Just like at the Azores Rally, Škoda Motorsport team came second at the Ypres Rally in Belgium, thanks to an excellent performance put in by Kopecký. Hänninen finished fifth.
Achieving some of the best times and coming third at Stage 1 including altogether six stages, only 8.4 seconds behind the runner-up and 13.3 seconds behind the leader, Jan Kopecký and Petr Starý became one of the candidates for the overall victory right on the first day. Furthermore, the other factory crew, Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula finished fifth, 0,2 seconds behind the fourth-place driver.
With 281 km of stages in total, a large number of extremely fast stretches where the average speed exceeds 110 km/h and many sharp bends after long straights, the track met all expectations of those who like tough rally races. Saturday, Day 2 of the event, saw spectacular fights among the first three drivers in all remaining ten stages. Putting in a steady performance again, Kopecký came second at the end of the day, 20.4 seconds behind the winner. Getting faster and faster towards the end of the race, Juho Hänninen fought through to a great third place before the last stage, but then a tyre defect knocked him off the rostrum, and Hänninen eventually grabbed a fifth place in the overall ranking, 3 minutes and 35 seconds behind the winner.
Commenting upon the Ypres event, Head of Škoda Motorsport Michal Hrabánek, said: “ The Ypres Rally was the first all-tarmac competition we appeared at with the Fabia Super 2000 and, just like we'd presumed, it was a tough fight for every second, which is actually typical of the entire IRC series and certainly attractive from rally fans' perspective. The final result confirms that our success at the Azores Rally was no coincidence and that we are indeed good enough to fight for the overall victory. We haven't made the last step, though, and we know that we still have a lot of hard work to do. The experience we have gained here will definitely help us in our development work and in preparing the car for the races to come, as well as in our customer sales programme. I wish to thank both our crews for putting in a brave performance on this difficult track and congratulate to the winning team. The next event we are going to appear at is a race in Russia (9-11 July), on tough gravel track full of bumps and enormously difficult stretches. That will surely be another challenging test for the Fabia Super 2000 and both our crews.
Jan Kopecký: “There was no problem with our Fabia - the vehicle has showed again that it is fast, reliable and competitive also on tarmac. Rally is a wonderful sport, and I want to thank the entire Škoda Motorsport team for having a chance to be part of it. Another thank you goes to fans who came from the Czech Republic - their support could not go unnoticed, they were really wonderful, it's always a great motivation. The weather was dry on both days, which was good for all of us, because the tarmac here is enormously slippery and the bends are sharp, and so it would all have been a lot tougher if it had rained.“
Juho Hänninen: “It's been a tough competition in terms of the profile, not exactly up my street. I am looking forward to Russia, because I certainly prefer gravel to tarmac. I am glad to have got to the finish, and I consider the fifth place in the overall ranking positive. I am sure I will make good use of all the experience I have gained here. I wish to thank all members of the team for top-class support and for preparing my car excellently throughout the event“.
Source text: Škoda Auto a. s.
Photo: Škoda Auto a. s.