On Thursday afternoon, the crews competing at Wales Rally GB, twelfth round of the FIA World Rally Championship, had to say goodbye to the sun, when the typically rainy Wales weather arrived just in time for the ceremonial start at the harbour side in Liverpool. Steady rainfalls turned the road conditions of the first special stage on Oulton Park race track into something, which most of the drivers explained as “driving on ice”. ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo crew Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen set the third quickest time among the R5 competitors and were quickest in the WRC 2 Pro category, while teammates Jan Kopecký and co-driver Jan Hloušek opted for a cautious approach. “Our main target is to finish and to secure points for the manufacturers’ championship of the WRC 2 Pro category,” emphasized Kopecký.
On Friday (4 October), the crews had to face nine stages totalling 118.25 kilometres in the Welsh forests. Kalle Rovanperä set the first fastest time on the opening stage of the day, from there on fighting with Ford driver Gus Greensmith and Citroën’s Mads Østberg for the lead in the WRC 2 Pro category. Despite a half spin in the first run of the longest stage of the day, the 19.36 kilometres of Dyfnant, Rovanperä defended the lead in the WRC 2 Pro category up to the midday rest in Llandudno. Meanwhile teammate Jan Kopecký was in fourth position.
After the midday service, five more stages had to be driven. For Kalle Rovanperä the strategy was not easy. “I am trying to keep a good pace without taking any big risks. But you have to take some risks, if you want to be fast enough,” the young Finn confessed.
Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen found the right speed and their ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo was reliable as usual. Nevertheless, due to a puncture in the second but last stage, they lost the lead of the WRC 2 Pro category to teammates Jan Kopecký and Jan Hloušek. Their competitor Mads Østberg had to retire for the Friday leg due to technical problems, while Gus Greensmith was delayed by a spin and had technical issues as well.
At the end of day two, French crew Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais (ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo) is leading the WRC 2 category for private teams.
At the finish of the Friday leg in Llandudno, ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek was happy: “Both crews followed our strategy and delivered a great performance. But there is still a long way to go!”
The most challenging and longest leg of the rally with seven stages covering 152.50 kilometres is set for Saturday (5 October). Sunday (6 October) finally features five more stages over 38.42 kilometres. After a total of 312.75 kilometres in the race against the clock, the winner will reach the podium in the seaside village of Llandudno at around 13h33.
Standings Wales Rally GB after Day 2 (WRC 2 Pro/WRC 2)
1. Kopecký/Hloušek (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, 1:18:31.9 h*
2. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +7.5 sec.*
3. Loubet/Landais (FRA/FRA), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +10.8 sec.
4. P. Solberg/Mills (NOR/GBR), VW Polo GTI R5, +46.5 sec.
5. Fourmaux/Jamoul (FRA/FRA), Ford Fiesta, +49.9 sec.
*Factory nominated crews eligible to score points in the WRC 2 Pro category
Number of the day: 5
Inside the top ten of the R5 competitors after the first two days of Wales Rally GB, ŠKODA is with five crews the strongest brand.
The calendar of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2 Pro)
Great Britain 03/10/–06/10/2019