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ERC NEWS 

Kopecky still ahead in Czech rally

Jan Kopecky, Skoda, Barum RallySkoda driver Jan Kopecky remains in control of the Barum Rally field at the close of the opening day of action in the Czech Republic.

Despite having to give best to his team-mate Juho Hanninen on stage seven and Peugeot man Freddy Loix on the day's penultimate test, Kopecky bounced back to score fastest time on stage nine - easing his lead past the minute mark.

The field on this Intercontinental Rally Challenge round was faced with heavy rain on the stages run around the host town of Zlin, but Kopecky made light work of the tricky conditions.

Loix remains in second place, but the Belgian is coming under increased pressure from Kris Meeke in the sister 207 S2000. The Briton took 35 seconds out of the Loix car through the day's final test.

Having started the day 33rd, Meeke was delighted to end it 30 places higher and in a provisional podium spot - but he remained mindful of the tricky conditions and tomorrow's six stages.

"It's all about points for me here," said Meeke, who starts day two 8.4 seconds off Loix's second place. "I have to get to the finish. It's been a tough day and I'm sure tomorrow will be more of the same."

One man who could testify to the toughness of the opening day was Giandomenico Basso. He had been third for much of the leg, but crashed his Abarth out of the rally on SS8.

Hanninen's fastest time on stage seven had helped him to move, momentarily, past Meeke for third, but the Finn would end the day 19.3s off the back of the championship-leading Briton.

Roman Kresta (Peugeot) completed the leg in fifth, with Martin Prokop (Peugeot) moving ahead of Evgeny Novikov's Skoda to clinch sixth on Saturday night.

Pos  Driver          Car           Time/Gap
 1.  Jan Kopecky     Skoda       1h27m22.1s
 2.  Freddy Loix     Peugeot      + 1m01.6s
 3.  Kris Meeke      Peugeot      + 1m10.0s
 4.  Juho Hanninen   Skoda        + 1m29.3s
 5.  Roman Kresta    Peugeot      + 1m42.2s
 6.  Martin Prokop   Peugeot      + 2m10.5s
 7.  Evgeny Novikov  Skoda        + 2m42.0s
 8.  Luca Rossetti   Abarth       + 2m50.9s
 9.  Vaclav Pech     Mitsubishi   + 3m17.3s
10.  Janos Toth      Peugeot      + 3m42.6s

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