roads before the rally and now they have committed to removing any large rocks from the stages after the first pass, which should help make the stages less rough than 2012,” he stated.
Meanwhile, Bryan Bouffier will start second after recording a time 0.056s slower than Kopecky on the 3.42-kilometre Qualifying Stage located at Sibiu's rallycross track. Romanian champion Francois Delecour was third quickest and will run behind Kopecky and Bouffier. Hungarian David Botka sprung a surprise when he went fourth fastest in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX R4, while Toshi Arai, on his first ERC start of 2013, was fifth quickest for Subaru - they will run 4th and 5th respectively in the order.
Following the City Demo, a parade through the streets of Sibiu this evening, the Ceremonial Start begins at 20:30hrs local time and is set to attract thousands of fans. The first stage, Dobarca 1, gets underway at 14:01hrs on Friday.