Mares beats Ingram by 0.3s in thrilling Barum Czech Rally Zlín finale*
Filip Mareš fought Chris Ingram tooth and nail to take the ERC1 Junior title by just 0.3s, as Jan Kopecký (ŠKODA Motorsport) was unchallenged for victory out front after Alexey Lukyanuk (Saintéloc Junior Team) and Nikolay Gryazin (Sports Racing Technologies) – who was using the second of his prize drives as last year’s ERC1 Junior champion – both hit trouble on Saturday.
But behind the now eight-time Barum Czech Rally Zlín winner, Mareš and Ingram were swapping positions on almost every stage, trading only a handful of seconds on each stage.
Unhappy with the twisty nature of the Maják test at the start of the afternoon loop, Ingram lost three seconds to Mareš and fell to second in class, only to fight back into a lead of 0.6s by beating his Czech rival on the iconic Pindula. That created a tense showdown on the event-closing Kašava stage, which Mareš completed 0.9s ahead of Ingram after the Briton ran wide at the penultimate corner.
Ingram may have missed out on the ERC1 Junior title, but his third place overall has put him one point ahead of Lukyanuk in the overall ERC classification, with Łukasz Habaj (Sports Racing Technologies) a further nine behind after the Pole retired with rollcage damage in Sunday morning service.
Tomáš Kostka (Kresta Racing) finished just one place away from a fourth ERC podium in fourth place, mirroring Mareš and Ingram’s times closely but falling back slightly as the day wore on.
Double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel took a much-needed top five finish after a difficult season, taking a cautious approach on the notoriously tricky stages and gradually moving up the leaderboard during the weekend.
Simon Wagner’s ERC1 Junior debut was a highly successful one, the Austrian scoring a class podium and sixth place overall on his first European championship start in an R5 car. Driving the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 Evo, Wagner overcame a stomach bug on Saturday to climb the leaderboard, retaking the final ERC1 Junior podium spot after Nikolay Gryazin struck a bridge and broke the rear-left corner of his older-spec Fabia when he crashed heavily on Sunday’s second stage.
Jaromír Tarabus finished seventh and looked set to be followed home by Vojtěch Štajf, but the ACCR Czech Rally Team captain crashed out on the final stage of the rally, promoting Tomáš Pospíšilík to eighth instead. Pospíšilík, one of the original competitors in the first ERC Junior event back in 2014, secured fourth place in ERC1 Junior on his category debut, his one-minute loss with a puncture on Maják not posing any obstacle to scoring his first overall top 10 finish in ERC.
Martin Březík (Samohýl ŠKODA Team) picked up ninth place after Martin Vlček (Hyundai Kowax Racing) retired close to the finish of the final stage, while Efrén Llarena completed the top 10 in his ERC3 Junior-winning Peugeot 208 R2.
*Subject to confirmation of the results by the FIA