Dani Sordo claimed victory on round four of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, the Giru di Corsica-Tour de Corse, following a faultless performance in a MINI John Cooper Works S2000 on his debut in the all-action series.
Jan Kopecký beat Corsican hero Pierre Campana in a thrilling battle for second place that raged up until the end of the final stage and, with MINI not registered for IRC manufacturer points, the Czech's effort means ŠKODA extends its lead in the battle for makes' points, while fifth place for Andreas Mikkelsen ensures the Norwegian continues to top the drivers' standings after four rounds. Kopecký also secured the prestigious Colin McRae IRC Flat Out Trophy, awarded to the driver who best embodies the spirit of the rallying legend on each round of the IRC. The Czech was fastest on five of Saturday's six stages based north of Bastia.
Elsewhere, Subaru's Andreas Aigner marked his return to international competition with victory in the IRC Production Cup. There was a first win in the IRC 2WD Cup for local driver Petru Antone Boschetti, who excelled in his Renault Clio.
While Sordo's success was aided when rivals Giandomenico Basso and Mikkelsen both hit trouble earlier in the rally, the Spaniard admitted maintaining his advantage on the tricky Corsican stages was by no means a foregone conclusion.
“I'm really happy to win this rally but it was really hard,” he said, “The competition was very strong and even though I was leading I had to keep pushing to keep the concentration up and not make any mistakes. I really like this IRC series; it's competitive and is at a high level. And my MINI is also a very, very good car.”
Kopecký began day three leading Campana by 4.4secs but a sluggish run through stage eleven, which he put down to a lack of confidence in his pacenotes, enabled Campana to power ahead. But the Peugeot driver couldn't maintain the place and slipped back with two stages remaining. Kopecký has now made it three podiums out of three starts in this year's IRC.
“I must say I made two mistakes on this rally, but to finish second in the end is a good result,” he said.
Behind Campana, Bryan Bouffier overcame illness and car-handling issues to finish a strong fourth overall on his first start in the IRC since the SATA Rallye Açores in February. He could have challenged for a podium but for a spin on Saturday's opener and a problem with his pacenotes on the next run.
Defending IRC champion Mikkelsen completed a frustrating event in fifth position, his chances of a first series win on asphalt evaporating when he went off the road early on day two while leading. Unable to get back into the podium fight due to the excessive time loss, Mikkelsen spent the final day experimenting with various set-up options in readiness for the remainder of the IRC season.
Craig Breen's rapid recovery from the delay he suffered with a broken driveshaft on day one netted sixth overall for Saintéloc Racing. Jean Marc Manzagol took seventh on a rare outing, while ŠKODA Auto Deutschland's Sepp Wiegand built on his encouraging start to his IRC campaign with a points finish for the fourth event in a row in eighth place. Red Bull Team's Hermann Gassner Jr overcame a puncture on day one to demote Jean-Mathieu Leandri to tenth on the final stage.