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GP Week : Issue 165
WRC >>> NEWS SKODAS DOMINATE BARUM RALLY Juho Hanninen’s victory in the IRC Barum Rally in Czech Republic sealed a remarkable event for the Skoda team. The top six cars were official or private Fabia S2000s, their official driver Jan Kopecky clinched the national Czech rally title, and Hanninen has now amassed an unbeatable score in the FIA European championship. The asphalt event in Moravia region was plagued with uncertain weather leading to endless tyre choice errors. It featured a three way fight between Hanninen, Andras Mikkelsen and Kopecky before Mikkelsen suffered a double puncture and Kopecky had one of several engine failures during the event. Rain fell increasingly during the traditional opening nighttime downtown stage in Zlin where Vaclav Pech’s Mini was the fastest. Come the Day 1 morning stages Hanninen (top right) took a risk using slick tyres, and found the conditions favoured him, while Kopecky found the stages were drier than expected. In early trouble was Pavel Valousek whose Skoda had engine failure, Subaru R4 driver Jarkko Nikara needed a gearbox change and then Pech had rear differential broke while Patrik Flodin had misfiring trouble. As Kopecky gradually caught up lost time so Mikkelsen and Hanninen fought for the lead until Mikkelsen eased his pace on the treacherous Stage 7. The weather got worse all the time. The finish group of stages on Day 1 featured fog and greasy surfaces which caught out many, including Sepp Wiegand who lost a minute spinning off the road and sliding backwards into a tree. Robert Barrable touched a tree and Hanninen escaped a moment which he described as the most frightening in his career. Nikara went off the road and retired but seventh placed fellow Subaru driver Andreas Aigner went on to finish top Production car in front of Toshi Arai. Day 2 promised to be brighter and drier but everyone was spectacularly deceived, with virtually all the top drivers using hard compound slicks as the rains arrived again! Pech and Tlusak both retired with engine failure, Mikkelsen drove over a curb which damaged his tyres but finished eight overall retaining his IRC series lead, Hanninen spun but then put up a remarkable effort on Stage 12 which put him 16.2 seconds in front of Kopecky. The battle for the lead stopped on Stage 13 when Kopecky’s engine failed and then there was a serious spectator accident which brought the event to a premature finish. Fastest two-wheel -rive car was Jan Cerny’s Citroen after Robert Consani’s Renault Megane retired with another engine failure. MODEST ENTRY FOR WALES RALLY GB Two weeks after the official closing date for Wales Rally GB (September 13-16), the organisers have finally been permitted by the FIA to release the list of entries – which totals only 31 crews. A further 41 competitors have entered a three-day parallel national event which uses the same stages once rather than twice. The low number of entries for the WRC event is a tragic situation for this classic fixture in the WRC, which has been held as a championship qualifying every year since the world series started in 1973, especially for spectators. It is less than half the number of WRC event entries last year. An unpopular route format imposed by the national Welsh authorities who support the event, a change of date imposed by the FIA and date clashes with both the IRC (with the Yalta Rally in Ukraine) and the APRC (with Rally Japan) have led to this disastrous situation. Spectators have to face the conflicting attractions of the elite Tour of Britain cycle race which passes through Wales at the same time and the financial consequence of a summer-time full of major sporting events in Britain. Full preview next week. 17 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: