Kopecký bag his fifth consecutive outright win in Zlín

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Filip Mareš and Efrén Llarena have given their hopes of further career progression a huge lift by capturing the FIA ERC1 Junior and FIA ERC3 Junior titles respectively on Barum Czech Rally Zlín.

While Jan Kopecký and ŠKODA Motorsport co-driver Pavel Dreslercelebrated a fifth consecutive victory on this tremendously challenging sealed-surface event, Kopecký’s eighth in total, Mareš and Llarena can now look forward to two fantastic prize-drive opportunities.

Mareš, who competes for the Autoclub of Czech Republic-backed ACCR Czech Rally Team, will receive 100,000 euros from ERC promoter Eurosport Events to contest the season-closing events in Cyprus and Hungary alongside co-driver Jan Hloušek.

Real Federación Española de Automovilismo (RFEDA)-backed Llarena, meanwhile, gets two rounds of the 2020 FIA ERC1 Junior Championship in an R5 car run by Motorsport Italia as his prize.

Significantly, both ERC Junior champions received direct support from their respective ASNs as part of ongoing efforts by Eurosport Events to provide a stepping stone from national to international level.

“Now we are the champions in ERC1 Junior we will start on the next two rounds of the ERC, which is fantastic because my season would probably stop after this race,” said Mareš. “It was a really close battle between me and Chris, so for sure I am now really happy with this result. The Czech federation has supported me for many years and it’s thanks to this support that I am here. Thanks also to Kresta Racing for this amazing car.”

Ken Torn had initially celebrated ERC3 Junior title success only for class winner Jean-Baptiste Franceschi’s original notional time for stage 15 to be adjusted after a technical problem struck, dropping the Frenchman to fourth in class and promoting Llarena to first place. The one extra day point for Llarena means he takes the title by a single point ahead of Torn.

“We were always on the limit with some big moments like all the drivers,” said Llarena. “We knew we needed to win and we deserved it. We were working too hard for two years not to win and we thank the Spanish federation a lot for all the support. We were very fast on all the rallies and my team did a very good job."

"Me and Sara [Fernández, co-driver] worked a lot, not just with the pacenotes but on the car. We tried to be more professional and work as hard as possible. We improved a lot during the year.”

But while the ERC1 Junior and ERC3 Junior titles have been decided for 2019 subject to the confirmation of the results by the FIA, the battle for the overall crown still rages with two events remaining. Although Ingram suffered the huge disappointment of missing out on the ERC1 Junior crown to Mareš by 0.3s.

The Toksport WRT driver has moved to the top of the overall FIA European Rally Championship standings. He’s one point ahead of reigning champion Alexey Lukyanuk, whose bid for maximum leg two bonus points following his Sunday restart were wrecked by a puncture on the final stage.

As well as his ERC1 Junior title success, Mareš celebrated his best ERC finish to date by following Kopecký home in second place with Ingram taking third ahead of Czech Tomáš Kostka, double ERC Junior champion Marijan Griebel from Germany and Austrian ERC1 Junior newcomer Simon Wagner, who secured third place in the category for young stars in R5 cars.

Sicilian Andrea Nucita grabbed an ERC2/Abarth Rally Cup double with Pole Dariusz Poloński restarting to finish second in the Abarth Rally Cup and third in ERC2 behind Argentine Juan Carlos Alonso.

Łukasz Habaj had been due to start first on the road on day two in P10 overall but he was prevented from doing so when it was discovered his Fabia R5’s roll cage had been damaged during an off on Saturday. As a result, the former title leader was a non-scorer in Czech Republic and slips to third in the overall standings, albeit 10 points behind new pacesetter Ingram.

PROVISIONAL TOP 10 POSITIONS (after 15 stages, 219.63 kilometres)
1 Jan Kopecký (CZE)/Pavel Dresler (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 Evo 2h05m17.4s
2 Filip Mareš (CZE)/Jan Hloušek (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +1m31.5s
3 Chris Ingram (GBR)/Ross Whittock (GBR) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +1m31.8s
4 Tomáš Kostka (CZE)/Ladislav Kučera (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 Evo +1m51.1
5 Marijan Griebel (DEU)/Pirmin Winklhofer (DEU) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +2m49.7s
6 Simon Wagner (AUT)/Gerald Winter (AUT) ŠKODA Fabia R5 Evo +3m07.9s
7 Jaromír Tarabus (CZE)/Daniel Trunkát (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +3m15.4s
8 Tomáš Pospíšilík (CZE)/Jiří Hovorka (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +5m38.5s
9 Martin Březík (CZE)/Marek Omelka (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5 +6m51.9s
10 Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Peugeot 208 R2 +10m36.6s

 Andrea Nucita (ITA)/Bernardo Di Caro (ITA) Abarth 124 rally
Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Peugeot 208 R2
FIA ERC1 Junior: 
Filip Mareš (CZE)/Jan Hloušek (CZE) ŠKODA Fabia R5
FIA ERC3 Junior: 
Efrén Llarena (ESP)/Sara Fernández (ESP) Peugeot 208 R2
Abarth Rally Cup: 
Andrea Nucita (ITA)/Bernardo Di Caro (ITA) Abarth 124 rally

ERC Ladies’ Trophy: Nabila Tejpar (GBR) Peugeot 208 R2
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.