Rally Portugal: Rovanperä and Kopecký lead field of R5 cars at WRC debut of ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo

› After a puncture on the first day, Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen dominated WRC 2 Pro category on Saturday, finishing the leg ahead of teammates Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler
› ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo continues to impress with speed and reliability
› On the six stages of Saturday, Kalle Rovanperä at the wheel of the ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo scored five fastest times among the R5 competitors

Matosinhos, 1 June 2019 – The new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo continues to impress at his FIA World Rally Championship debut at Rally Portugal (30/05/–02/06/2019). After suffering a puncture and dropping to second place in WRC 2 Pro during the opening Friday leg, Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (FIN/FIN) stormed back into the category lead, followed by their teammates Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler (CZE/CZE). After the second of three legs, seven ŠKODA crews are among the top ten of the 32 entries strong field of R5 cars.

After a setback during the fourth special stage on Friday, where he suffered a puncture, lost more than 40 seconds and the lead in WRC 2 Pro and among the R5 competitors, Kalle Rovanperä was a man on a mission. It took him and co-driver Jonne Halttunen only the very first stage of the Saturday leg and a stunning time to move back into the category lead again. From then on, their teammates Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler were relegated to second in the WRC 2 Pro category.

In the hands of the ŠKODA factory drivers the new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo proved speed and reliability also during the longest leg of the rally, covering six tough special stages over more than 160 kilometres on gravel tracks. With two more category stage wins, Kalle Rovanperä extended his WRC 2 Pro lead, still followed by teammate Jan Kopecký. After the midday rest, three more stages had to be done. On the second run of the morning stages, the tracks were engraved with deep ruts and lose stones. The challenge for the ŠKODA works crews was from then on to avoid any risks and to find the right speed without losing concentration.

Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler had a scary moment in the middle of the eleventh special stage. Due to a heavy landing after a jump, the bonnet of their ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo flew open, staying against the windscreen for the rest of the stage. But the reigning WRC 2 champions managed to finish the stage despite the limited visibility and a lot of dust coming into the interior of their car.

Meanwhile, it was plain sailing for Kalle Rovanperä. The young Finn said: “It is all about managing the lead and avoiding any risks.” And so he did, bringing his ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo safely back to the evening service in Matosinhos. Teammates Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler had another big moment during the last stage of the day. “We almost rolled when I missed a breaking point. We were very lucky,” Kopecký confessed. But he put that mishap aside as well as the earlier issue with the bonnet and brought second place among the R5 competitors and in WRC 2 Pro category to the day’s finish.

On Sunday (2 June) the spectacular Fafe loop with five stages on fast and smooth gravel roads, including the famous jump, will be the spectator highlight of the event. After in total 20 special stages covering 306.97 kilometres, the winner will reach the podium in Matosinhos close to the city of Porto at 14h20.

Standings Rally Portugal after Day 2 (WRC 2 Pro)

1. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, 2:55:56.9 h
2. Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +1:01.5 min.
3. Østberg/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Citroën C3 R5, +19:28.1 min.
4. Pieniazek/Gerber (POL/POL), Ford Fiesta R5, +28:39.5 min.

Number of the day: 7
Seven ŠKODA crews are among the top ten of the 32 entries strong field of R5 cars.

The calendar of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2 Pro)

Event/ Date
Monte-Carlo 24/01/–27/01/2019
Sweden 14/02/–17/02/2019
Mexico 07/03/–10/03/2019
France 28/03/–31/03/2019
Argentina 25/04/–28/04/2019
Chile 09/05/–12/05/2019
Portugal 30/05/–02/06/2019
Italy 13/06/–16/06/2019
Finland 01/08/–04/08/2019
Germany 22/08/–25/08/2019
Turkey 12/09/–15/09/2019
Great Britain 03/10/–06/10/2019
Spain 24/10/–27/10/2019
Australia 14/11/–17/11/2019

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