‘Kopecky had a straightforward event’
Straightforward. That’s not a word one would ever associate with the Monte Carlo Rally. But from midday Friday forwards, that was the only way to describe Jan Kopecky’s victory on the opening WRC2 round of the season.
The Fabia R5 driver ended the event almost a quarter-of-anhour ahead of his nearest title rival, Guillaume de Mevius in a Peugeot 208 T16.
It hadn’t always been that way. M-sport Ford Fiesta R5 drivers Eric Camilli and Teemu Suninen offered some stout opposition through Thursday night’s opening stages before they both departed too early on Friday.
Suninen was the first go, sliding off the road and into a river on SS4. Camilli, who led early on, dropped it two stages later.
The Finn admitted he’d been faced with something of a difficult choice when he found himself arriving at a corner too quickly.
“I had to choose between hitting the bridge and going to the river,” he said. “I went down the bank.”
The car was fixed and he returned, somewhat chastened, for the remainder of the event where he took a more conservative approach and picked up points for fourth.
Camilli, who returned but then retired with mechanical trouble on SS11, offered: “We had the set-up a bit too soft this [Friday] morning and wanted to come back and reclaim the lead. But we slid wide on a left-hand corner and touched the bank with the rear. It wasn’t a hard impact, but it was enough to make us stop. We are really disappointed because the pace was good and we had a good chance of battling for the win.”
The upshot of that was something of a huge open goal for Kopecky, who had been inch-perfect to keep his factory Skoda at the sharp end and in the perfect position to take full advantage of M-sport’s disaster.
On hearing of his rivals’ demise, the Czech star said: “It was disappointing to see the other guys hit problems. It was a good battle with Eric, but I’ve been in this sport a long time and sometimes this is rallying. Since I saw Eric in trouble I’ve been taking it easy.”
Kevin Abbring had been expected to feature, but he dropped out with engine problems aboard his Fiesta R5, leaving WRC2 debutant Eddie Sciessere (Citroen DS 3 R5) to clinch third, which became second after de Mevius was dropped to last in the stewards’ room on the discovery of an underweight battery.
Kalle Rovanpera was competing on the event in a private Skoda, but wasn’t registered for WRC2 points. He would have finished second (and did finish second in the RC2 class) to Kopecky.
The 17-year-old, who was four minutes down on Kopecky, survived a couple of moments to bag plenty of experience from his Monte debut.
Kopecky had an easy run when main rivals slipped up on Friday