Your latest news on Regional Rally championships.
The second half of August brought rally excitement to the Czech Republic, Great Britain, Bolivia and Australia, with the top contenders now engaged in intense title-deciding battles in the FIA Regional Rally Championships.
FIA EUROPEAN RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP – RALLY BARUM, CZECH REPUBLIC (ROUND 6/8)
Home hero Jan Kopecký and co-driver Pavel Dresler celebrated a fifth consecutive victory on the challenging sealed-surface Rally Barum (16-18 August) at the wheel of their Škoda Fabia R5 Evo. Their fellow compatriots and Filip Mareš and Jan Hloušek took second place, while the British pair of Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock completed the all- Škoda Fabia R5 podium.
Kopecký’s victory was unchallenged after rivals Alexey Lukyanuk and Nikolay Gryazin – who was using the second of his prize drives as last year’s ERC1 Junior champion – both hit trouble on Saturday. The Czech could focus on driving the last leg in a clean way, without unnecessary risk. Still, he won two out of Sunday’s six special stages and claimed the win with a margin of 1.5 minute.
Meanwhile, a riveting battle was fought for second place, with Chris Ingram and Filip Mareš swapping positions on almost every stage, trading only a handful of seconds on each test. In the end, it is Mareš who came out victorious of the fight, just 0.3 seconds ahead of Chris Ingram and Ross Whittock.
FIA EUROPEAN RALLY TROPHY CELTIC – ULSTER RALLY, UNITED KINGDOM (ROUND 4/5)
The Irish pairing of Craig Breen and Paul Nagle lived up to their ‘favourites’ billing, with a resounding victory on the Ulster Rally. In their Hyundai i20 R5, they set the quickest times on five of the event’s nine stages, which provided the building blocks needed to win Round Four of the FIA European Rally Trophy’s Celtic series.
Breen persevered with early set-up issues that affected the handling of his car to cross the finish with 20.5 seconds in hand over last year’s event winners from Great Britain, Matt Edwards and Patrick Walsh, driving a Ford Fiesta R5. They benefited when fellow compatriot Tom Cave crashed out on the penultimate stage while holding third place.
The final podium spot went to County Londonderry’s Callum Devine and his British co-driver Bryan Hoy. Like Breen, the Ford Fiesta R5 driver was hampered by handling issues early in the event and a technical issue, but managed to set strong times over the closing mileskilometers. Welshman Meirion Evans (Skoda Fabia R5) and Alastair Fisher (Ford Fiesta R5) completed the top five.
FIA CODASUR – RALLY DE SANTA CRUZ, BOLIVIA (ROUND 4/5)
Bolivia’s Marco Bulacia Jr. and Fabricio Roca clinched a remarkable win on home soil at Rally de Santa Cruz last weekend, round 4 of the FIA CODASUR Rally Championship. Paraguay’s Gustavo Saba and his Argentinian co-driver Fernando Mussano took second in the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, while the Paraguyan pair of Alejandro Galanti and Marcelo Toyotoshi scored third place with their Toyota Etios R5.
Bulacia Jr was fastest on 13 out of the 15 gravel stages at the wheel of his Škoda Fabia R5, Bulacia Jr. managed to keep his rivals from across South America – Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil – at bay to claim his first CODASUR victory on Rally de Santa Cruz.
The young Bolivian talent had a ‘moment’ on Sunday, when he hit a bank in the first pass through the gravel circuit SS13, which caused him to lose a handful of seconds.
Saba seized the opportunity to secure the fastest time, his only stage win on that day on top of two others the day prior, including one tied with Bulacia.
Saba was a solid second overall, 1m26.0s behind Bulacia, although he hit trouble in the final stage, SS17, when the propshaft broke on his car and left him with only front-wheel drive available.
Galanti maintained a steady pace and took home vital points in his bid for the FIA CODASUR title, which will be decided in November in Uruguay. He also gained the edge over local entrant Roberto Saban, who took fourth position with his Škoda, despite being faster than Galanti in four out of six stages.
The 2019 CODASUR Rally Championship will resume with the championship’s final round, Rally del Atlántico (29th November-1st December) in Minas, Uruguay.
FIA APRC PACIFIC CUP – PEDDERS EUREKA RUSH, AUSTRALIA (ROUND 4/4)
Rally win for Bates, Pacific Cup for Paddon
Australia’s Harry Bates and co-driver John McCarthy won the weekend’s Pedders Eureka Rush rally in their Toyota Yaris AP4, while New Zealand driver Hayden Paddon clinched the Pacific Cup title.
The final round of the Pacific series, as part of the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), covered roads across once gold-rich lands of inland Victoria, Australia. Starting with two runs of a Super Special stage on Saturday night, the remaining eight tests were contested on Sunday.
New Zealand’s Hayden Paddon and co-driver Samantha Gray raised the stakes by joining the final Pacific Cup round in the Hyundai i20 R5. Having made a clean-sweep of the opening two rounds, there was a chance third round winner Harry Bates would do the same and tie for the title. Needing one point to break a potential deadlock, Paddon and Gray stormed to an early lead.
Setting the fastest time in the opening three stages, their progress was stymied in the fourth, when Paddon picked up some damage which broke a steering bolt.
In the same stage, the Subaru of Molly Taylor and Malcolm Read impacted with a tree. The crew managed to continue but they lost time and finished over 4 minutes behind the rally winner. That left brothers Harry and Lewis Bates to front the field in their respective Toyotas.
The second half of the day, contested as a second leg, allowed Paddon and Taylor to rejoin. Taylor was unable to extract full-speed but Paddon went on to comfortably win three of the four remaining stages and eventually claim the title.
Along with the rally win, Bates’s co-driver John McCarthy could also celebrate his title as the Pacific Cup co-driver champion.
The next and penultimate round of the APRC returns to the Northern Hemisphere for the Asia Cup’s Rally Hokkaido, Japan, on 21-22 September.
This weekend, the rally action will move to Mexico and Lebanon.
FIA NACAM RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP – RALLY SIERRA JUAREZ, MEXICO (ROUND 4/5)
On Friday 30 and Saturday 31 August, the district of Oaxaca, in the South of Mexico, will host the penultimate round of the FIA NACAM Rally Championship, with eight special stages on tarmac, totalling 117.04 competitive kilometres.
Current championship point leader and Škoda Fabia R5 Ricardo Triviño will face strong competition from his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo rivals Javier Ortuño and Ricardo Cordero Jr, as well as Volkswagen Golf entrant Alejandro Pimentel.
Check out the event website for more details.
FIA MIDDLE EAST RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP – RALLY OF LEBANON (ROUND 3/5)
Rally of Lebanon is round 3 of five in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship.
The 42nd edition of the event will run over 12 stages for a total competitive distance of 240.02 kilometres on tarmac, with a base on the waterfront of the capital city of Beirut.
Qatar’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, navigated by Frenchman Mathieu Baumel, will be seeking to win the title for the first time in his career in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to put an end to the dominance of Lebanese drivers since 2002. But the multiple MERC champion can count on tough resistance, especially from 14-time event winner Roger Feghali, who has occupied the top spot in 2007 and 2008.
A strong entry of 23 cars will see crews from the entire Middle-East region – Qatar, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia – battle it out for victory.
You can visit the Rally of Lebanon website for more information.