Robert Kubica continues ERC charge with stage hat-trick in Açores
Driving a Citroën DS3 Regional Rally Car, Kubica holds an advantage of 9.7s over ERC title leader Jan Kopecký with multiple Azorean champion third in a similar ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 at the Thursday night halt in Ponta Delgada. “It was a very demanding day because the grip level has been changing a lot and I don’t have the experience,” said Kubica. “It’s not easy when you have mud, rain and dry conditions. Tomorrow is much longer and very tricky but we have to try to learn.”
Heavy overnight rain resulted in significant damage to the roads on stages one and two. SS1, Coroa da Mata 1, was cancelled with SS2, São Brás/Vila Franca 1, shortened from 16.38 kilometres to 6.14 kilometres. With the revised stage length of leg one falling to less than 10 per cent of the total competitive distance, legs one and two were merged, which meant that the start order selected by the priority drivers for Thursday’s stages will apply to Friday’s route as well.
As a result, Kubica, who began his run of success by winning the Qualifying Stage to earn the right to pick his starting order first, opted to run 10th on the road to gain what he felt would be the most preferential road position. Although the first São Brás/Vila Franca 1 test was damp and slippery, the next stage and the day-closing Grupo Marques superspecial were largely dry.
The slippery nature of the opening test caught out Kopecký, who was competing on gravel for the first time since November 2011. “I didn’t have the confidence and I knew if I started flat out I could make a mistake,” said the Czech champion.
Despite driving his Fabia S2000 in competition for the first time, Ricardo Moura is a strong third. He admitted his knowledge of the demanding island roads was an advantage but added he can still go even faster once he adapts to his new car.
Craig Breen completed the first stage in second overall, 2.2s down on Kubica, having unwittingly knocked the right-rear tyre off the rim two kilometres from the stage finish. With only one spare on board his Peugeot Rally Academy 207 S2000, Breen opted for a cautious run through the next two stages. The Irishman is fourth overnight, 11.7s behind Kubica and 1.9s ahead of Bernardo Sousa in a Ford Fiesta RRC. Frenchman Jérémi Ancian completes the top six with two-time Açores winner Bruno Magalhães seventh and reigning ERC 2WD champion Jan Černý eighth.
Jaroslav Orsák tops the ERC Production Car Cup standings with Stéphane Lefebvre out in front in the ERC 2WD classification despite his Peugeot Rally Academy 208 R2 suffering a minor intercom glitch on stage four. Second-placed Hannes Danzinger felt his Renault Clio could have gone faster had he inserted more cuts into his tyres for SS1. Elsewhere Marco Tempestini leads the Subaru Impreza challenge in 18th overall.
Leg one resumes on Friday with the first of eight stages getting underway at 10:50hrs local time. Two stages will be broadcast live on Eurosport and RTP Açores with a further two runs streamed live as they happen on the official ERC website, www.fiaerc.com.
The full live broadcast schedule for Friday 26 April is as follows*:
SS7: Feteiras 1 (7.54kms): 14:00hrs-14:30hrs (www.fiaerc.com)
SS8: Sete Cidades 1 (23.97kms): 14:30hrs-15:30hrs (Eurosport, RTP Açores)
SS11: Feteiras 2 (7.54kms): 18:30hrs-19:00hrs (www.fiaerc.com)
SS12: Sete Cidades 2 (23.97kms): 19:00hrs-20:00hrs (Eurosport, RTP Açores)
*All times are CET and subject to change
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source: fiaerc.com, eurosport.com