Jan Kopecký and his ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo won Stage 3 of this year's Barum Rally by almost 20 seconds. In his own words, he performed one of the best drives of his career. How did he prepare and what led to this performance?
How did this year's Barum Rally suit you?
I have to say that it suited me just fine. We did a lot of testing before Barum Rally. We were mainly concerned with getting the chassis and dampers right, because this rally is specific due to the fact that it is very fast, the surface is very slippery and it slides a lot even in dry conditions. The goal was to set the car up for as much traction as possible, and I think we did that well.
You won Stage 3 by almost 20 seconds over the next car in the RC2 class. How did you manage that?
SS3 was really special. There were rain showers coming from the west and it was unclear whether it was going to rain or not. In the end I decided to go with four softer tyres from Pirelli. We lost a lot on SS2 because it was raining
heavily and we had a significant amount of aquaplaning. Then SS3 was just wet, with no standing water. Last year I got about 13 seconds from Erik Cais on my first pass here, so we concentrated a lot on it this year and prepared very responsibly. From the first few metres after the start you could feel that the tyres had amazing grip. At times, even on the wet surface, I felt like I was driving a dry one. We drove fast but safely without any moments of crisis. From start to finish, we were on full throttle.
Did the difficult conditions also play a role? Do you like driving in the wet?
Yes, I like to drive in the wet, but I like it when it is wet throughout the whole course of the SS. The worst thing is when the wet and dry alternate. When the track dries out, the mud doesn't continue to be washed by the rain, it gets pulled more and more onto the track where it becomes a slippery mess and then the driving is difficult. Otherwise, I prefer dry asphalt with high grip. When you're driving on the edge in those conditions, it's a great feeling.
We remember your breathtaking pursuit drive through the Mosel vineyards in 2018, where you took the win in Rally Deutschland with a powerful finish in SS17. Is there any comparison between those two drives?
Every year in Germany I struggled with a puncture on the Panzerplatte and it was no different in 2018. As a result, we dropped back more than a minute from a comfortable lead on Saturday. The important thing was that we recovered and started to close the gap in the very next SS. On Sunday we were close, but we were still a few seconds behind Kalle Rovanpera and Fabio Andolfi. That's when I said to myself that we really had to tighten up on SS17, which we did, and we got the win back. We were going really fast, so it's possible to compare the two runs in that set-up.
Can you plan rides like that or does it all just fit and then you have to go?
You have to realise where you have weaknesses and strengths. You have to know your opponents. When you feel good, you have to lean into it, pick the right SS that will make the difference and then it will work. It doesn't always work, of course, because there are a lot of things that can complicate the situation, like a puncture or a driver’s mistake. If you get it all sorted out in your head and everything falls into place, it's actually quite simple.