Closest finish ever in IRC at Hungary
Škoda Motorsport´s Jan Kopecký has won the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) Canon Mecsek Rallye in Hungary by less than a second!
In the smallest margin in the history of the IRC Team Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg´s Thierry Neuville won the final stage but lost out to the Czech driver overall by just 0.8s of-a-second.
Right up until the penultimate stage, this rally looked like it belonged to Škoda UK’s Andreas Mikkelsen. The overnight leader started the day strongly, built an advantage with a commanding early stage win, then backed off too much on the first stage of the afternoon. With the pressure back on, 6.2km into SS13 Mikkelsen slid wide on gravel in a fast right-hand corner and the back of his car hit a tree. He was able to keep the heavily damaged Fabia S2000 moving until the next junction, where he was able to park it safely.
The battle for the lead between the Škoda team-mates wasn’t the only story of the day. Peugeot’s Thierry Neuville was third overnight and began the day within striking distance of the leader. There could be no question of team orders up front as Neuville racked up a succession of stage wins, and after Mikkelsen’s retirement Neuville ended the penultimate stage 8.1s behind new leader Kopecký.
To close the gap over the remaining 17.7km would be a tall order, and so it proved. Neuville won the final stage convincingly but fell just short of overall victory, by 0.8s.
“We changed the set-up and the car felt much better, and I felt more confident,” said Neuville.
“I continued to push and push and we felt really good. We had just a little moment on the last stage today, Nicolas was maybe a little too late with the pace note, but we managed it and we could continue. Maybe we lost the rally there but yesterday I was not driving so good on a few stages, so it’s hard to say.”
Freddy Loix brought his BFO ŠKODA home third. Having shown speed on the opening day, he couldn’t hit the same heights on the second.
Confidence had been a problem for Peugeot France’s Bryan Bouffier on the opening day as he struggled with set-up issues and lack of trust in the veracity of his pace notes. He was within the top five on every stage, but the overall gap to the leaders was too great for the Rallye Monte-Carlo winner to overcome.