The Barum Czech Rally Zlín is the season highlight in the Czech Rally Championship as it is counting as well for the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC). Therefore, the entry list also featured the top European Rally crews. But nine times winner Jan Kopecký had more focus on the Czech Championship competitors than on the European teams led by ŠKODA stablemate Andreas Mikkelsen, who wanted to snatch the lead in the ERC.
Agrotec ŠKODA Rally Team’s Jan Kopecký and co-driver Jan Hloušek (ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo) were leading after the first leg which was a real challenge for the crews. Changing unpredictable road conditions, dry passages often covered with gravel, damp and wet sections in the forests with mud in the corners made the tire choice crucial. First top crew to be caught out was the young talented ŠKODA driver Dominik Stříteský, who had finished second at recent Rally Bohemia. On the second special stage, he lost after a jump the control over his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, went off the road and had to retire.
The ultimate test came on the second run of the infamous, almost 19 kilometres long Pindula stage which was run in the dark of Saturday evening. Andreas Mikkelsen, for the first time competing with Jonas Andersson on the co-driver seat, opted to play it safe and settled for third. At the end of the Saturday leg, ŠKODA stablemate Jan Kopecký was 2.1 seconds shy of leader Eric Cais (Ford). “I didn’t want to take unnecessary risks. Tomorrow is still another long day,” Kopecký said.
On Sunday, six more stages were waiting for the crews. And Jan Kopecký delivered a faultless drive at the wheel of his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo and secured a second place behind leader Eric Cais. But in the last stage, Cais rolled his Ford, had to retire – and Kopecký inherited his 10th victory in Zlín, thus preliminary securing the title in Czech Rally Championship. “I feel sorry for Eric – he really deserved the win. It was a really difficult rally with changing conditions, some places were wet, others dry. Big thanks to my co-driver Honza and the whole team,” he said.
For Andreas Mikkelsen, driving a Toksport WRT from ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, the mission was similar. The Norwegian secured at the end not only a second place, he also moved into the European Rally Championship lead. “It’s been a good weekend. It was not easy to come back to Barum Czech Rally Zlín after almost ten years. We were doing our best.”
ŠKODA privateers Norbert Herczik/Ramón Ferencz from Hungary and their stablemates Filip Mareš/Radovan Bucha (CZE/CZE) had a stunning fight for the last podium position. In the last stage, Mareš passed Herczik and finally finished third. A total of eight ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 crews made it into the top 10.
Result Barum Czech Rally Zlín (Czech and FIA European Rally Championship 2021)
1. Kopecký/Hloušek (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, 2:00:07.2 hrs.
2. Mikkelsen/Andersson (NOR/SWE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +40.1 sec.
3. Mareš/Bucha, (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +1:40.2 min.
4. Herczik/Ferencz, (HUN/HUN), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +1:44.0 min.
5. Marczyk/Gospordaczyk, (POL/POL), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +2:58.5 min.
6. Llarena/Fernandez, (ESP/ESP), ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, +3:09.4 min.
Number of the rally: 22
Among the 38 Rally2 cars starting into Barum Czech Rally Zlín, 22 crews were competing with a ŠKODA FABIA – the Czech rally car was by far the most popular in its category.
2021 FIA European Rally Championship
Rally Poland 18 – 20 June
Rally Liepāja (Latvia) 1 – 3 July
Rally Roma di Capitale (Italy) 23 – 25 July
Barum Czech Rally Zlín 27 – 29 August
Azores Rallye (Portugal) 16 – 19 September
Rally Serras de Fafe e Felgueiras (Portugal) 1 – 3 October
Rally Hungary 22 – 24 October
Rally Islas Canarias (Spain) 18 – 20 November
SONAX Czech Rally Championship 2021
Valašská Rally ValMez 27 – 18 March
Rallye Šumava Klatovy 8 – 09 May
Agrotec Petronas Rally Hustopeče 18 – 19 June
Bohemia Rally 10 – 11 July
Barum Czech Rally Zlín 27 – 29 August
Invelt Rally Pačejov 1 – 03 October
Rallye Český Krumlov 12. – 14. November