The sole ŠKODA Motorsport representative at this year’s Tour de Corse, the 11th round of the World Rally Championship, will be Jan Kopecký. Along with his co-driver Pavel Dresler, Kopecký will be looking to build on finishing runner-up in the WRC2 standings in each of his last two WRC events, the Rallye Deutschland and the Rally Italia Sardegna. They will also be eager to bring their form from the Czech Rally Championship, which they have already clinched with a 100% record from the 5 events completed so far.
This will be the seventh time Jan Kopecký has driven the Tour de Corse, and over the years it is an event which has brought him both great performances and results, but also no shortage of frustrations.
Kopecký / Dresler last drove this rally back in 2013, when it was a fixture on the European Rally Championship calendar. Driving a ŠKODA FABIA S2000, the duo actually led overall after the 1st leg, before eventually finishing in second place behind the French pairing of Bryan Bouffier / Xavier Panseri by a margin of just 39.8 seconds.
It was a dramatic tussle for the top spot, with erratic weather conditions contributing to a fascinating battle. Changeable weather forced Kopecký to avoid taking risks and despite winning two stages, he just fell short of the win.
It was the first ERC event of the season Kopecký hadn’t stood on the top step of the podium, but he was content with the outcome nonetheless.
A year earlier, in 2012, they secured the same result but by an even closer margin. The event, which was then part of the 7th and final season of the now defunct Intercontinental Rally Challenge, saw Kopecký / Dresler come roaring back from a disappointing first leg to finish just 17.9 seconds behind eventual winners Dani Sordo / Carlos Del Barrio.
And unbelievably in 2011 Kopecký was also runner-up, this time by an even tighter margin. Again in a ŠKODA FABIA S2000, but this time with Petr Starý as co-driver, Kopecký sat second overall throughout the event, barring a two-stage spell during Leg 2, when he briefly dropped down to fourth.
But despite winning the penultimate stage, a third-placed finish on the final stage, which he had won earlier in the day, saw him finish an agonizing 15.5 seconds behind future WRC driver Thierry Neuville and his co-driver Nicolas Gilsoul.
After trailing by just 9 seconds after the 1st leg, an accident during leg 2 affected the rhythm of the event and consequently the performances of those drivers behind as well. This meant that Kopecký ended up 23 seconds back.
But on the 3rd and final leg, he drove like a man possessed closing down 9 seconds on the opening stage and he continued to close the gap throughout the day, but in the end fell just short of his target.
Prior to that hat-trick of runner’s up finishes, Kopecký other three tilts at the Tour de Corse had been in a ŠKODA FABIA WRC car during the events previous stint as a World Rally Championship event.
In 2007, driving for the eponymous Czech Rally Team Kopecký, he finished a creditable seventh overall alongside his regular co-driver of this period, Filip Schovánek. In a car which he felt wasn’t suited to the course, Kopecký was aiming for a top 10 finish and felt his performance in finishing seventh was ‘flawless’.
The previous year, under the slightly different moniker of Czech RT ŠKODA Kopecký, the duo finished in 10th place, after an incident on the final day saw them having to contend with a cracked stabilizer for the final stages of the rally.
Jan Kopecký’s debut at the Tour de Corse was in 2005 for the ŠKODA Motorsport team and he secured a twelfth place finish on that occasion.
And 11 years on, Jan Kopecký has come full circle and is back at the Tour de Corse in the colours of ŠKODA Motorsport. And driving this event for the first time in a FABIA R5, he will be hoping, that this will be the year, when he can put his previous frustrations to bed once and for all.