Jan Kopecky is back in the lead in his SKODA Fabia Super 2000 in the latest round of the 2013 FIA European Rally Championship, but the first day in Romania proved to be an action packed affair.
François Delecour set the pace on the opening stage, but then slipped behind Bryan Bouffier at the end of stage 2 after being outgunned, while meanwhile a powersteering held up Kopecky until he was able to get repairs in the first service.
After that, Kopecky was firmly back in business and promptly hit back with the fastest time through stage three. He was helped when the next stage saw Bryan Bouffier suffer a double shock absorber failure five kilometres from the start that forced him out of the event, and Delecour was meanwhile forced to slow with an overheating engine stemming from a water leak.
That put Kopecky back into the lead of the race, the Czech Republic driver then extending his advantage by going quickest on stage five and the all-asphalt sixth stage. But the battle is by no means behind him, and on the final stage of the day it was the 50-year-old Delecour who won by 10.6s to narrow Kopecky's lead to 15.4s heading into Saturday's final leg of seven stages over 120.5km, beginning with the all-asphalt 8.5-km Sadu stage.
“I am happy so far but sorry for Bryan because I was expecting a big battle to the end with him,” said Kopecky at the end of Friday's tumultuous run.. “Now I need to be careful tomorrow because François is not far behind, which means I have to keep pushing but, at the same time, I have to avoid making any mistakes.”
Behind second-placed Delecour, ERC Production Car Cup leader Edwin Keleti is locked in a close battle for third with fellow Romanian Dan Girtofan with just six seconds between them going into the overnight rest, while Toshi Arai is fifth after a selector issue left him stuck in fourth gear for two stages in his Subaru Impreza R4 STI. Napoca Rally Academy's Marco Tempestini completes the top six after a turbo glitch slowed seventh-placed Dávid Botka, who had started fourth on the road. Behind János Puskádi in eighth while GPD Mit Mital Racing Team aces Jaroslav Orsák and Antonín Tlusák round out the top ten.
Local hero Alex Filip heads the ERC 2WD Championship after title pacesetters Zoltán Bessenyey and Kornél Lukács both hit trouble: Bessenyey was forced to stop to deal with a puncture on stage 2 and he was also laid low by a broken exhaust on his Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R, while Lukács stopped with a double puncture on stage four leaving it unclear whether he will restart on day 2.
Despite a steering glitch early in the day, Molly Taylor heads the ERC Ladies' Trophy after Ekaterina Stratieva retired on the second test.
Top ten positions at the end of day 1
1. #1 Jan Kopecky (CZE)
Skoda Motorsport Skoda Fabia S2000 1:08:50.6s
2. #3 Francois Delecour (FRA) Peugeot 207 S2000 +15.4s
3. #10 Edwin Keleti (ROU) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X +3:31.8s PD
4. #15 Dan Girtofan (ROU) Skoda Fabia S2000 +3:37.8s
5. #4 Toshi Arai (JPN)
Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza Sti R4 +3:49.8s PD
6. #5 Marco Tempestini (ITA) Skoda Fabia S2000 +4:10.3s
7. #17 David Botka (HUN)
Botka Rally Team Kft Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX-R4 +5:16.1s PD
8. #11 Janos Puskadi (HUN)
Eurosol Racing Team Hungary Skoda Fabia S2000 +5:53.8s
9. #7 Jaroslav Orsak (CZE)
GPD Mit Metal Racing Team Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX-R4 +6:09.0s PD, T
10. #6 Antonin Tlustak (CZE)
GPD Mit Metal Racing Team Skoda Fabia S2000 +7:16.7s T