Thu 17 Aug 2023

Five Czech mates gunning for home ERC glory

Several top Czech drivers will be in the mix for victory on their home round of the FIA European Rally Championship. Here are five to watch on Barum Czech Rally Zlín, which runs from tomorrow (Friday) until Sunday.

A former downhill mountain bike racer, Březík was inspired to switch from two to four wheels by his father Martin, a Czech Group N champion. The Samohýl Škoda Team driver had planned to contest Rally di Roma Capitale in 2021 but was prevented from doing so following a crash on the preceding Rally Bohemia. He’s concentrated on events closer to home since then, although outings on events in Austria and Germany are evidence that his ambition to compete at international level remains.

Like Březík, Zlín based Cais was a downhill mountain bike world cup racer before injury stopped him in his tracks. He’s since taken international rallying by storm in the ERC and, more recently, WRC2, where he’s been a podium finisher. Michelin-equipped Cais, who won the FIA Central European Rally Trophy in 2022, has switched from Ford to Škoda power for 2023 but continues his long-term alliance with Orsák Rallysport.

Kopecký, a long-term factory Škoda drivier, is the reference when it comes to winning in Zlín with the ace Czech triumphing on his home round of the ERC 10 times. Of his victories on the Tarmac event, perhaps the most significant was achieved in 2013, the year of his FIA European Rally Championship title triumph. Despite netting just one victory this season, Kopecký is on course for his 10th Czech title in the Fabia RS Rally2 he helped to develop.

Czech championship runner-up for the last two seasons and second on Barum Czech Rally Zlín last season, Mareš is mounting a full-season ERC bid in 2023 with Pirelli tyres and has shown impressive pace on Tarmac and gravel. An office worker by profession, Mareš, who beat Chris Ingram to the 2019 Junior ERC1 title in Zlín by 0.3s, is from Mladá Boleslav, the home of Škoda.

Following a stint in karting, Stříteský switched to rallying in 2018. He scored a point on his first start as an ERC-registered driver on Rally di Roma Capitale in 2021 – his first season in four-wheel drive – but then crashed heavily on Barum Czech Rally Zlín. After finishing third in the 2022 Czech championship, Stříteský famously beat Jan Kopecký to victory on last month’s Bohemia Rally aboard his Hankook-equipped R5-specification Fabia.

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