ŠKODA works driver Jan Kopecký made a promising start to the Rallye de France and lies second in the WRC2 classification after the opening day. The 34-year-old Czech driver was embroiled in a thrilling battle with Elfyn Evans over 157.68 km of special stage on day one of the demanding rally on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Kopecký and his co-driver Pavel Dresler trail the leader by just 15.7 seconds going into the second leg of 11th round of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) 2016.

Czech champion Kopecký has finished runner-up on each of his last two starts in WRC2. His first win of the season is his main goal this time out.

With the sun shining for most of Friday at the “Rally of 10,000 Corners”, there was no time to feel one’s way into the race. From Corsica’s capital Ajaccio, the drivers launched straight into the opening stage, the 49.72-kilometre Aqua Doria-Albitreccia 1 – a stern challenge for all the drivers. Ford driver Evans went flat-out from the word go. The current leader in the overall standings in WRC2 was 17.9 seconds quicker than the more cautious Kopecký on stage one.

Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA Motorsport. Rallye de France - Tour de Corse 2016
Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA Motorsport. Rallye de France – Tour de Corse 2016

However, the experienced Czech then launched a fightback in the battle for the lead in WRC2, winning the next two stages. Evans just had his nose in front again on the final stage of the day. The rest of the field was unable to match this pace and already finds itself over a minute back after the opening day. ŠKODA customer Julien Maurin, in the second FABIA R5 in the WRC2 standings, is sixth at his home rally after day first of three days on Corsica.

Jan Kopecký is optimistic ahead of the final two days of the rally. The drivers must once again master vicious winding routes between the high mountains and picturesque beaches of Corsica. This will not only demand outstanding performances from the drivers, but also the tyres and brakes.

This will apply all the more, should the feared showers materialise, which can transform the narrow roads into dangerous ice rinks.

Rallye de France – WRC2 standings after the Leg 1:
1. Elfyn Evans / Craig Parry
Ford Fiesta R5 1:40:29.1 hrs
2. Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler
ŠKODA FABIA R5 + 0:15.7 min
3. Kevin Abbring / Sebastian Marshall
Hyundai i20 R5 + 1:02.5 min
4. Yoann Bonato / Benjamin Boulloud
Citroën DS3 R5 + 1:23.2 min
5. José A. Suárez – Cándido Carrera
Peugeot 208 T16 + 1:41.1 min

Number of the day: 516.11

516.11 kilometres had to be mastered on day one of the Rallye de France – Tour de Corse. Less than a third of this was against the clock: “Just” 157.68 kilometres. The remaining 358.43 kilometres were covered on the stretches between the four special stages and the service park in Bastia. During this time, the driving crews had four opportunities to refuel and two to change tyres. The mechanics at ŠKODA and the other teams were only allowed to work directly on the rally car in the evening, once the stages had been completed. Apart from this, there was no service all day.