Barum Czech Rally Zlin: Czech exam
The sixth FIA ERC round, the well-known Barum Czech Rally Zlin, will take place in the Czech town of Zlin on 25-27 August. This race is considered one of the most challenging asphalt rallies in Europe – on a par with the World Cup round in Germany, the ADAC Rallye Deutschland, and Belgian Ypres Rally (until recently it was one of the most popular races in the European Championship). Like three weeks earlier at the Polish Rajd Rzeszowski, Russian Performance Motorsport team will once again perform in its full force – the crews of Aleksey Lukyanuk / Aleksey Arnautov (Ford Fiesta R5) and Sergei Remennik / Mark Rozin (Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X) are ready to meet the new asphalt challenge.
Two years ago, the crew of Alexey Lukyanuk and Alexey Arnautov made its debut at Barum Czech Rally Zlin and immediately achieved a great result for beginners, having finished the fourth! In 2016 they made a great sensation – the Russian crew was the only one that was able to fight with the Czech Jan Kopecky, the Skoda Motorsport factory driver. One special stage before the finish, Lukyanuk lost to Kopecky only 4.6 seconds and Tomas Kostka at the third position lagged behind for two and a half minutes! Unfortunately, the final special stage put an end to this intrigue – a parapet touch led to the steering rod damage and threw Lukyanuk out of the Top-10.
Alexey Lukyanuk, “We have a funky event around the corner – Barum Czech Rally Zlin! We are so happy we are going to the next asphalt race. Perhaps, this is one of my favorite rallies if to speak about the dynamics and intensity of emotions. In 2015, the Czech rally was only the second asphalt race in my life, but even then we had a very good pace. I hope, now we are faster and stronger, we understand the settings better… And we have more courage and confidence. We will pay more attention to the notes and try to do our best – do what you have to, and come what may!”
Czech Rally has always been a really difficult race – there are many episodes in its history, when more than half the competitors were not able to get the finish line. Now the Barum Czech Rally Zlin can become the most popular round of current European Championship – the entry list consists of 150 crews, 90 of them will perform in the FIA ERC standings! So far this year, the Spanish Rally Islas Canarias is bearing the palm of the “mass” championship – there were 124 crews at the start (65 of them in the European classification).
The most important thing is almost all the strongest Czech and European crews will gather in Zlin – Jan Kopecky (Skoda Motorsport factory driver), Kajetan Kajetanowicz (two-time European Champion), Bruno Magalhaes, Bryan Bouffier, Alexey Lukyanuk, Roman Kresta (one of the best Czech racers in the FIA WRC history), Vaclav Pech… This list can be continued for a long time, and by the way, a record is set at this rally – there are 37 preliminary applications from crews in R5 cars! In addition, just after the Czech round, “mathematical games” with scoring points and discarding the worst results will start (the six best results out of eight are counted in the overall standings at the end of the season). At the moment, Kajetan Kajetanowicz (108 points) leads in the European Championship, followed by Bruno Magalhaes (95), Marijan Griebel (50) and Alexey Lukyanuk (46).
Sergei Remennik and Mark Rozin in the ERC-2 group (for crews in N4 cars) will again meet this category leaders – Italian Zelindo Melegari and Hungarian Tibor Erdi. Tibor Erdi Jr. was forced to hand over the category leadership and a 53-point advantage to Zelindo Melegari after the dramatic retirement at the previous round due to engine issues at the final special stage finish. Currently, the first three positions are as follows: Zelindo Melegari (123 points) leads the standings, Tibor Erdi (70 points) is on the second place, Sergei Remennik ranks the third (63 points); but Luis Pimentel (55 points) can still intervene the fight, provided he decides to start the next rounds. Apparently, it is the trio of Melegari – Erdi – Remennik who will share the podium at the end of the season.
The Barum Czech Rally Zlin program is traditional – on Friday morning there are free practice and a qualification stage, and in the evening the Prologue starts on the streets of Zlin, on Saturday and Sunday another 14 special stages are scheduled. The total competitive distance is 214.65 km, 9.51 km of them will be passed on Friday (Prologue), 110.02 km – on Saturday (eight special stages) and 95.15 km – on Sunday (six special stages).
It is a Tarmac test like no other due to the bumpy and sometimes broken nature of the road surface. To add to the challenge, several stages feature high-speed blasts through forests and intermittent showers are always possible. While the weather might be hard to predict, huge numbers of fans follow the action, especially on the opening night-time Zlín superspecial stage.
EVENT ESSENTIALS (all timings local and subject to change)
Starts: 16h00, Friday 25 August, Námĕstí Míru/City Square (Zlín)
Finishes: 16h25, Sunday 27 August, Námĕstí Míru/City Square (Zlín)
Headquarters: AK Barum, Hornoomlýnská 3715, 76001 Zlín
Service park: Continental Barum factory, Otrokovice
ERC appearances (since 2004 restructuring): 13 (2012-16)
Stage distance: 204.25 kilometres (109.13kms leg one, 95.12kms leg two)
Liaison: 483.32 kilometres
Total: 687.57 kilometres