Jan Kopecky has made it a hat-trick of wins on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Ingles to move into the lead of the FIA European Rally Championship.
His success, at wheel of his Michelin-shod Skoda Fabia Super 2000, followed Robert Kubica's dramatic retirement from top spot when he damaged his Citroen DS3 RRC striking a barrier on Saturday's second stage.
“I have to say it's good for us and Skoda,” said Kopecky, who now leads the ERC drivers' standings by 18 points. “We didn't expect rain and that's why we were losing so much on the first day. But the set-up of this car for the dry conditions is really perfect. And we had no problems. Robert was great but he made a mistake, which can happen in rallying.”
Kubica, who was making his ERC debut, had been leading by more than one minute after going fastest on all eight stages on Friday, when he hit trouble on a right-hand bend approximately five kilometres from the finish of stage 10. His heroic performance, however, earned him the prestigious Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy.
“It's a great pleasure for me to win this award,” said Kubica. “Of course Colin was a great driver and I have been supporting him when I was young. Normally winners are only at the finish but this trophy gives us a bit of satisfaction after this hard end and Colin is always in our hearts. Yesterday was a very positive day for us with a lot of positive experience. Unfortunately today was a negative experience but it's part of driving.”
Of his accident, Kubica explained: “We were in a high-speed downhill section. It was quite big braking into a third-gear corner. Unfortunately when I hit the brakes I lost the rear of the car and I had to reduce the pressure [on the brakes] otherwise I would spin and the road was very narrow. I tried to do the corner but I didn't reduce enough speed and I hit the barrier with the rear-left corner. Then with the front we dived into the barrier. It's a shame but unfortunately this can happen.”
Meanwhile, behind Kopecky and co-driver Pavel Dresler, Craig Breen continued his strong start to his career as a member of the Peugeot Rally Academy in an impressive second place alongside navigator Paul Nagle. But there was disappointment for team-mate Jeremi Ancian, who was forced to stop when he ran out of spare tyres after suffering punctures on successive stages this morning.
Local hero Luis Monzon completed the podium in his MINI after he fought back from a puncture on day one in style.
Andreas Aigner took fourth and the ERC Production Car Cup glory in his Yokohama-supported Subaru Impreza R4 STI ahead of Renault Mégane N4 rookie Germain Bonnefis. Gorka Antxustegi took top honours for Suzuki in the ERC 2WD Championship and completed the top six.
Elsewhere, Janos Puskadi scored his first ERC points of 2013 in seventh with Jean-Mathieu Leandri overcoming a late puncture to claim eighth overall in a 207 S2000.
Robert Consani ensured maximum points for Team Renault Sport Technologies in the FIA Production Car Cup for Teams in ninth overall despite two punctures slowing his progress on the final afternoon. Antonin Tlust'ak extended GPD Mit Metal Racing Team's lead of the overall entrants' classification in 10th place after a faulty clutch was changed at midday service.
Zoltán Bessenyey now moves to the top of the FIA ERC 2WD Championship standings after beating Suzuki privateer Hermann Neubauer to second following a close battle.
The ERC now continues next month with round four, SATA Rallye Açores, running from April 25-27.
Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés – Top ten positions (after SS13):
1. Jan Kopecký /Pavel Dresler
Skoda Fabia S2000 2h24m30.9s
2. Craig Breen /Paul Nagle
Peugeot 207 S2000 +1m52.4s
3. Luis Monzón /Jose Carlos Deniz
MINI John Cooper Works RRC +3m18.9s
4. Andreas Aigner /Jürgen Heigl
Subaru Impreza R4 STI +6m50.8s
5. Germain Bonnefis /Olivier Fournier
Renault Mégane N4 +8m31.0s
6. Gorka Antxustegi /Alberto Iglesias
Suzuki Swift Sport S1600 +9m21.6s
7. János Puskádi /Barna Gódor
Skoda Fabia S2000 +10m13.6s
8. Jean-Mathieu Leandri /Renaud Jamoul
Peugeot 207 S2000 +11m05.8s
9. Robert Consani /Tibo Gorczyca
Renault Mégane N4 +11m57.7s
10. Antonín Tlusák /Lukáš Vyoral
Skoda Fabia S2000 +14m05.2s
ERC Production Car Cup:
Andreas Aigner/Jurgen Heigl (Subaru Impreza R4 STI )
ERC 2WD Championship:
Gorka Antxustegi/Alberto Iglesias (Suzuki Swift Sport S1600)
ERC Ladies' Trophy:
Ekaterina Stratieva/Veronica Boni (Citroen C2 R2)
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy: