Russia - BFGoodrich - Finish
Finnish driver Juho Hanninen and the Czech Republic's Jan Kopecky notched up a one-two finish for Skoda at the all-gravel 2009 Rally Russia. For the Czech carmaker and its partner BFGoodrich, this result is their first success together at IRC
With Peugeot choosing to skip the Russian event after scoring four wins so far this year, the factory Abarth and Skoda teams were given a free hand to battle for top honours on the sixth round of the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge.
The event's fast stages and sandy terrain were not unlike the conditions associated with rallies organised in neighbouring Finland, and Flying Finns had effectively dominated the last two visits to Vyborg which is close to the border between the two nations.
The 2008 winner Juho Hanninen rapidly emerged in front again this time round. With his BFGoodrich-equipped Skoda Fabia S2000 running on soft compound GZG4 tyres (the same product developed for this event twelve months previously), the Finn succeeded in posting the fastest time on every one of the opening leg's four stages, before repeating the same feat the following day.
The Finnish Skoda driver's performance enabled him to complete Friday's action with a lead of almost a minute over his team-mate Jan Kopecky, putting the Skoda/BFGoodrich squad on target for a one-two finish, especially since third-placed Abarth driver Giandomenico Basso was practically three minutes adrift.
The Italian team managed to salvage a podium finish for Basso and sixth place for Finland's Anton Alen, who won the Russian event in 2007. The result hands Abarth valuable championship points in both the Drivers' and Manufacturers' standings.
Britain's Guy Wilks completed Day One in a remarkable third place with his new Proton S2000 car on its first gravel event, but afterwards lost time due to a puncture and problematic car jack. Wilks finally finished inside the top five after posting some extremely promising times.
"The ground was quite soft and the organisers took the trouble to regrade the stages prior to the start. This process tended to push all the big rocks either side of the tracks and onto the insides of the corners which increased the risk of puncturing," Hugues Pierron, Manager of BFGoodrich's presence at Rally Russia, reported.
"The temperature was around the 20°C mark for most of the event and the tests were still a little damp, so the BFGoodrich runners opted for the soft compound GZG4 featuring different degrees of 'cuts' as a function of their start order," he continued.
"This is the third consecutive win for this tyre which was developed in 2008 and which features a reinforced casing and a soft compound," Pierron said. "It forms part of BFGoodrich's customer competition range and, in addition to the outstanding directional precision it delivers, it has also shown itself to be both competitive and robust."