Pavel Valousek finishes just off the podium
Like Patrick Snijers in Ypres last June who finished fifth, Pavel Valousek came fourth on this weekend's Barum Rally Zlin after narrowly failing to secure a podium finish with his Kronos-prepared BFGoodrich-backed Peugeot 207 S2000. In addition to the Czech driver's first class result, the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation turned out to be a big hit again with the fans who turned out in their thousands to cheer on Pavel Valousek and his co- driver Zdenek Hruza. The programme's fourth outing in three weeks' time will see the BFGoodrich Drivers Team move on to Spain for the Rally Principe de Asturias.
Thirty-year old Pavel Valousek, who used to follow his father on the stages until he was old enough to compete himself, is unlikely to forget the whirlwind chain of events that marked the summer of 2008 in a hurry.
On July 24, 2008, he learnt that he had been selected from a shortlist of 24 applicants to represent the BFGoodrich Drivers Team on his home event and, a little more than a week later, he was at the Belgian premises of the Kronos Racing for an initial familiarisation run with the Peugeot 207 S2000 and with BFGoodrich's range of IRC tyres. Two weeks later, it was time to line up for the start of the first stage of the Czech Republic's most popular rally, the Barum Rally Zlin, against no fewer than 21 other S2000 cars and the cream of the 2008 Intercontinental Rally Challenge!
With three years of World Championship experience behind him, however, Pavel took it all in his stride. After attentively taking onboard the advice handed out by Kronos Racing's engineers and BFGoodrich's technical staff, he paid back their confidence by posting the sixth fastest time on Friday evening's super -special through the streets of Zlin.
Serious business began the following morning in the hills around the Czech town and Pavel Valousek emerged in fourth place overall after the first attempt at the awesome Pindula stage, a Barum Rally classic. A sequence of further top-six times over the remainder of the day's tricky, long and technical challenging tests enabled him to conclude the first leg in fifth position with his co-driver Zdenek Hruza, just seconds adrift of the defending IRC Champion, Spaniard Enrique Garcia Ojeda.
After profiting from the first day to find his marks, Pavel Valousek's objective on Day 2- which practically took him past his own doorstep - was to keep his immediate chasers at bay, including the two-time European Champion Renato Travaglia, while at the same time putting pressure on
Garcia Ojeda. A third fastest time and two fourth quickest times enabled him to complete the event 2.8 seconds clear of Travaglia, while Garcia Ojeda made a mistake and went off at the end of the morning's loop. Pavel Valousek was the best-placed Czech driver at the finish and the points he has secured in his home series have boosted his chances of a possible national title following the blank scorecards returned by his two main rivals, Kresta and Pech, who both failed to last the distance.
Pavel Valousek (Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"What a rally! I'm absolutely thrilled. Before the start, I really wanted to live up to the expectations of all those who had pinned their faith in me. I think fourth place is a good result. It was a long and difficult rally, and I was glad when it finished because we had an alternator problem on the very last stage. Thankfully, we managed to make it back to Zlin! I would like to say a big thank you to everyone at Kronos Racing, BFGoodrich and Mediasport for their support."
Marc van Dalen (Director, Kronos Racing):
"Pavel put in a remarkable run and he has scored a great result for the BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation here in the Czech Republic, as well as for Kronos Racing. The Peugeot 207 S2000 is reliable and quick on all types of surface, and this weekend produced the team's fourth consecutive win of the year with the Peugeot 207 S2000. Freddy and Nicolas were first and second again, and Pavel's fourth place was the icing on the cake for us."
Jacques Morelli (IRC Programme Manager, BFGoodrich):
"Pavel is a very skilled and intelligent driver. Despite the stakes, and unlike the other top Czech drivers, he didn't put himself under any sort of pressure and didn't make a single mistake either, despite the fast, tricky stages and his lack of previous experience with a S2000 car. He took onboard all the advice he was given and put in a consistent run. With the exception of one stage on Saturday morning (11th), he posted top-ten times from start to finish and even succeeded in upping his pace to put Garcia Ojeda under pressure on the final day and stay ahead of Travaglia who has won this event twice before--"