Next Rnd 10 Croatia - Asphalt 26-28 September 2013
A mainstay of the ERC for several years, the Croatia Rally had been due to run in June but moves to late September to coincide with the country hosting a meeting of the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council. The event is famous for its slippery asphalt and big spectator following and moves to the picturesque holiday resort of Poreč for 2013 when an exciting 14-stage route over a competitive distance of 239.12 kilometres will be run. As well as hosting the event, Poreč is the venue of the 1.7-kilometre Poreč SSS, which forms the opening and closing stages of the rally.
ERC leader Kopecky fastest in Croatia Rally shakedown
Jan Kopecký’s bid for a sixth victory in this year’s FIA European Rally Championship has got off to a strong start after the ŠKODA Motorsport driver topped shakedown for the Croatia Rally.
In warm and sunny conditions, the ERC title leader, in a Fabia Super 2000, was fastest through the Mugeba-Fuškulin-Čuši practice stage, taking 2m19.7s to complete the 4.50-kilometre test. Andreas Aigner (Subaru Impreza R4 STI), one of the favourites for ERC Production Car Cup honours was second fastest, 3.7s down on Kopecký with local hero and three-time event winner Juraj Šebalj going third quickest in another Fabia.
Hermann Neubauer was the fastest ERC 2WD Championship contender in eighth overall.
Juraj Šebalj leads round 10 of the FIA European Rally Championship by 0.9s after he set the pace on the opening stage of the Croatia Rally, SSS Poreč.
The triple Croatia Rally winner took 1m38.4s to complete the 1.70-kilometre superspecial stage in host town Poreč. South African teenager Henk Lategan was second quickest on his ERC debut to make it a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 one-two with Hermann Gassner Jr third fastest to top the ERC Production Car Cup section in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4. “Everything was okay, no problems, no risks, everything was fine,” said Šebalj.
ERC title leader Jan Kopecký was fourth fastest, 1.6s slower than Šebalj in his factory Fabia with Bernd Casier fifth quickest alongside Pieter Tsjoen, who will share driving and co-driving duties with Casier during the course of the 14-stage rally. Casier was 2.7s down on Šebalj’s stage best. Meanwhile, Andreas Aigner and Hermann Gassner Sr were equal sixth fastest.
Germain Bonnefis was eighth quickest for Team Renault Sport Technologies with Daniel Šaškin ninth on his first run in his Ford Fiesta RRC. Robert Consani completed the top 10 in his Renault Mégane Renaultsport N4.
Antonín Tlusťák, who was 5.4s off the pace, reported a servo issue on his GPD Mit Metal Racing Team Fabia.
Simone Tempestini lost time when he picked up a front-right puncture on his Napoca Rally Academy-entered Subaru Impreza R4 STI, while there was disaster for ERC 2WD Championship title contender Kornél Lukács who stopped in the stage with a suspected mechanical failure.
“The car is stopping I think it’s an electrical problem with the engine, I can’t start it,” Lukács told ERC Rally Radio’s Julian Porter. “We can change an electrical cable in service but we are out of the race so it’s no good for me.”
ERC Ladies’ Trophy contender Molly Taylor was also in trouble on the stage: “It was like a fuel surge problem but I stalled one time and it completely stopped and it wouldn’t go,” said Taylor, who was 26.2s down on ERC 2WD Championship pacesetter Zoltán Bessenyey in a Eurosol-backed Honda Civic Type R. I have no idea what’s happened. It’s quite frustrating but it’s only a superspecial.”
A 45-minute service halt is up next in Poreč. Friday’s action begins with SS2, Boljun 1, from 10:19hrs local time.
Multiple championship-winning Canadian co-driver Nathalie Richard is paying a visit to the FIA European Rally Championship in Croatia this week. She spoke to www.fiaerc.com.
What brings you to the ERC Croatia Rally?
“I’ve come here to try to meet with some people and hopefully make some opportunities for myself. I have been competing in North America for a long time now and it’s time I try something different. Hopefully I can make that happen.”
For fans of the ERC who perhaps don’t know a great deal about your career, how successful have you been?
“I have eight North American championships, five in the Canadian and three in the US. I’ve done really well with a couple of different drivers. I’m really proud of it and hopefully we can bring some more exposure to the North American championships as well.”
After SS2: ERC ace Aigner stuns in the Croatian rain
Andreas Aigner has shot into the lead of the Croatia Rally after a stunning performance on the rain-hit second stage of the FIA European Rally Championship counter.
Driving a Subaru Impreza R4 STI, Aigner explained that he bolted on soft-compound Yokohama tyres prior to the start of the stage and took full advantage by going fastest with a time of 11m55.2s over the 14.97-kilometre Boljun test.
“It’s too tricky to smile for sure,” said Aigner. “It’s so difficult to see the grip but I try to keep the car on the road and don’t push too much. We changed the tyres before and put soft ones on but for the first kilometres the tyres were very cold and it was really tricky.”
Hermann Gassner Jr, who like Aigner is contesting the ERC Production Car Cup, was second fastest, 2.9s down on Aigner. He said: “I had the wrong tyres and no trust in the car. It was incredible difficult. The time is not too bad but I am not happy with my driving.”
ERC title leader Jan Kopecký was one of a number of drivers to be caught out by the wet conditions after selecting hard compound tyres in the mistaken belief that it would be dry. “Our weather forecast said small drizzle but we had heavy rain and I am on hard compound tyres,” said the factory ŠKODA Motorsport driver, who was 26.6s adrift of Aigner’s stage best. “I feel like I was driving on a road section, no more than 80kph. I am losing a lot of time. I only have one spare tyre and it’s a hard compound.”
Bernd Casier was 5.5s quicker than Kopecký in third overall, 21.1s slower than the flying Aigner. “I felt like grandfather was driving,” said Casier. “Pieter [my co-driver] was laughing the whole time. I was just trying to stay on the road and trying to find a bit of confidence but it’s not easy.”
Overnight pacesetter and three-time Croatia Rally winner Juraj Šebalj dropped 51.0s to Aigner and slips down the leaderboard as a result. “I had the hardest compound tyre and it didn’t work,” he said. “I was just driving safe and so the time is like that.” Local driver Daniel Šaškin also lost a significant amount of time in his Ford Fiesta RRC. He said: “I had the wrong set-up, the wrong tyres, the wrong everything. It’s a catastrophe.”
South African teenager Henk Lategan and Hungarian János Puskádi both spun their Fabia S2000s with Lategan reporting two rotations and a stall. Nevertheless he impressed with the fifth quickest time. Simone Tempestini also suffered a spin in his Napoca Rally Academy Impreza.
Germain Bonnefis admitted to struggling in the wet conditions in his front-wheel-drive Renault Mégane RS. “The stage was very slippery and I was very cautious. It’s very difficult with the hard tyre and front-wheel drive.”
Andreas Aigner has gone fastest on stage three of the Croatia Rally, which was cancelled for the bulk of the competitors following an accident involving Germain Bonnefis.
Bonnefis and co-driver Olivier Fournier crashed on a right-hand corner approximately 4.7 kilometres into the 13.66-kilometre Učka stage, which took place in wet conditions. The stage was halted and medical assistance quickly deployed. Bonnefis has been taken to hospital for precautionary checks.
Robert Consani, who partners Bonnefis at Team Renault Sport Technologies, said: “I am very sorry for my friend Germain who has crashed.”
Aigner’s stage best was his second in succession on the FIA European Rally Championship event. The Austrian is taking advantage of his decision to fit two soft compound Yokohama tyres to the front of his Subaru Impreza R4 STI, which are designed for cold or damp conditions.
He said: “My target is to finish the rally with the ERC Production Car Cup points. Some kilometres are like ice and with hard [compound] tyres in the rear I have to be careful not to hit the back of the car.”
Bernd Casier, who is sharing driving and co-driving duties with fellow Belgian Pieter Tsjoen, drops behind Jan Kopecký to fourth in the overall standings following a spin. Like the bulk of the runners, Casier fitted hard compound tyres in service in Poreč this morning in the belief it would be dry. He said: “We made a spin and we stalled the engine. It didn't start immediately and we lost a few seconds. It was really crazy to drive.”
Meanwhile, European championship leader Kopecký, who like Casier is competing in a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, said: “The last three kilometres were dry but the rest of the stage was in the wet. Our tyres just heated up enough for the last three corners.”
Overnight leader and triple Croatia Rally winner Juraj Šebalj said: “We have some moments because one part of the stage is extremely slippery.”
After SS4: Kopecky makes his move on Croatian ERC round
FIA European Rally Championship pacesetter Jan Kopecký has stormed to his first stage win of the Croatia Rally by topping the times on stage four, Brest 1.
Kopecký, in a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, was 18.6s quicker than rally leader Andreas Aigner to cut the Subaru Impreza driver’s advantage out front to 10.5s.
“It was damp and humid but then it started to be more dry although it is difficult to see if it is dry or damp,” said Kopecký, who has moved ahead of Hermann Gassner Jr into second place overall with a margin of 4.2s. “The last part of the stage was dry but they are very difficult conditions. With the right compound tyres it should have been much better.”
Aigner, who was fastest on the first two rain-hit stages this morning, said: “It’s quite good so far but I don’t take any risk. I am surprised the time is so good. When it is drying up it’s impossible to get the same speed as Jan. We started to lose the brakes towards the end. We have the top speed but we have to brake a lot earlier so I don’t think it’s a big advantage.”
Robert Kořístka completed the stage nursing damage to the rear of his Mitsubishi Lancer, which he inflicted during a moment on the previous run.
After SS5: Kopecky draws level with Aigner on ERC thriller
Jan Kopecký has drawn level on time with Andreas Aigner in the battle for victory on round 10 of the FIA European Rally Championship.
Driving a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, Kopecký was fastest through the repeat of the 14.97-kilometre Boljun stage to cancel out Aigner’s advantage of 10.5s. “It was much faster as it was drying,” said the ERC title leader. “There was gravel and we stay in the middle as you can cut in almost every corner.”
Aigner, who is driving a Subaru Impreza R4 STI, was third quickest. He said: “I tried to do my best and keep on pushing and with a Group N car the time is not bad.”
Hermann Gassner Jr, who is battling with Aigner for ERC Production Car Cup honours, impressed with the second fastest time, 4.9s slower than Kopecký. He is 9.1s off the lead in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4. Bernd Casier was fourth quickest despite reporting a “big moment” in the stage.
Team Renault Sport Technologies’ Robert Consani reported a loss of brakes, a problem that also plagued his Napoca Rally Academy rival Simone Tempestini.
After SS6: ERC ace Kopecky takes Croatia Rally lead
Czech star Jan Kopecký is not only leading the FIA European Rally Championship standings after nine rounds, he’s also topping the Croatia Rally after he powered ahead of Andreas Aigner in the overall classification.
Aigner made the most of an inspired tyre choice in the rain of Friday morning by fitting two soft-compound Yokohamas to his Subaru Impreza R4 STI while the bulk of his rivals were stuck on hard compound rubber, which was far from ideal for the wet conditions.
But with the stages drying out for the afternoon, Aigner has been powerless to prevent Kopecký, in a higher-specification ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, which is running on Michelin tyres, from moving in front. After six stages, Kopecký is leading Aigner by 17.6s following his fastest time through the 13.66 kilometres of Učka.
“In the morning it was full wet and now it was dry and humid it was not so pleasant as the grip was changing a lot but the start was completely dry,” said ERC champion elect Kopecký.
Behind Aigner, Hermann Gassner Jr is now 5.6s adrift of the Austrian in the battle for second and the ERC Production Car Cup. He was third quickest, 6.2s slower than leading Croatian driver Juraj Šebalj. Friday’s final stage, Brest 2, gets underway at 17:39hrs local time.
After SS7: Gassner Jr closes up in ERC Production Car Cup battle
Hermann Gassner Jr has closed to within 5.2s of Andreas Aigner in the battle for victory in the FIA ERC Production Car Cup at the completion of leg one of the Croatia Rally.
Gassner Jr, in a self-run Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4, was 0.4s quicker than Subaru Impreza R4 STI-mounted Aigner on the repeat of the 29.86-kilometre Brest stage. Gassner Jr says he’s struggled by having to run with one wet weather tyre following a slow puncture earlier this afternoon.
Out front, Jan Kopecký will take a lead of almost one minute into the final day of the all-asphalt event after he scored a fourth stage win in succession in his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000. The European champion elect was 34.9s faster than Gassner Jr.
Meanwhile, Bernd Casier completed his final stage as a driver before he switches to the co-driver’s seat for leg one. He was sixth quickest. “It’s been very nice and now it’s my turn to be scared next to my driver tomorrow. We were coming bit by bit with the rhythm and now it’s okay. For my first race this year it’s not so bad. Pieter [Tsjoen] honestly he’s really good as a co-driver. You see he has experience I think he can start a new job now.”
Aleks Hamar was the fastest of the ERC 2WD Championship runners to maintain his category lead. Molly Taylor and GPD Mit Metal Racing Team’s Antonín Tlusťák were forced to drive through the stage with no powersteering on their cars. Crews are now heading back to Poreč for end-of-day service.
Leg two features seven stages over a competitive distance of 120.44 kilometres. The action begins with the 14.97-kilometre Butoniga stage at 10:04hrs local time.
After SS8: Former winner Sebalj crashes out in Croatia
Local hero Juraj Šebalj’s bid for a fourth Croatia Rally win is over after he crashed out of the FIA European Rally Championship counter on Saturday’s opening test.
Driving a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, Šebalj was in fifth position starting the 14.97-kilometre Butoniga run but failed to make it beyond the nine-kilometre mark after he crashed in a tricky section following a crest.
Šebalj and co-driver Toni Klinc were uninjured in the crash but with their car blocking the road the stage has been neutralised for safety reasons with just four crews completing the run at ‘racing’ speed. Hermann Gassner Jr set the pace in his ERC Production Car Cup Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4.
Pieter Tsjoen, who has taken over driving duties from Bernd Casier in their ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 for Saturday’s stages of the Croatia Rally, suffered an early setback when he spun on the 14.52-kilometre Buzet stage.
Tsjoen and Casier are sharing driving and co-driving on the FIA European Rally Championship event and were fourth overall after Friday’s opening leg, which Casier completed behind the wheel.
“The pacenotes came on time but the tyres were cold and at the first hairpin I spun and lost a bit of time,” said the multiple Belgian champion Tsjoen.
Antonín Tlusťák reported problems with the brakes of his GPD Mit Metal Racing Team Fabia Super 2000 on the closing section of the stage, which is used for Croatia’s round of the European Hillclimb Championship, albeit in a downhill direction.
Several crews were delayed starting the stage following Juraj Šebalj’s accident on the previous run.
After SS10: Aigner refuses to give up in battle for second
Andreas Aigner has vowed to keep fighting after Hermann Gassner Jr slashed his margin to 0.7.s in the battle for second place on the Croatia Rally.
The FIA ERC Production Car Cup rivals have been closely matched for much of the asphalt event. Gassner Jr was fastest than Aigner on the two stages that have run in their entirety this morning after the first stage was cancelled when Juraj Šebalj crashed and blocked the road. As a result, Gassner Jr has been able to cancel out Aigner’s advantage.
“The tyres were too soft, they were sliding and moving a lot,” said Subaru Impreza R4 STI driver Aigner. “We try to do our best but we keep the car on the road. For sure we don’t give up the fight.”
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4 driver Gassner Jr, meanwhile, said: “I took it a bit calm due to the risk of punctures and the brakes were struggling at the end.”
Out front, Jan Kopecký now leads by 1m05.0s. However, stage bragging rights went to Pieter Tsjoen, who set the pace on the 29.88-kilometre Salteria test. South African teenager Henk Lategan, in a similar ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, was second quickest, 4.9s down on Tsjoen with a cautious Kopecký third.
“I took the stage very easy because there were a lot of cuts and big rocks in the road,” said the Czech. “I was driving relaxed and slowed down because I don’t need to hurry now.”
Hermann Gassner Sr completed the stage with a broken turbo while clutch failure hampered János Puskádi. Crews are now heading for a 30-minute service halt.
After SS11: Gassner Jr drops back in battle for second
Hermann Gassner Jr admits his decision to use dry weather tyres for the rain-hit Butoniga stage has cost him valuable time in his bid for FIA ERC Production Car Cup success on the Croatia Rally.
Gassner Jr left service in Poreč believing it would be dry for the afternoon loop of stages. However, with rain falling on the 14.97-kilometre test, Gassner Jr lost ground to his archrival Andreas Aigner, who is now 10.0s clear in the battle for second place behind runaway leader and stage winner Jan Kopecký.
“We have four slicks so it was not the best choice for this one,” said Gassner Jr. “I hope for the long stage they will be much better. I am just happy to stay on the road with these tyres.”
Aigner opted for soft compound rubber. He said: “It is quite tricky to drive, it was more dry than we expect. It started raining a little bit. The last two kilometres was just recce mode.”
Kopecký, meanwhile, suffered a scare in the stage: “I have to say that these tyres have nice grip in these conditions. In the village it is very narrow and I hit too close to the house. I hit something with the tyres so we need to check now.”
Henk Lategan completed the stage with the front bumper missing from his ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000. "We had two overshoots, one in the third corner,” said the South African teenager. “There were lots of little overshoots, it was a very tricky stage.”
Jan Kopecký has increased his advantage on round 10 of the FIA European Rally Championship. The Czech, driving a ŠKODA Motorsport Fabia Super 2000, was 5.9s quicker than Pieter Tsjoen in a similar Fabia through the 14.52 kilometres of Buzet.
It means Kopecký’s lead is now 1m27.9s heading into the penultimate stage of the Croatia Rally. Meanwhile, in the battle for second, Andreas Aigner (Subaru Impreza R4 STI) again outpaced Hermann Gassner Jr as the young German continues to struggle in the slippery conditions on his hard compound tyres. Aigner was third fastest with South African Henk Lategan fourth quickest and Gassner Jr fifth best in his Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X R4.
Jani Trček has demoted Eurosol-Honda Civic Type R’s Zoltán Bessenyey for ninth overall. Aleks Humar continues to top the ERC 2WD Championship section in his Renault Clio R3. Up next is the 29.88-kilometre Salteria test.
After SS13: Aigner closes on ERC Production Car Cup glory
Andreas Aigner is one stage away from winning the FIA ERC Production Car Cup on the Croatia Rally, a result that will put him to the top of the title standings with two rounds remaining.
Despite losing out to Herman Gassner Jr on the 29.88-kilometre Salteria stage, which took place in virtually dry conditions, Aigner will take an advantage of 13.8s into the final stage, the 1.70-kilometre SSS Poreč test.
“It should be okay,” said Aigner, of his advantage over Gassner Jr. “I take it very easy because there were many deep cuts and stones in the road. I tried to be safe and save the tyres because I had to keep the soft tyres for the long one because there was no time to change.”
Gassner Jr benefited by running on hard-compound tyres but has conceded defeat in the fight for the showroom category and second overall. “I lost too much time in the first two stages,” he said. “This one was quite okay but with the wrong tyre choice it is not so easy.”
Jan Kopecký was fastest through the stage, 22.2s quicker than Gassner Jr and is leading overall by almost two minutes starting the final test. András Hadik has demoted Aleks Humar in the battle for sixth place, while Viliam Prodan lost time with a front-left puncture after four kilometres.
Crews are now heading back to Poreč for a 30-minute service halt.
Next Rnd 11 Rallye Sanremo Italy - Asphalt 10-12 Oct 2013
With the action contained in a compact window of approximately 30 hours, it’s a big challenge for car and crew. The stages use narrow, mountainous roads overlooking the picturesque seaside town and feature fast, flowing sections, frequent changes of rhythm and blind and open corners with rapid climbs and descents. The night stages, which are popular with fans, add to the drama and excitement and there will be serious competition with the event also counting as a round of the Italian championship in 2013. The service park is located on the banks of the Mediterranean close to Sanremo’s famous casino.