Bouffier had nothing to lose
Kris Meeke finishes fourth
An assertive run by Bryan Bouffier in the Czech Republic saw a Peugeot 207 S2000 take the lead with two stages remaining in the 2010 Barum Zlin Rally, round nine of this year’s IRC. The Frenchman unfortunately then lost time following an off and had to settle for 10th spot. Another 207 S2000 in the expert hands of Kris Meeke finished the event in fourth place. The weekend’s result brings a halt to an enviable run of IRC crowns for Peugeot who will now not be able to take its score to four consecutive titles.
Bryan Bouffier piles on the pressure and inherits the lead
Rallying can be a cruel sport at times. The ninth of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge’s 12 rounds (August 27-29) took teams to Zlin, in the Czech Republic, where home star and 2009 winner Jan Kopecky led for a full day and a half. The Skoda driver was kept under constant pressure, however, from the Peugeot 207 S2000 of Frenchman Bryan Bouffier.
Then, on the 14th of the event’s 17 stages, Kopecky went off a first time, before a second crash put him out of the rally for good and handed the lead to Bouffier at the end of SS15. The Peugeot driver’s joy would unfortunately be short-lived… "I damaged the suspension in the first corner of SS16," explained the Frenchman. "It didn’t cost me too much time, but I still lost the lead by 3.2 seconds."
Bouffier was able to replace the broken part ahead of the weekend’s final competitive section: "I had nothing to lose, so I gave it everything I had on the last stage. Braking for a corner, though, my windscreen was smattered with cooling fluid. Practically at the same time, I felt my front wheels lose grip and I ended up off the road." The reason was a split water hose, which Bouffier managed to repair on the stage, but the time-loss dropped him to 10th place overall.
Kris Meeke’s run handicapped by the difficult conditions
The best-placed Peugeot in the final standings was that of Kris Meeke who finished fourth. "Tyre choice was pretty much a lottery over the two days," observed the 2009 IRC champion. "I think I could have challenged for the win but I just never seemed to be on the right tyres. It rained frequently, but not once when I expected it to…" Even so, the Briton appeared to be on target for a top-three finish, but his chances were thwarted when a transmission problem saw him fall back a place to fourth at the flag.
The run of the third top 207 S2000 entered by Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg came to a stop early on when Thierry Neuville crashed out, although the Belgian youngster did have time to post an eloquent stage time. "When I saw that I was fourth on SS2, I realised I was going too quickly and I decided to slow down in order to give myself every chance of reaching the finish," reported Thierry. "It then started to rain. My car took off over a jump and landed awkwardly on the slippery surface. I managed to get it back in line, but I didn’t have time to brake for the following turn." The incident saw a wheel come off the car, putting an immediate stop to the Belgian’s run. "We succeeded in showing that the Peugeot’s handling has made good progress on bumpy terrain. That’s very encouraging for the future."