The third event of the IRC championship offered a thrilling spectacle from the first kilometer to the last. For the first time in history, the series moved to Corsica to take the drivers to 321 kilometers of a narrow track and a mix of bends and difficult uphill and downhill stretches. Jan Kopecky & Petr Stary of Skoda Motorsport (factory team) had an impressive finish but, despite two fastest times on the final day, came second, 16 seconds behind Thierry Neuville in a Peugeot. Driving another Fabia Super 2000, Freddy Loix finished third and tops the IRC rankings. Kopecky shares second place.
- One of the longest IRC rallies saw a fierce fight till the last kilometer
- Loix leads the IRC championship rankings, Kopecky shares second place
- Skoda remains top in the Manufacturers competition
Appearing in the IRC Championship calendar for the first time in history, the Corsica Rally got back to its roots in terms of program composition – three competition days, three service zones, tiring transfers for both the crews and their whole teams and the route scattered all over the island. On top of that, a mix of new asphalt, broken roads and stones fallen down from Corsica’s typical rocks indeed required maximum concentration and commitment from all team members.
The rally started on Thursday with the first 55 kilometers in the surroundings of Calvi. After Day 1, Neuville was top, nine seconds ahead of Kopecky, Andreas Mikkelsen of Skoda UK Motorsport was fourth and Freddy Loix of BFO Skoda Belgie fifth. On Day 2 the field of drivers moved inland to Corte to do six stages in total. However, one of them was cancelled in the end due to a forerunner’s accident, which affected the overall rhythm of the rally and the drivers’ performance, too. Neuville stayed top, 23 seconds ahead of Kopecky, Loix moved up to third place, a further four seconds behind Kopecky, Mikkelsen remained fourth.
The final part on Saturday took the drivers to Ajaccio, the capital of Corsica. Kopecky started very aggressively, knocked nine seconds off Neuville’s lead in the first stage and kept reducing the gap in the following stages. An excellent set-up of Kopecky’s car and his brilliant performance earned him the runner-up position in the end, Loix (supported by the factory team) came third. After a tyre puncture in Stage 12, Mikkelsen of Skoda UK Motorsport finished sixth overall.
Commenting on this highly challenging rally, Head of Skoda Motorsport Michal Hrabanek says: “It’s been a great rally, extremely difficult in terms of logistics but thrilling till the last kilometer. Our second and third places are certainly a good contribution towards the overall championship result. Freddy Loix has fought his way up to the top of IRC, which motivates us to carry on working hard. IRC is still a thrilling spectacle, with fierce battles for every second. Now we are going to prepare for the Ukraine Rally. Taking place in the Ukraine for the first time in history, this rally will certainly be a big motivation for all the drivers.”
“We wanted to win, of course, but the rally was long and difficult and we did not know the local roads really well. We did not perform at our best over the first two days, but we found the right rhythm on the last day. Two second places in a row are not bad, and the championship is nowhere near its end.”
“We kept looking for the right rhythm all over this rally, but the guys ahead of us were simply better this time. Leading the overall championship rankings is fine, but it also makes us even more committed to working really hard in the rallies to come.”
The IRC series continues with a rally to take place in the surroundings of Jalta, Ukraine on the first weekend of June. The line-up of Skoda Motorsport will be specified within a few days.
- Skoda Motorsport