A big sports event is taking place in the Czech Republic – the town of Zlin has become the center of several competitions and major events for a few days. From Friday to Sunday, the Barum Czech Rally Zlin hosts the sixth round of the FIA European Rally Championship, Grand-Prix Bugatti, Star Rally Historic, Ejoin Green Rally, and even a parade and race of cyclists.
Of course, the headliners are the FIA ERC participants and the main attention is focused on the battle of R5 category competitors. There are 137 crews from 25 countries, 84 of them take part in the European Rally Championship. Czech fans are betting – will Jan Kopecky win the Barum Rally for the eighth time? Being the main favorite here in the Czech Republic, he repeatedly proved the Skoda advantage by winning the event. This year the contest is expected to be hot, as rivals are clearly not going to give up the first place without a fight: the reigning European champion Alexey Lukyanuk in the Citroen C3 R5 plans to get the maximum points for the race and aims to take the first place. Nikolay Gryazin, performing in the Skoda Fabia R5, is dreaming of the same position, although this race is not a priority for him – the main season goal for Gryazin is the WRC2 category.
Polish driver Lukasz Habaj does not lose hope to win points back and beat Lukyanuk; Chris Ingram also dreams about it, his mathematical chances of winning the season are still present. It will not be easy for these guys, because the Czech drivers know the local track perfectly well; and some of the strongest asphalt racers in Europe will clearly not concede top positions: Vaclav Pech (Ford Fiesta R5), Tomas Kostka (Skoda Fabia R5 Evo), Jan Cerny, Miroslav Jakes, Jaromir Tarabus (all of them are in Skoda Fabia R5) and Vojtech Stajf (Volkswagen Polo GTi R5). We will not list all Lukyanuk’s rivals in this category vehicles – there are 34 of them.
Friday morning began with free practice and qualification runs, where Alexey Lukyanuk set the third time in the overall standings. However, it was preceded by an extremely exciting event for the fans – the car ran off the track during the second free practice race.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “We went into a turn a little bit optimistically, the speed was high and it turned out luckily that we ran off without damaging the car. Thanks to the audience, we were returned to the track and we were able to start at the qualifying special stage. The car is ok and we were able to set a good time. The atmosphere at the race here is amazing, and Barum rally has always been one of our favorite events: there are interesting special stages, beautiful asphalt roads and a unique rally atmosphere with a huge number of fans from all over Europe”.
After the Ceremonial start of the race, the participants went to the first racing special stage – 9.5 kilometers along the streets of Zlin. First, cyclists drove along the track; the Bugatti Grand was held after it – a parade of 38 cars from the 30-50s that showed their capabilities. Immediately after them, in preparation for the Legends rally, 48 Star Rally Historic cars drove along the spectator special stage; and for dessert they left the show of the FIA European Rally Championship sixth round participants.
Jan Kopecky set the best time at the first special stage of the race, Nikolay Gryazin was the second, and Alexey Lukyanuk took the third position. It was in this order that the drivers completed the morning qualification, it was these starting positions for Saturday that they chose in the afternoon, and the evening special stage only confirmed this power balance.
116 competitive kilometers on asphalt roads of the Zlin Region are waiting for drivers on Saturday and 103 kilometers – on Sunday, and then the new Barum Rally winner will be announced.
You can follow the rally results on the official website https://www.fiaerc.com/live-timing/