But the ŠKODA Motorsport ace, co-driven by Pavel Dresler, wasn’t the only driver celebrating at the finish in the university city of Zlín this afternoon with Marijan Griebel provisionally crowned ERC Junior Under 28 champion following win number three of the campaign. Subject to FIA confirmation, Griebel gets a prize drive in a World Rally Car on a European round of the world championship in 2018 as his reward.
Elsewhere, Aleks Zawada topped the ERC Junior Under 27 category for the first time in 2017 to claim the title lead by five points and head the race for the 100,000 euros career progression fund on offer to the eventual champion. The Polish privateer also won the ERC3 category, as Tibor Érdi Jr clinched the ERC2 spoils. Emma Falcón won the ERC Ladies’ Trophy on her Zlín debut, while the ACCR Czech Team top-scored in the FIA European Rally Championship for Teams.
“It was a really great battle and thanks to the team and Pavel for a really great job,” said Kopecký. “The first day was really tricky with the battle with Alexey. Even though he was not 100 per cent fit he did a really great result. But seeing all the Czech flags and Czech fans was really something special.”
While Kopecký became the sixth different winner in this year’s ERC, it was a case of what might have been for Alexey Lukyanuk. After losing out to Kopecký on Friday night’s street stage in Zlín and Biskupice on Saturday morning, Lukyanuk responded in Semetín in stunning fashion, beating his Czech rival by 6.3s to take the rally lead by 0.3s despite admitting he was struggling to brake as hard as he would like while he recovers from the multiple fractures he sustained in a testing crash in Russia in early May. With Lukyanuk more cautious through the 22.87 kilometres of Troják, Kopecký seized the opportunity to regain the lead only for Lukyanuk to respond again with the best time in Březová. But a spin for Lukyanuk at the start of the second run through Biskupice handed Kopecký an advantage of 6.7s before a powersteering issue on his Ford Fiesta R5 resulted in further delay for the Russian. He completed leg one 16.6s behind Kopecký but ready to pounce should his rival have faltered on leg two. But there were no mistakes from Czech champion Kopecký who sprinted to victory as Lukyanuk’s injuries caused further discomfort, forcing him to brake with his right foot and settle for second. “Unfortunately I could not fight so we had to refocus and think about the championship,” said Lukyanuk, who is up to third in the standings.
Local legend Roman Kresta beat fellow Czech and brother-in-law Tomáš Kostka to the final place on the podium in a thrilling final-stage decider, which earned him the Colin McRae Flat Out Trophy for his efforts. Kostka inherited third following Václav Pech’s retirement due to a double puncture this morning. However, he couldn’t hold off the charging Kresta and settled for fourth with Kajetan Kajetanowicz extending his advantage at the top of the European championship standings in fifth ahead of sixth-placed Griebel. Martin Koči took seventh with Pavel Valoušek eighth following a late puncture.
SEAJETS-backed Bruno Magalhães inherited ninth from Nikolay Gryazin when the Russian teenager stopped to change a puncture on the final stage. Bryan Bouffier, who was battling for third when a puncture dropped him back on Saturday afternoon, completed the top 10. Łukasz Habaj was P13, Antonín Tlusťák P17 and Murat Bostanci P21 for Castrol Ford Team Turkey. László Német was on course to finish one place behind Bostanci only to retire on the penultimate stage with damage following an off. Albert von Thurn und Taxis restarted after stopping with a mechanical issue on stage eight and finished P45. Polish champion Grzegorz Grzyb retired with engine damage following a crash on SS3. Szeja brothers Jarek and Marcin crashed out on stage seven with Dávid Botka retiring at penultimate service with gearbox failure. Former Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas battled back from two punctures and a broken engine mounting in his Porsche 997 GT3 to come home in P59 after another puncture nearing the finish.