Jan Kopecky has claimed a dramatic final-stage victory on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles after an engine misfire slowed rival Andreas Mikkelsen with his first win in the Intercontinental Rally Challenge on asphalt in his grasp.
Kopecky, in a factory Skoda Fabia Super 2000, had trailed Mikkelsen's Skoda UK entry by 3.6s starting the final 16.12-kilometre test. But with Mikkelsen losing vital speed due to a broken injector connector, he was powerless to defend his advantage as Czech Kopecky raced to his first victory in the IRC this season and his second on Gran Canaria following his maiden triumph in 2010.
“We were pushing quite much on the last three stages and finally Andreas had some problems with the car,” said Kopecky. “I must say I don't feel so happy because I wanted to beat him in a fight.
“But this is what can happen in rallying so thanks to Skoda because they gave us an opportunity to be here and thanks to my new co-driver Pavel Dresler because today he improved himself a lot and did a great job
In the end Mikkelsen had to settle for the runner-up spot, 28.3s behind Kopecky, but still extends his lead in the IRC drivers' standings, while Skoda, now unbeaten on this event for the three years, claims maximum IRC manufacturers' points for the second time this season.
“The car started misfiring three kilometres from the end of the penultimate stage,” said a dejected Mikkelsen, who led after all but two stages of the 15-stage rally. “We tried to make some repairs but there was nothing we could do. There was no power at all – we were just hoping we could get through the stage. It's so disappointing this happens when we think we're going to win.”
Luis Monzon was the top Peugeot finisher and the leading Spaniard in an impressive third overall with Sepp Wiegand a fine fourth on his Canarias debut for Skoda Auto Deutschland. Monzon hadn't driven a Super 2000-specification car until this week but shrugged off his lack of recent experience to produce a faultless drive. His performance earn him the Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, which goes to the driver whose performance best embodies the spirit of the rally legend on each round of the IRC.
With fourth-place all but secured following Hermann Gassner Jr's crash on Saturday's first stage, Wiegand spent the afternoon experimenting with different car set ups ahead of the upcoming asphalt rallies in Northern Ireland and Corsica. It was the second event in a row that the 21-year-old German has finished fourth, thereby underlining his huge potential.
Spaniard Jonathan Perez took fifth in another Peugeot 207 with Joan Vinyes winning the IRC 2WD Cup for the second year in a row in sixth position, closely followed by Gorka Antxustegui and Honda driver Angel Marrero. With Vinyes and Antxustegi not eligible for overall IRC points, Marrero collects sixth-placed points.