Kopecky holds lead of Rally Canarias at end of day 1

Mikkelsen backed off to fall behind his rival


By Franck Drui

16 March 2012 - 23:00
Kopecky holds lead of Rally Canarias at

Round two of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge, Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés, is set for a thrilling climax on Saturday with the top two drivers, Jan Kopecký and Andreas Mikkelsen, separated by just 1.2s heading into the closing six stages.

Mikkelsen, the defending IRC champion, led throughout the day but dropped precious seconds to his rival on the final test, which will see him run behind Kopecký on the road on day two. While he no longer leads the rally, the 22-year-old Mikkelsen will be able to monitor Kopecký’s stage times and decide when to attack and when to drive with more caution in his quest for a strong finish.

With ŠKODA UK Motorsport ace Mikkelsen winning four stages today and Kopecký going fastest on five occasions in his factory ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, the battle for victory will be wide open on the demanding asphalt roads around Las Palmas when the action resumes at 10:28hrs local time.

“It’s super, super close, a proper fight,” said Mikkelsen, from Norway. “Jan has been pushing a lot and on stage eight I had a big moment a few kilometres from the end, went off and jumped into the road again. The tyres were very worn at that point but the car was okay – I was extremely lucky. I didn’t want to run behind Jan on the final day because I prefer to hunt than be hunted.”

In bright sunshine and roared on by thousands of fans, by winning the day’s first three stages Mikkelsen appeared to be controlling his advantage over Kopecký until his scare nearing the finish of the seventh 21.29-kilometre Ingenio test gave the Czech driver hope.

“Andreas has been very fast today, taking some big risks,” said Kopecký, the winner in Gran Canaria in 2010. “I believed we could be quicker but the most important thing is to finish the rally. I had one small moment in the morning and I did not have so much confidence with the reading of the pacenotes on one stage this afternoon. But the car has been perfect and now I am leading.”

Spaniard Luis Monzón is the top Peugeot 207 S2000 driver in third overall following a hugely impressive showing on his first rally in the French machine for four years. Rarely outside of the top three stage times, Monzón holds a 20.3s advantage over fourth-placed Hermann Gassner Jr, who lost ground with an intercom fault on stage seven.

“I am very happy with today,” said Monzón. “It has been long and not so easy for me to learn this car again but we try to maintain this position to the end of the rally. We can’t do anything but maximum attack like today.”

Sepp Wiegand, who like his fellow German Gassner Jr is competing on the event for the first time, had been embroiled in a close fight with Spaniard Alberto Hevia for fifth overall until the luckless Hevia’s Fabia failed on the road section heading to the penultimate stage of the day.

Wiegand’s only major cause for concern was a faulty crank sensor causing a momentary power loss on stage six. However, the problem was quickly rectified by his ŠKODA Auto Deutschland mechanics and no further time was dropped.

Spaniard Jonathan Perez is sixth overnight in a Peugeot 207 with IRC 2WD Cup leader Joan Vinyes a strong seventh, one place ahead of Dream Team Ukraine’s Oleksiy Tamrazov, who has improved his pace – and experience of the demanding island roads – throughout the day.

Gorka Antxustegi is ninth with local driver Angel Marrero the top Honda Civic pilot in 10th position. Hungarian Janós Puskádi and Briton Harry Hunt are in hot pursuit. Puskádi is making his competitive debut in a ŠKODA Fabia and spending the event adapting to four-wheel drive. Meanwhile, a brake issue has troubled Hunt for much of the day. Rashid Al-Ketbi is 13th for the Skydive Dubai Rally Team following a faultless display on only his second event on asphalt.

Robert Consani is the leading Renault driver in 15th overall on his first event alongside IRC title-winning co-driver Nicolas Klinger. Consani, who reported a power loss issue on uphill sections, is eligible for IRC Production Cup points and IRC 2WD Cup points on this event and heads the Production Cup standings over Subaru Impreza driver Marco Tempestini, who suffered brake problems in the afternoon.

Bulgarian Ekaterina Stratieva began her season-long IRC 2WD Cup campaign by completing day one in 10th position in the highly competitive category.

Ricardo Moura retired from the lead of the IRC Production Cup early on stage two with a turbocharger failure. Transmission problems stopped Oleksandr Saliuk’s Dream Team Ukraine M-Sport Ford Fiesta, while brake issues led to José Luís Barrios’ exit.

Saturday’s action consists of six special stages over a competitive distance of 101.52 kilometres.

1. Kopecký J. - Dresler P. Škoda Fabia S2000 1h22m56.3s
2. Mikkelsen A. - Floene O. Škoda Fabia S2000 +1.2s
3. Monzón L. - Déniz J. Peugeot 207 S2000 +1:40.8s
4. Gassner jr. H. - Wicha K. Škoda Fabia S2000 +2:01.1s
5. Wiegand S. - Gottschalk T. Škoda Fabia S2000 +2:21.6s
6. Perez J. - Velasco E. Peugeot 207 S2000 +3:55.6s
7. Vinyes J. - Mercader J. Suzuki Swift S1600 +5:04.2s
8. Tamrazov O. - Arena N. Ford Fiesta S2000 +5:20.8s
9. Antxustegui G. - Suarez G. Suzuki Swift S1600 +5:27.9s
10. Marrero A. - Marrero V. Honda Civic Type-R +6:00.1s
11. Puskádi J. - Gódor B. Škoda Fabia S2000 +6:43.2s
12. Hunt H. - Durant R. Citroen DS3 R3T +8:14.2s
13. Al-Ketbi R. - Al-Kendi K. Škoda Fabia S2000 +8:22.6s
14. Hernández G. - Pereira I. Honda Civic Type-R +8:30.7s
15. Consani R. - Beynet C. Renault Megane RS +9:25.9s
16. Lemes Y. - Vega S. Ford Fiesta R2 +10:28.7s
17. Tempestini M. - Pulpea D. Subaru Impreza STi R4 +10:45.2s
18. Diego M. - Diego V. Renault Twingo R2 +12:59.9s
19. Aragones L. - Banobre C. Renault Twingo R2 +16:38.1s
20. Stratieva E. - Gaureanu C. Citroen C2 R2 Max +18:15.7s

Special stages in details

SS1: Mikkelsen takes slender Canarias lead

Andreas Mikkelsen has taken a narrow early lead on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés by winning the first stage of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier, the 8.30-kilometre Guia test.

Mikkelsen, in a ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, completed the run in a time of 4m19.3s, which was 0.2s faster than factory ŠKODA driver Jan Kopecký.

Alberto Hevia was the top Spanish driver in third, 4.4s behind Mikkelsen in a ŠKODA Spain-backed entry. Hermann Gassner was fourth in his Red Bull Team Fabia, 5.3s behind Mikkelsen with two-time event winner Luis Monzón fifth and top Peugeot 207 runner.

Sepp Wiegand was sixth quickest with Jonathan Perez seventh and Oleksandr Saliuk eighth in a Dream Team Ukraine M-Sport Ford Fiesta S2000.

There was a surprise in the IRC 2WD Cup when Gorka Antxustegi outpaced his more experienced team-mate Joan Vinyes.

SS2: Monzon claims third place in Gran Canaria

Luis Monzón has snatched third place on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés by going third fastest on the longest stage of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge event, the 24.67 Artenara run.

Driving a Peugeot 207 S2000, two-time event winner Monzón was 16.1s adrift of the flying Andreas Mikkelsen, who won the stage and continues to lead the all-asphalt IRC event.

ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver Mikkelsen was 2.3s faster than chief rival Jan Kopecký, in a similar Fabia S2000. He said: “I’m enjoying it and having fun. The roads are beautiful but the surface was quite slippery in the braking. But we managed okay.”

Kopecký suggested Mikkelsen had taken a number of “big risks” to achieve his impressive time. “It seems he’s pushing much because we can see his [tyre] marks on the road,” said the Czech ace.

Sepp Wiegand has moved ahead of Alberto Hevia in the battle for fifth position by going 5.2s quicker than the Spaniard through the stage.

Oleksandr Saliuk reported a lack of rear drive in his M-Sport Fiesta S2000, while IRC Production Cup title leader Ricardo Moura, running fifth on the road, has so far failed to complete the stage.

Approximately 50 per cent of the Artenara stage is new with a fast and flowing first section before it rejoins the existing stage after 14 kilometres. With a significant amount of downhill action, brakes will be put under considerable strain.

SS3: Mikkelsen continues impressive start

Andreas Mikkelsen has made it a hat trick of stage wins on day one of Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés by completing the 14.31-kilometre Tejeda test 1.1s faster than fellow ŠKODA Fabia driver Jan Kopecký.

Mikkelsen’s third stage victory means his overall lead of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge event is up to 3.6s.

“I was a little bit careful on the downhill section but other than that it was a clean stage, I was saving the brakes,” said Mikkelsen.

Kopecký said: “For us it was okay but it seems Andreas was motivated and pushing hard. The car is working well but this is our first proper Tarmac rally together [with co-driver Pavel Dresler] so we are taking our time.”

Hermann Gassner Jr was fourth fastest, while in the battle for fifth position, Alberto Hevia has moved back ahead of Sepp Wiegand by going 2.8s faster than the German driver.

Ricardo Moura failed to start the stage after stopping on the previous run with turbocharger failure in his Açores-backed Ralliart Lancer.

Scheduled to run at night last season, the Tejeda stage is narrow and fast and is littered with short corners and big drops where precise driving is essential.

SS4: Kopecky claims first stage win

Jan Kopecký has ended Andreas Mikkelsen’s run of stage wins on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés by going fastest on stage four of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier, the repeat of the 8.30-kilometre Guia test.

Kopecký, in a ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia, was 1.5s quicker than ŠKODA UK’s Mikkelsen through the stage to close the Norwegian’s overall lead to 2.1s. It was the Czech driver’s first stage victory on this year’s all-asphalt event, which he won in 2010.

Alberto Hevia was third quickest in his ŠKODA Spain Fabia with young German driver Hermann Gassner Jr fourth fastest for the Red Bull Team.

Two-time Canarias winner Luis Monzón was the top Peugeot driver in fifth with Sepp Wiegand sixth and Jonathan Perez seventh in another Peugeot.

Joan Vinyes continues to top the IRC 2WD Cup standings despite losing out to team-mate Gorka Antxustegi for the second time on this stage.

Marco Tempestini maintained his strong grip on the IRC Production Cup category in his Subaru Impreza, moving ahead of Renault driver Robert Consani in the overall classification to 16th position.

SS5: Wiegand back up to fifth in Canarias

Sepp Wiegand has reclaimed fifth position on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés by edging Alberto Hevia through the second Artenara stage.

German Wiegand was 7.6s quicker than Hevia and is now 3.4s ahead of the Spaniard in the overall classification.

“I had a good feeling and it was lots of fun,” said ŠKODA Auto Deutschland driver Wiegand. “I push a bit harder now.”

Hevia, meanwhile, reported a bout of understeer nearing the end of the stage, which at 24.67 kilometres is the longest of the all-asphalt rally.

Out front, Jan Kopecký continues to eat into Andreas Mikkelsen’s lead with his second stage victory on the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier.

Both ŠKODA Fabia drivers reported the high ambient and ground temperatures were causing significant tyre wear towards the end of the stage.

“The last two kilometres were difficult because the car was sliding a lot on the tyres because it’s a lot warmer now,” said Kopecký, who was 0.5s quicker than Mikkelsen and now trails the Norwegian by 1.6s after five stages.

Luis Monzón was third fastest in his Peugeot 207 S2000 with Hermann Gassner Jr next up followed by Wiegand, Hevia and Peugeot driver Jonathan Perez.

SS6: Mikkelsen fights back with stage win

Andreas Mikkelsen has returned to stage winning ways on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés with an impressive run through the 14.31-kilometre Tejeda test.

The ŠKODA UK Motorsport driver was 3.5s quicker than Jan Kopecký and now leads his Czech rival by 5.1s with three stages of day two remaining.

“It was a good stage for us, a good push throughout the stage,” said Mikkelsen. “I had a very good rhythm with no mistakes, a good feeling. Jan is very quick at the moment so we need to push quite hard to stay in front.”

Luis Monzón was the top Peugeot driver with the third fastest time, 1.4s quicker than Hermann Gassner Jr.

Sepp Wiegand reported a possible power issue in his ŠKODA Auto Deutschland Fabia close to the stage finish. Although Alberto Hevia set a faster time than Wiegand through the stage, the young German was able to hold on to fifth position overall.

SS7: Big fright for rally leader Mikkelsen

Andreas Mikkelsen says he’s lucky to still be in contention for victory on Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés after reporting a “big moment” in his SKODA UK Motorsport Fabia Super 2000 on stage seven.

The defending Intercontinental Rally Challenge champion started the 21.29-kilometre Ingenio stage leading by 5.1s. However, his margin has been trimmed to 3.6s as a result of the incident and a rapid time by stage winner Jan Kopecký.

“I had a big moment a few kilometres from the end, went off and jumped into the road again. The car feels okay, I am extremely lucky,” said the Norwegian. “The tyres were like gravel tyres towards the end, very worn.”

Kopecký said: “We tried to push but, okay, the end of the stage was very difficult and my co-driver had a small problem with the reading of the notes. I did not always feel confident and I was losing time.”

Luis Monzón was third fastest in his Peugeot 207 S2000, which he said had been improved in service: “It was a very good stage for us, we could go very fast. I changed the suspension, the roll bar and in the end we found a little but an important solution.”

Hermann Gassner Jr said he couldn’t hear co-driver Klaus Wicha’s pacenotes clearly due to an intercom glitch. He also admitted to suffering a brief off-road moment after going fourth quickest in his Red Bull Team Fabia.

Like Mikkelsen, and fellow German Gassner Jr, Sepp Wiegand, whose ŠKODA Auto Deutschland is running with a new camshaft sensor following an earlier failure, also reported an off-road moment on his way to the fifth quickest time.

In the battle for eighth overall, IRC 2WD Cup leader Joan Vinyes has moved back ahead of Dream Team Ukraine’s Oleksiy Tamrazov.

SS8: Kopecky cuts Mikkelsen’s lead

Jan Kopecký has slashed Andreas Mikkelsen’s lead of Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés to 1.1s heading to Friday’s final stage.

The ŠKODA Motorsport star, Intercontinental Rally Challenge runner-up for the last three seasons, was 2.5s quicker than Mikkelsen through the 22.05-kilometre Aguimes test.

“It’s not enough because we are not leading,” said the Czech star. “This is a very nice stage and I like it. The car is perfect but we need to survive the last stage now, it’s only a small stage but you can lose a lot if you make a mistake.”

Mikkelsen said: “I was not happy with the start but I had a good push towards the end. I can’t afford to go off for the championship so the big moment I had on the previous stage is a little bit in the back of my head.”

Luis Monzón was third quickest in his Peugeot 207 Super 2000 with ŠKODA Auto Deutschland’s Sepp Wiegand fourth and Hermann Gassner Jr fifth. “I was not happy with my driving,” said the Red Bull Team driver.

Alberto Hevia is reported not to have started the stage after stopping on the road section. The Spanish driver was in sixth overall prior to the stage getting underway.

SS9: Mikkelsen drops back, Kopecky leads

Jan Kopecký has snatched the lead of Rally Islas Canarias El Corte Inglés by winning the 1.5-kilometre Gran Canaria stage, based on the island’s go-kart track.

Mikkelsen was 1.1s in front starting the final stage of the day but elected to drop time in order to avoid running at the head of the field on Saturday’s closing six stages of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier.

“I want Jan in front of me,” said Mikkelsen, who now trails fellow ŠKODA Fabia driver Kopecký by 1.2s.

Luis Monzón set the second fastest time in his Peugeot 207 with Andreas Mikkelsen third quickest following his conservative run through the stage.

Hermann Gassner Jr clocked the fourth best time in his Red Bull Team Fabia with Sepp Wiegand fifth quickest. Behind Jonathan Perez in a Peugeot, Robert Consani impressed with the seventh best time in his Renault Mégane RS

Crews are now heading back to Las Palmas for the day’s final service and overnight halt. The action resumes with stage 10, Maspalomas, at 10:28hrs local time
One stage remains before the overnight halt in Las Palmas, the 1.90-kilometre Gran Canaria karting track stage.

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