Kopecký won opening rally in Czech
After the Valašská Rally (23-25 April), the opening round of the 2018 Czech Rally Championship (MČR), ŠKODA Motorsport driver Jan Kopecký has extended his unbeaten run in the series to three years, after another dominant victory. And with the other works FABIA R5 of Ole Christian Veiby also finishing on the podium, it proved to be a very successful start to ŠKODA’s home series.
There is no doubt that the big story to come out of the Valašská Rally was another dominant drive from Jan Kopecký. The five-time Czech rally champion, who was supported once again by long-term co-driver Pavel Dresler, won all seven of the special stages driven on Saturday to lead by 29.5 seconds from Václav Pech overnight. His teammate Ole Christian Veiby edged him out in SS8, but timing issues meant that stage was later cancelled. And Kopecký’s control quickly returned as he won the remaining seven stages on Sunday too to end up victorious by a huge margin of 1 minute 1.8 seconds.
This was Kopecký’s fourth win at the Valašská Rally and it means he is now the joint most successful driver in the event’s history, alongside the former ŠKODA works driver Ladislav Křeček. All of Kopecký’s wins here have come in ŠKODA cars: In 2011 and 2012 he was driving a FABIA S2000 (with Petr Starý co-driving in 2011 and Dresler in 2012) and in 2017 and 2018 in a FABIA R5 with Dresler. And with his level of performance this year, few would bet against him adding more wins in the seasons to come.
The young Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby was competing here, alongside co-driver Stig Rune Skjarmoen, mostly to gain more experience on tarmac ahead of his WRC2 campaign for ŠKODA Motorsport. But despite this being his first ever drive in the Czech Republic, he impressed. He was second fastest on the opening stage, just 3.9 sec behind his much more experienced teammate Kopecký. In the rest of the first leg, Veiby found himself in a close fight with Václav Pech, and while he ended the day in third place, he was just 5.1 sec behind him.
Veiby made a bright start to the second leg and appeared to have won the opening stage of the day (SS8) before bad luck intervened and the stage was later deleted due to the problems with timekeeping. But he continued to push Pech hard and after the penultimate stage (SS14) he actually edged into second place, with a 0.5 seconds lead over his rival. But as he continued to push on the final stage, disaster struck as he spun and lost valuable time, ending up 17 behind Pech but managing to hold onto his podium place by 0.7 seconds from Jan Dohnal. But he can be very proud of his performance, which showed that he was able to compete with local specialists in events unknown to him. And that can only be good preparation for his next WRC2 appearance.
Of the other FABIA R5 drivers competing at the Valašská Rally, Jaromír Tarabus / Daniel Trunkát finished in sixth position overall. Tarabus drove a FABIA R5 in the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) in 2016, but last year was only competing in a FABIA S2000 in the Czech championship. This time around, he will have a full Czech season in a FABIA R5 and this was a promising start. In the eighth position overall was the FABIA R5 of Filip Mareš / Jan Hloušek. This was Mareš’s debut drive in a 4WD car after he impressed last year finishing third in the ERC Junior U27 championship in a 2WD vehicle.
2018 Valašská Rally – MČR Final Results:
1. Kopecký / Dresler (CZE/CZE) ŠKODA FABIA R5 1:29:39.9 hrs
2. Pech / Uhel (CZE/CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 +1:01.8 min
3. Veiby / Skjarmoen (NOR/NOR) ŠKODA FABIA R5 +1:18.8 min
4. Dohnal / Ernst (CZE/CZE) Ford Focus RS WRC ’06 +1:19.5 min
5. Černý / Černohorský (CZE/CZE) Ford Fiesta R5 +2:18.8 min
Jan Kopecký and Ole Christian Veiby will next be in action for ŠKODA Motorsport in two weeks’ time in the next round of the FIA World Rally Championship, which will be Tour de Corse in Corsica (5-8 April). The next round of the Czech Rally Championship will be the Rallye Šumava Klatovy (20-21 April), which Kopecký will be competing in once again.