Václav Pech and co-driver Petr Uhel have won Barum Czech Rally Zlín for the second time following four years of Skoda domination on the FIA European Rally Championship qualifier.
Skoda had been unbeaten in Zlín since 2009 with its Fabia Super 2000 but Pech's success in his Michelin-shod Mini John Cooper Works S2000 breaks that long-running sequence.
Pech, who became Czech champion for a seventh time by winning Saturday's leg, claims his first win in the ERC since its restructuring in 2004 having lost out to Robert Kubica in a final-stage showdown on Austria's Jännerrallye at the start of the season. He also makes it seven different winners from eight rounds of this year's ERC.
“The competition was really great so we didn't have high hopes for the best positions and we were realistic about our chances of being in the top three,” said Pech. “In the beginning we had some engine problems in Slušovice. My greatest fear was to get to the service. It was only a small repair we needed to do but we couldn't do it on the road. Thanks to the mishaps of others we were able to get to the top. Even though we had a one-minute advantage we didn't want to make any unnecessary mistakes so we drove carefully to the finish.”
Sepp Wiegand beat Tomáš Kostka to the runner-up spot by 0.2s in a thrilling finish. Czech driver Kostka moved in front of his German rival on stage 13 but an engine problem on his Ford Fiesta R5 for the final two tests slowed him down and allowed Wiegand to get back ahead.
Wiegand was unhappy after being unintentionally delayed behind Robert Consani's slowing Peugeot 207 S2000 on stage 14 but his second-place finish means he closes the gap to Skoda team-mate Esapekka Lappi in the race to become European champion. Lappi, who crashed out on Saturday, restarted on leg two and won three stages to land five bonus points for completing the final leg in third place. After eight rounds, Lappi's advantage over Wiegand stands at 19 points.
Jaroslav Orsák, the leading Pirelli-shod driver, just did enough to keep fellow Czech Jaromír Tarabus at bay in the battle for what became fourth place when they both moved ahead of Kajetan Kajetanowicz on the final stage. Tarabus was fastest on two stages today and won the leg as he battled back from his delay when he went off the road on stage seven, which cost him a shot at victory. His determination was rewarded with the Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy. Kajetanowicz, meanwhile, achieved his aim of a points finish on his first start in the ERC since SATA Rallye Açores in May in his Lotos Rally Team Fiesta.
Ott Tänak, who won auto24 Rally Estonia last month, finished seventh after power issues slowed his Fiesta. Martin Vlček took eighth with ERC stalwart Antonín Tlusťák ninth and Bruno Magalhães completing the top 10 after he battled set-up and gearshift issues on his all-new Peugeot 208T16. Neil Simpson was 11th in his Skoda UK-supported Fabia S2000.
Robert Consani was in the top 10 when a mechanical problem forced his exit on the penultimate stage. Robert Barrable, who restarted on leg two, dropped out on stage 13 with reported suspension issues. Peugeot Rally Academy team-mates Kevin Abbring and Craig Breen both hit trouble on stage four an neither was able to return to the action on Sunday.
While Skoda's winning run might be over, reigning European champion Jan Kopecký gave the thousands of fans who lined the route a glimpse of the company's ERC future by demonstrating a Fabia Super 2000 equipped with a 1.6-litre turbocharged engine that will form the basis of Skoda's R5 challenger from next season.
In the ERC 2WD Championship, Adam Kobliha claimed another home win by taking the laurels in his Renault Clio R3. He moved in front of Egon Smékal on Saturday's opening stage and was never headed thereafter. Top ERC Junior Stéphane Lefebvre finished third with category rivals Marijan Griebel and Aleks Zawada next up. Lefebvre's result puts him ahead of Honda's defending champion Zoltán Bessenyey in the championship standings after the Hungarian was forced to miss the event after injuring ankle ligaments while training for the rally.
The FIA European Rally Championship will be back in action in three weeks with the Cyprus Rally (running from 19-21 September).
(after 15 stages, 237.33 kilometres)
1 Václav Pech (CZE)/Petr Uhel (CZE)
MINI John Cooper Works S2000 2h16m28.7s
2 Sepp Wiegand (DEU)/Frank Christian (DEU)
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +51.5s
3 Tomáš Kostka (CZE)/Miroslav Houšť (CZE)
Ford Fiesta R5 +51.7s
4 Jaroslav Orsák (CZE)/David Šmeidler (CZE)
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +1m12.8s
5 Jaromír Tarabus (CZE)/Daniel Trunkát (CZE)
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +1m13.6s
6 Kajetan Kajetanowicz (POL)/Jarosław Baran (POL)
Ford Fiesta R5 +1m14.4s
7 Ott Tänak (EST)/Raigo Mölder (EST)
Ford Fiesta R5 +2m41.5s
8 Martin Vlček (CZE)/Richard Lasevič (CZE)
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +5m30.2s
9 Antonín Tlusťák (CZE)/Ladislav Kučera (CZE)
ŠKODA Fabia S2000 +6m05.8s
10 Bruno Magalhães (PRT)/Carlos Magalhães (PRT)
Peugeot 208T16 +7m07.3s
FIA ERC Production Car:
Martin Březík (CZE)/Marek Omelka (CZE) Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX
FIA ERC 2WD:
Adam Kobliha (CZE)/Karel Žáček (CZE) Renault Clio R3
FIA ERC Junior:
Stéphane Lefebvre (FRA)/Thomas Dubois (FRA) Peugeot 208 R2
ERC Ladies' Trophy:
Ekaterina Stratieva (BGR)/Carmen Poenaru (BGR) Citroën C2R2
Colin McRae ERC Flat Out Trophy:
Jaromír Tarabus (CZE)