Kopecký/Dresler win all nine special stages, Wiegand currently on fifth place in debut for the works team, Lappi forced to retire following accident.
After putting in a superb performance, local favourites Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ) lead for ŠKODA going into the final day of their home rally. The pairing recorded the fastest time in all nine stages at the Barum Czech Rally Zlín.
Making their debut for the ŠKODA works team, German racing duo Sepp Wiegand/Frank Christian (D/D) currently lie fifth. Esapekka Lappi and co-driver Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN) were forced to retire after an accident in their first outing at the FIA European Rally Championship.
“It was a great day for us – we didn’t have any problems and the ŠKODA was in perfect order. I am really enjoying my driving,” said Kopecký. “The crowd’s enthusiasm is also spurring me on to do well.”
Tens of thousands of spectators around the course cheered him on over the eight stages in total and at the service park on Saturday. The ERC’s overall leader takes a 37.5-second advantage into the final day. After success in 2009 and 2011, Kopecký could be celebrating his third win at the Barum Rally tomorrow; ŠKODA are hoping for a fifth victory in a row on home soil.
German hopes are pinned on Sepp Wiegand, who could also be pleased with the day’s proceedings. “I was feeling great in the car, but this rally is really taxing. One of the stages felt like maybe the quickest in my entire life,” said Wiegand. The 22-year-old was always in full control of his Fabia S2000, as he took on the narrow and bumpy asphalt runs around Zlín.
However, the third ŠKODA works driver Esapekka Lappi hit a tree after sliding from the track in tricky driving conditions. Following an inspection, the FIA decided that the Finn would not be allowed to continue due to a damaged roll cage. ”That is real bad luck. I did so much planning for my first big asphalt rally and now I can no longer show that,” said.
As a result, ŠKODA’s hopes predominantly rest on Kopecký, who has enjoyed four race wins and a second-place finish from five ERC starts. On Sunday, the drivers will face six more stages covering 103.86 kilometres.