AN eighth place finish on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin was enough to maintain the lead for Andreas Mikkelsen in the Intercontinental Rally Championship.
The Norwegian rally star found the tyre choice difficult for his Skoda UK Motorsport Fabia S2000 and suffered with poor grip as a result.
The first six places in the rally were taken by Fabia S2000s and were led home by Juho Hänninen. He did not celebrate on the podium, however, as an accident on SS13 had claimed the life of a spectator so the celebrations were cancelled as a mark of respect.
Changeable weather during Leg 1 made tyre choice exceptionally difficult, and Andreas lost 14.4 seconds on Friday night’s opening superspecial stage around Zlín city centre when rain offered little grip to his slick tyres.
Saturday’s constantly changing weather continued to make tyre choice a lottery, although Andreas was one of the best to master the slippery conditions as he and co-driver Ola Fløene took the lead after setting fastest times on SS4.
The ŠKODA UK Motorsport Fabia S2000’s technical set-up was perfect for the twisty narrow asphalt roads. However, the Tesák stage had a slippery section with very long and fast corners, which didn’t suit the set-up so well, meaning that Andreas dropped 33.4 seconds to leader Hänninen over its two runs (SS7/9).
Andreas started Sunday’s second and final leg in third place, but lost almost five minutes on the day’s opening stage when he clipped a kerb at a left hand corner and had to stop twice to replace punctured front and rear right tyres.
Having dropped to 10th, Andreas had worked his way up to eighth before the rally was stopped one stage before scheduled.
Andreas: “It’s been a difficult weekend with a lot of difficult tyre choices, which I don’t think anyone has got right all of the time. I went in a new direction with my set-up before the rally, and maybe that wasn’t the way to go because the car felt better on Leg 2 when we changed it back. I struggled a little in the wet, but in the dry I felt more confident and I was a lot more competitive. A lot of the time I was happy with my performance. The team did a fantastic job, the Fabia S2000 was perfect and we scored what may prove to be some very important points.”
Final positions (provisional after SS15)
1 Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) 2hrs 11mins 28.2secs
2 Roman Kresta/Petr Gross (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +1min 43.1secs
3 Tomáš Kostka/Miroslav Houšť (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) 1min +51.8secs
4 Jaromír Tarabus/Daniel Trunkát (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +4mins 11.7secs
5 Robert Barrable/Stuart Loudon (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +4mins 33.6secs
6 Karl Kruuda/Martin Järveoja (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +5mins 03.0secs
7 Andreas Aigner/Ilka Minor (Subaru Impreza) +5mins 34.6secs
8 Andreas Mikkelsen/Ola Fløene (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +5mins 36.8secs
9 Michał Sołowow/Maciej Baran (Peugeot 207 S2000) +6mins 18.7secs
10 Sepp Wiegand/Timo Gottschalk (ŠKODA Fabia S2000) +7mins 21.8secs
IRC points (provisional after Round 9)
1 Andreas Mikkelsen 136pts
2 Juho Hänninen 93pts
3 Jan Kopecký 83pts
4 Sepp Wiegand 53pts
5 Giandomenico Basso 40pts
6 Patrik Flodin 28pts