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ERC NEWS 

Jan Kopecky hangs on to win in Zlin for Skoda

Zlin podiumJan Kopecky hung on to take his first victory of the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge season in his home event, Rally Zlin, by just 1.2 seconds over Freddy Loix.

Last year's winner Loix had mounted a spectacular charge over the second half of the event to bring himself into victory contention after a low-key start.

The BFO Skoda driver was helped by Kopecky's works Skoda developing power steering problems this morning, allowing Loix to close to within a second.

But Kopecky was fractionally faster on the first two of the decisive three stages and was able to claim the win even though Loix was quicker on the final test. The result was the series' closest ever finish.

Kopecky's team-mate Juho Hanninen lost time early on with punctures and mistakes, and had to settle for third place.

Thierry Neuville was top Peugeot in fourth after Bryan Bouffier crashed this morning and Guy Wilks fell out of the lead battle with a puncture on Saturday, before retiring with a broken alternator belt two stages from the end.

Kronos' Neuville hung on for fourth despite a determined charge from Andreas Mikkelsen today. The Skoda UK driver had been a victory contender until puncturing a tyre, and fought back to get within six seconds of giving Skoda a top four sweep at home.

Craig Breen impressed greatly to take seventh on his debut, right on veteran Toni Gardemeister's tail.

Leading finishers after SS15:

Pos  Driver             Team/Car                    Time/Gap
 1.  Jan Kopecky        Skoda                     2h15m51.7s
 2.  Freddy Loix        BFO Skoda                     + 1.2s
 3.  Juho Hanninen      Skoda                        + 37.4s
 4.  Thierry Neuville   Peugeot Benelux (Kronos)   + 1m59.6s
 5.  Andreas Mikkelsen  Skoda UK                   + 2m05.7s
 6.  Toni Gardemeister  TGS Skoda                  + 3m43.2s
 7.  Craig Breen        Keltech Ford               + 3m47.4s
 8.  Roman Kresta       Adell Mogul Skoda          + 4m21.5s
 9.  PG Andersson       Proton                     + 4m41.1s
10.  Karl Kruuda        ME3 Skoda                  + 4m54.3s
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