Alghero/Italy, 9 June 2017 – Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler (ŠKODA FABIA R5) took the lead on the first stage on a sunny Friday morning at Rally Italia Sardegna. Championship-Leaders Pontus Tidemand and Jonas Andersson (SWE/SWE) are taking a break from WRC 2 and will return to the next WRC 2 round, the Rally of Poland. Their Teammates Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler (CZE/CZE) can move to second place in the Championship standings if they win against their stablemates Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen (NOR/NOR) in their private entered Printsport ŠKODA FABIA R5.
After the Rally Acropolis was removed from the WRC calendar, the Rally Italia Sardegna is considered as the toughest gravel event in the championship. The Friday featured four tough gravel stages in the north of the island, each being run twice. On the first stage on Friday morning, Kopecký/Dresler stormed into the lead with their ŠKODA FABIA R5. Veiby, who just won his first Rally in Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) for Team ŠKODA MRF, had a tough fight with the Italian Hyundai driver Andolfi for the second position.
"In the second stage, I was braking too late at a junction and lost about ten seconds," commented Veiby. Nevertheless, in the fourth stage he moved into second position and scored his first fastest time on gravel in WRC 2 one stage later. Jan Kopecký dominated the category and was delighted with his performance: "I am really happy because I was not running on gravel for a some time, so we are trying to improve step by step and the car is working well. These cars can take anything you throw at them. You need to be careful with big rocks, it is better to avoid them". Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler drove faultlessly into a lead with 52 seconds ahead of Norwegian youngster team Ole Christian Veiby/Stig Rune Skjaermoen.
While the Hyundai driver Andolfi and the French Ford pilot Loubet had to retire, both ŠKODA Teams were clearly dominating the WRC 2 category at the end of the first leg of Rally Italia Sardegna. ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek was delighted: "Our ŠKODA FABIA R5 proved again how fast and reliable it is. Jan and Pavel were never in danger to loose the lead and did a very good job today." On Saturday, the longest and toughest day of the rally with six special stages covering 144 kilometres is waiting for the teams at Rally Italia Sardegna.
Standings Rally Italia Sardegna after leg 1 (WRC 2)
1. Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5, 1:35:23.5 h
2. Veiby/Skjaermoen (NOR/NOR), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +52.7 sec.
3. Katsuta/Salminen (JPN/FIN), Ford Fiesta R5, +2.24.9 min.
4. Rossel/Fulcrand (FRA/FRA), Citroën DS3 R5, +5.03.9 min.
5. Arai/Macneall (JPN/AUS), Ford Fiesta R5, +12.48.8 min.
6. Pieniazek/Mazur (POL/POL), Peugeot 208 T16, +13.08.0
Number of the day: 5
On five out of nine special stages Jan Kopecký was the fastest driver in the WRC 2 category. Norwegian youngster Veiby was two times fastest.
The 2017 calendar of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2)
Rally Monte Carlo 19/01–22/01/2017
Rally Sweden 09/02–12/02/2017
Rally Mexico 09/03–12/03/2017
Rally France 06/04–09/04/2017
Rally Argentina 27/04–30/04/2017
Rally Portugal 18/05–21/05/2017
Rally Italy 08/06–11/06/2017
Rally Poland 29/06–02/07/2017
Rally Finland 27/07–30/07/2017
Rally Germany 17/08–20/08/2017
Rally Spain 05/10–08/10/2017
Rally Great Britain 26/10–29/10/2017
Rally Australia 16/11–19/11/2017