The second round of the 2013 FIA European Rally Championship – what used to be the Intercontinental Rally Challenge – brought Latvia to the top table of host nations in the sport. The second successive snowbound event of the year saw a less dramatic result than in Austria, but once again showed that there is a cracking season of rallying to be enjoyed here.
The Rally Liepāja-Ventspils was won by rising Finnish talent Jari Ketomaa in a Fiesta RRC, aided by the turbo car’s grunt against the awe-inspiring commitment of his closest pursuer Craig Breen and the enormous experience of François Delecour, who finished second and third respectively in their Peugeot 207 S2000s.
With opening round winners Jan Kopeçky and the Škoda team absent from Latvia, Ketomaa takes a slender lead in the title race. Banking the points ensures that Delecour is in the hunt, while Breen is no doubt looking forward to getting his hands on Peugeot’s new turbocharged 208 R5 as the limitations of the 207 S2000 – one of the most successful cars of the last decade – become increasingly obvious.
After all the snow of the opening rounds, the next event is the asphalt-based Corta Ingles, which takes place in the Canary Islands on 21-23 March. WRF cannot wait!
This weekend saw top-flight rallying get back under way in 2013 with the opening round of the new Eurosport-officiated FIA European Rally Championship. The snow/ice/slush/asphalt of Austria played host to the Jänner Rallye and drew a reasonable entry headed by the works Škoda Fabia S2000 of Czech asphalt ace Jan Kopeçky – who triumphed by just half a second.
A trouble-free run on the opening day, which saw the surface conditions changing from one stage to the next, saw Kopeçky at the front of the field by more than 20 seconds after opting to run on studded wet weather tyres, ahead of the Peugeot 207 S2000 of Bryan Bouffier and the Red Bull-backed Škoda of Raimund Baumschlager, who struggled initially on full snow tyres.
A puncture on the second afternoon, however, saw Kopeçky fall back and he entered the last stage 10.6 seconds behind Bouffier. In a drive that is sure to become a Youtube classic, the Czech star threw caution to the wind and beat Bouffier through by 11.1 seconds, making the margin for victory one of the closest on record.
Baumschlager claimed third, Czech regular Vaclav Pech was fourth in his MINI S2000 and Beppo Harrach finished fifth and first Production Cup runner in his Mitsubishi. The event also saw a return to action for two of the most enduring names in the sport, with François Delecour finishing seventh in his Peugeot 207 S2000 and Stig Blomqvist with a spring in his step aged 66, finishing 12th overall and fourth in Production Cup at the wheel of a Mitsubishi.
Former WRC hero and revered asphalt ace François Delecour is getting ready to contest 17 events in 2013 at the wheel of a Kronos-run Peugeot 207 S2000.
Delecour has not strung a full season’s campaign together for a few years, but was rejuvenated by appearing in Romania during this year’s IRC. He will return with Romanian backing to compete on the whole FIA European Rally Championship schedule (formerly the IRC), together with selected rounds of Romania’s national championship.
WRF is looking forward to some choice Romanian action in 2013.
We’re feeling rather bereft here at WRF since Ford’s announcement that it is ending its time in top-flight rallying. We’re sure that you are too, so while the dust settles here’s a little bit of fever:
Imagine yourself in a comfy sweater, stout shoes and slacks with a cork-lined crash helmet sitting on the back seat as you prepare to drive across Europe to the magical little city on the Côte d’Azur: Monaco.
And here’s another one who struck gold in the Principality…