FIA European Rally Championship leader Jan Kopecky and his co-driver Pavel Dresler have clinched their fourth win of 2013, with an emphatic victory in the mixed-surface Sibiu Rally through the stunning Transylvania region this weekend that took place in bright sunshine with warm temperatures, and which attracted huge numbers of spectators to watch the action.
“I'm really happy we got this opportunity from SKODA to be here and take my second win on gravel,” said Kopeck afterwards. “It was a really tough event: the hot weather was not such a problem but there were a lot of rocks and loose stones on the stages and you had to use your head to decide when and where to push."
Their hopes of winning in Romania had taken a knock early on Friday after they experienced problems with the power steering on their Skoda Fabia S2000, but once that was fixed on the first service the rest of the weekend went without a hitch, although Kopecky was quick to deny it has been an easy victory even after the pair had gone on to claim a lockout of day two stage wins on their début on the demanding event.
"No it was not easy especially stage number two with the powersteering problem. That was not so easy and we expected to lose more time than we did. But after there was no mechanical problems, no punctures, nothing," he said. "We had no mistakes on our first time here and that's good but you need good luck, a great team, a great car and this is something we had during this weekend. That's why we won."
Instead it was Kopecky's chief rival Francois Delecour who was having the problems on Saturday, as he was forced to let Kopecky run away at the front while turning his own attention to protecting second place after a broken front-right shock absorber on his Peugeot caused a puncture nearing the finish of the mixed-surface Șanta Max test.
Behind Delecour, Toshi Arai's issues were of a less technical nature as he was forced to battled a stomach upset to top the FIA ERC Production Car Cup classification in third place overall in his Stohl Racing Subaru Impreza R4 STI. It was tyre suppliers Yokohama's first podium in this year's championship.
Napoca Rally Academy's Marco Tempestini finished a fine fourth, with David Botka recovering from a broken turbo to take fifth place ahead of Vali Porcisteanu who overcame a succession of mechanical failures to finish sixth in the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X. The Romanian driver's rapid stage times and heroics in driving through two stages with broken suspension earned him the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy after the end of the race.
Jaroslav Orsak was the leading GPD Mit Metal Racing Team finisher in seventh, despite also having to manage a host of technical issues that slowed his progress. János Puskadi nursed his Eurosol-backed Fabia S2000 and its troublesome gearbox home in eighth, and Antonín Tlustak made it two GPD Mit Metal Racing entries in the top ten by finishing in ninth place.
That put him just ahead of Sebastian Barbu in the Citroen
DS3 R3T, who managed to hold off Renault Clio R3 driver Alex Filip to the ERC 2WD Championship win by outpacing his rival on the very last stage of the event.