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GP Week : Issue 59
T HERE has always been something special about Zlin. The city is in the south part of Czech Republic, close to the border with Slovakia in the ancient areas of South East Moravia, and was originally a Gothic fortress town. Then, Zlin became a centre of industry developed by a far sighted entrepreneur Tomas Bata, known for his worldwide shoe empire and his innovative educational and social housing systems. Bata recognised abnormally high levels of latent skill among the local workers which he used to develop his businesses. After World War 2 and in the Communist era, the name of the town became Gottwaldov. In these times the inhabitants devised alternative economic systems, which defied the 3 intentions of the ruling regime. In the same era, and out of sight of the rest of the world, some of the German motor industry’s most secret development work was carried out in the area, in complete secrecy. After the communist occupation the name Zlin was revived and one of the major developments in the region was in aircraft building (the famous Zlin aerobatic planes are built nearby), and also in motorsport. Another of Bata’s achievements was setting up the Barum tyre company, and it was a natural step for the sport to work together, which led to the Barum Rally. This is the 39th Barum Rally, and is sure to be memorable for several reasons. It is the first time since the days of Roman Kresta and his Skoda Octavia World Rally Cars that a Czech car has a good chance of outright victory. Now, also being a round of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and the European Rally Championship, World Rally Cars are forbidden. After running as a course opening car in 2008, this is the first Barum Rally in which the Fabia S2000 will be competing, and there is every expectation of a fierce three-way battle between the Peugeot Czech drivers Roman Kresta and Martin Prokop, and the Skoda works driver Jan Kopecky. Prokop won the drive in the Celebrity BF Goodrich Kronos car after a convincing vote by national journalists. Fans are bolstered by the promise of 25 Super 2000s on the entry list, mostly Peugeots (headed by the four Kronos team drivers Vouilloz, Loix, Meeke and Prokop), but also strong presence of works Skodas (Hanninen and Kopecky), Fiats (Rossetti and Basso), Proton (for the first time they have two cars on an event, Wilks and Bouffier). and Opel (Mikkelsen). 21 Super 2000s started the event last year and these cars filled the top 10 places at the finish. F our drivers represent historical stars of the event, who have won three times in the past – the legendary Czech Renault Alpine driver Vladimir Hubacek, the Norwegian John Haugland, the cosmopolitan Enrico Bertone, and the Czech Roman Kresta, who lives close to Zlin. When the rally series began it was mixed, and several times went into regions around Puchov, which are now in Slovakia. Tight road sections formed an important