Fri 18 Aug 2023

Wagner storms the Zlín streets to lead Czech ERC round

Simon Wagner leads Barum Czech Rally Zlín tonight (Friday) after he set the benchmark time through the Zlín super special stage.

Roared on by thousands of fans, Wagner took 7min 7.0sec to complete the FIA European Rally Championship counter’s first timed test aboard the Michelin-equipped Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 he shares with co-driver and fellow Austrian Gerald Winter.

Ten-time Zlín winner Jan Kopecký was second quickest, 0.4sec behind Wagner with double European champion Alexey Lukyanuk third fastest on his first Zlín start since 2021 to make it an all-Fabia RS Rally2 provisional podium. Home hero Erik Cais was fourth in an identical car with Miklós Csomós completing the top five.

“Not bad to be honest, it was a quite clean stage but the real rally starts tomorrow,” Wagner said at the completion of the stage. “Let’s see [what we can do but] to win Barum Rally I guess you have to be Czech!”

The 9.57km SSS Zlín in the heart of the rally’s host city is formed of three laps of an ultra-demanding 3.19km layout, which includes high-speed turns, tight corners, narrow passes and even a section through a bus terminal.

“The stage was really nice, full of spectators so thanks to them for their support,” said Kopecký, while Qualifying Stage winner Filip Mareš, who was 4.6sec down on Wagner, added: “I did well, I am quite satisfied with no mistakes. The fans are really crazy so thanks to them for the atmosphere.”

Mads Østberg, who was eighth quickest, one place ahead of ERC points leader Hayden Paddon, said he “lost focus” due to an alarm sounding on his MRF Tyres Dealer Team Citroën C3 Rally2.

Bogdan Cuzma reported “some issues” with his Fabia RS Rally2, Simone Tempestini suggested his Fabia’s brakes had faded nearing the finish of the run, while Chris Ingram was slowed by a gearbox issue on his Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 as he made his return to the championship he won in 2019.

Ford Fiesta Rally3-powered Jon Armstrong was the driver to beat in FIA ERC3 as Igor Widłak, on his comeback 12 months after winning the ERC3 title, admitted to making a mistake at a hairpin 3.1km from the stage start.

Max McRae reported an early moment but still set the pace in FIA ERC4 and FIA Junior ERC driving his Hankook-equipped Opel Corsa Rally4. Timo Schulz was 0.5sec behind with Rally di Roma Capitale winner Robert Daprà next up.

Mattia Zanin suffered a throttle issue on the final lap while Aoife Raftery was delayed by an early off. Victor Johansson said his Peugeot had dropped into road mode at the stage finish although the problem was subsequently reported to be a throttle fault.

Tonight’s super special has set up an exciting first full leg of ERC action on Saturday when three double-use stages provide the challenge. Covering a competitive distance of 108.03km, the day begins with the 12.73km Slušovice stage from 09:28 local time.

Michelin-equipped Cais is set to run first on the road in his Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 with Qualifying Stage pacesetter Mareš choosing to start third aboard his Pirelli-shod Fabia Rally2 Evo. Dominik Stříteský is the highest Hankook runner in terms of the starting order in fifth, while Østberg, who is due to run 12th on the road, is the lead MRF Tyres contender.

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