Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen came to Rally Bohemia for the very first time. Having little knowledge of the Czech Rally Championship’s fifth event didn’t stop them from claiming a well deserved win in their ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo. Defending champions Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler fought back hard against their Finnish teammates, but finally had to settle for second. ŠKODA privateer Jan Černý, who was leading after the first leg, completed a pure ŠKODA podium by finishing third.
Right from the start, Rally Bohemia was a kind of tyre lottery. The weather, as well as the forecast, changed all the time so predicting the right choice of rubber was like gazing into a crystal ball. The shakedown test on Friday afternoon saw a mix of everything, from heavy rain to bright sunshine, which is typical – for April.
The opening two evening stages at the Autodrom Sosnová were dry, while rain and hailstorms raged all around the surrounding area. In front of thousands of enthusiastic rally fans, reigning WRC 2 Champions Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler won the first two stages in their ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, moving into the lead ahead of the ŠKODA privateers Jan Černy and Petr Černohorský. Kopecký’s teammates Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen were in third position before the overnight rest.
The following sunny Saturday morning in the streets of Mladá Boleslav saw Kalle Rovanperä set a fastest time in front of an impressive crowd and move into second place overall. At the next service, the tyre choice was crucial as there would be no tyre changes at all allowed in the next five rounds. Reigning Czech Rally Champion Jan Kopecký opted for soft rain tyres – not the best choice, as he later admitted: “It was much drier than the forecast promised, so I lost valuable time.”
Kalle Rovanperä chose a mix of tyres cross mounted on the car. With slicks on the front right and the rear left plus rain tires on the opposite sides, he set three fastest times during the following five stages. As a result, he moved into the lead.
ŠKODA cars dominated
The afternoon again saw a mix of temporary rainfall and sunshine. On the eleventh special stage, almost every one of the front runners got a puncture on the front right. While Kalle Rovanperä lost nearly one minute and dropped to third, Jan Černý had no such issues and took the lead. Jan Kopecký suffered a puncture as well, but lost less time than his teammate. “Maybe I could have gone faster with the flat tire, but I didn’t want to damage the car,” Rovanperä confessed later. At the end of the first leg, Černý was leading, ahead of Rovanperä and Kopecký.
A sunny Sunday witnessed an impressive performance from both ŠKODA works crews. On the very first special stage, Kalle Rovanperä regained the lead. One stage later, Jan Kopecký claimed second place. From there on in, both crews drove fast and faultlessly to the finish, securing a double victory for ŠKODA Motorsport in front of thousands of fans and ŠKODA employees in Mladá Boleslav. Kalle even became the youngest rally winner in Czech history.
Kopecký leads the Czech championship
While Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen won, they were not eligible to score points for the Czech Championship. Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler, therefore, took maximum points for the championship by finishing second. Ahead of the final event, the Barum Czech Rally Zlín, the Czech ŠKODA crew is leading the overall standings. The previous leader, ŠKODA privateer Filip Mareš, missed a braking point on Sunday morning, went off, broke his radiator and had to retire. Jan Černý, driving a private ŠKODA FABIA R5, completed the all-ŠKODA podium in third place.
ŠKODA Motorsport team manager, Pavel Hortek, was delighted at the podium results in Mladá Boleslav: “We’re happy that our new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo again had a trouble-free run and that Kalle, Jonne, Jan and Pavel achieved their third double win for ŠKODA Motorsport after theirrecent success at Rally Portugal and Rally Italy/Sardinia. I also wish to pay tribute to Jan, who tactically and cleverly followed team orders to win the Czech Championship classification.”
Rally Bohemia final results
1. Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, 1:37:27.2 h
2. Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +19.7 sec.
3. Černý/Černohorský, (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +1:09.1 min.
4. Wagner/Stein (AUT/GER), ŠKODA FABIA R5, +2:42.3 min.
5. Štajf/Havelková (CZE/CZE), VW Polo GTI R5, +3:07.7 min.