Fri 18 Aug 2023

Mareš tops ERC Zlín Qualifying Stage order

Filip Mareš has got his bid for home glory in the FIA European Rally Championship off to a flying start with the fastest time on the Qualifying Stage for Barum Czech Rally Zlín.

Driving a Škoda Fabia Rally2 Evo on Pirelli tyres, Mareš took 2min 09.329sec to complete the 3.14km Maják test alongside co-driver Radovan Bucha.

He outpaced Zlín resident Erik Cais by 0.120s with Simon Wagner third in another Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. And by going fastest, Mareš has earned the right to choose his road position first for Saturday’s opening leg when the start order selection takes place in front of Zlín’s City Hall from 15:30 local time.

“It’s nice to begin the race this way but for sure it’s not the start of the face it’s just the beginning of the weekend,” said Mareš. “The road was getting drier and so far so good, I am enjoying. But it’s a difficult event and we need to focus and show the pace from the very beginning because it’s the only way to fight for the podium. Definitely we would like to be on top from the beginning, I mean in the first fastest five cars, hopefully we can manage it, we are well prepared for this and I am looking forward to it.”

With thousands of fans watching the action, the stage took place in damp but drying conditions, which made for changing grip levels throughout the high-speed run for a number of drivers.

Dominik Stříteský was fourth quickest in an older specification Fabia R5 with 2019 ERC champion Chris Ingram marking his return to ERC action in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 with the fifth quickest time.

Ten-time Zlín winner and 2013 European champion Jan Kopecký was sixth quickest ahead of Miklós Csomós and double ERC title winner Alexey Lukyanuk.

“We are quite happy,” Kopecký said. “I decided to go for the morning with the hardest compound tyres so it was not easy and on the third pass I think they took a huge risk to make these times so I’m happy with my pace.

“It’s going to be difficult to win this rally again because there are a lot of young drivers who are very motivated. And for this rally if you want to win you need to have huge motivation and huge luck. The Czech championship is the priority but for sure we still think about the top place on this rally.”

Championship leader Hayden Paddon, driving a Pirelli-equipped Hyundai i20 N Rally2 for BRC Racing Team, reported a moment against a fence during Free Practice and settled for ninth fastest.

Simone Tempestini completed the top 10 followed by Motorsport Ireland Rally Academy driver Josh McErlean and MRF Tyres Dealer Team’s Mads Østberg.

Adam Březík, one of the top local drivers, lost time with a moment 0.7 kilometres from the start of the Qualifying Stage and could do no better than 22nd as a result.

“I lose the car on the brake, the wheel completely locked and I had to restart the engine so we can continue,” Březík said. “It’s a shame because it’s a bad start to the rally.”

Starts: Thursday, July 18, 2024 at 4:31:00 AM
Starts: Friday, July 26, 2024 at 7:00:00 AM
Starts: Saturday, July 27, 2024 at 6:00:00 AM