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We look at a new era for European Rally

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We take a look at the first rally of the season – the Jännerrallye in Austria.  We take a look back at the event and check some of the best event photos.

The Rally in brief

ŠKODA driver Jan Kopecký has taken his second consecutive victory on the Jännerrallye in Austria, round one of the new-look European Rally Championship by just half a second after a dramatic final day – with the winner only decided on the very last stage.

Kopecký started Saturday’s eight stages with a 20-second advantage over the Peugeot of Bryan Bouffier. But heavy rain and some ice made today’s route around Freistadt extremely tricky, and the Czech driver concentrated on just getting to the finish in front of 120,000 spectators.

His fortunes were turned on their head when he picked up a front-left puncture around seven kilometres from the finish of stage 15, which dropped him to third with only three stages to go. Bouffier, competing on his first Jännerrallye, took the lead despite spinning on the same stage.

However, Kopecký was determined not to give up, and pushed as hard as he could to start the final 25-kilometre stage 10.6 seconds adrift of Bouffier. He emerged from it with a winning margin of 11.1 seconds, ensuring that he scraped to victory by just half a second in heavy rain and fog in his Michelin-shod Fabia Super 2000.

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The year’s first major rally was a popular one with fans as around 120 000 people turned out.  The Jännerrallye was held in Austria to tarmac and snow conditions.

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The Rally’s location offered some postcard scenes as we see Raimund Baumschlager’s Skoda pass by an Austrian town.

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Rally legend Stig Blomqvist jumped back behind the wheel – driving an Mitsubishi EVO IX in the production class.  He finished second in class and 12th overall.

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Brian Bouffier came so close to winning the rally overall, finishing just 0.5 of a second off Jan Kopeky’s Skoda.  Bouffier rallying the now aging Peugeot 207 led into the final stage but didn’t quite have the overall pace to defend the lead.

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Francois Delecour returned to rallying in a Peugeot 207 supported by the Romanian Tourist authority.  He rallied in Romania in 2012, taking the title.

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Delecour hasn’t lost any of his fire that made him famous.  Last time he rallied with the Lion he showed his famous passion, losing the plot over the pace of Gilles Panizzi.  He took out 7th overall.

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Where it wasn’t snow, the conditions were still slippery.  Beppo Harrach was 7th after leg 1 but didn’t make it to the end of leg 2.

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Jan Kopeky was the class of the Rally but this puncture almost cost him the win.

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Kopeky remained with Skoda as the IRC moved to the ERC.  If he can keep this pace over the season – which is heavy with tarmac rallies, he will be hard to beat to the title.

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There was a single S2000 class Mini entered into the rally.  Vaclav Pech was fourth at the end of leg 1 but didn’t finish the rally.

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There was a solitary R3 class Citroen DS3 in the event, joining a number of C2 cars.  Anton Titov had issues through the event and finished 32nd overall.

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Honda were back with the 2 wheel drive Civic.  Zoltan Bessenyey’s bright machine took a post rally penalty but still finished 3rd in class.

Photos courtesy of the European Rally Championship, January 2013

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