A second win for Freddy Loix (Peugeot/BFGoodrich)
Following his victory on home soil in Ypres, Freddy Loix has added a second success to his 2008 record thanks to an emphatic win on this weekend'sBarum Rally Zlin. As in Belgium last June, his team-mate Nicolas Vouilloz followed him across the line in second place to claim a one-two finish for Peugeot Belux, while fellow Frenchman Bryan Bouffier made it an all-Peugeot/BFGoodrich podium. The BFGoodrich Drivers Team operation was a resounding success again with Pavel Valousek securing fourth place overall.
Peugeot-Belux'sFreddy Loix and Nicolas Vouilloz were the dominating forces of the 2008 Barum Rally Zlin, the technically challenging and fast stages of which were not unlike those featured on the Ypres Rally earlier in the year when the Franco-Belgian pair also came first and second. Indeed, the combination of the Kronos Racing-prepared Peugeot 207 S2000s, their BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler tyres and the speed of the team's two ex-WRC drivers is turning out to be something of a winning combination on this type of asphalt event.
Nicolas Vouilloz, winner of the recent round on the island of Madeira, emerged as the early leader thanks to his win on Friday evening's super -special in Zlin, and he succeeded in holding on to his advantage for much of Saturday. However, his team-mate Freddy Loix picked up two fastest times on Saturday morning, then a further three in the afternoon to round off of the first full day of competition on top, four seconds clear of Vouilloz.
By this time, several top names had already fallen by the wayside, including the two factory Abarth/BFGoodrich drivers, Alen and Basso (gearbox), and the 2008 Czech championship front- runners Roman Kresta (Peugeot/BFGoodrich, accident, SS2) and Vaclav Pech (Mitsubishi/BFGoodrich, gearbox, SS5). The final stage of the day also saw Luca Rossetti (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) fall back from third to eighth place after going off and collecting a puncture.
The start of the second leg played into the hands of Freddy Loix when a faulty driveshaft nut delayed the Peugeot/BFGoodrich of Vouilloz. The Frenchman nonetheless managed to hold on to second spot ahead of his compatriot Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) who has worked his way up through the ranks of Peugeot's one -make series. The 2007 Polish champion celebrated his first IRC outing with a top-three finish and four fastest times to narrowly ward off the BFGoodrich Drivers Team representative Pavel Valousek, despite picking up a minute's penalty .
Sunday's action saw the latter hang on to his position despite pressure from the two -time European Champion Renato Travaglia (Abarth/BFGoodrich), while the reigning IRC champ Enrique Garcia Ojeda (Peugeot/BFGoodrich) lost five minutes following an off.
The Spaniard is now looking forward to the chance of reaping revenge in three weeks time when the IRC visits Oviedo for the Rally Principe de Asturias, an event he won in 2007. Nicolas Vouilloz
still tops the provisional IRC Drivers' standings ahead ofRossetti and Loix who are split by just three points. In the Manufacturers' points table, Peugeot's sixth win and fourth one-two of the season has taken the French make even further clear at the top.
Freddy Loix (1st, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"I'm delighted. We had a good scrap with Nicolas yesterday. He was slowed by a mechanical problem today and that enabled me to control from in front. My car ran like clockwork and our BFGoodrich g-Force Profiler A10 tyres performed extremely well on this weekend's stages."
Nicolas Vouilloz (2nd, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"Today was quite tough for us. We had a problem with a driveshaft nut which forced us to lift over the morning's loop. After that we had trouble with the starter motor at the start of a stage, and I also had a spin. Despite all that, we've come away from the weekend with some valuable Drivers' points, so that's a very positive result."
Bryan Bouffier (3rd, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"I had a little difficulty finding the ideal pace for this event which was completely new to me. I threw away a few seconds here and there on the opening stages but I was able to start pushing harder from Saturday afternoon. Had it not been for our minute's penalty, we could possibly have finished higher, but that's rallying."
Jacques Morelli (IRC Programme Manager, BFGoodrich):
"After the twisty profile of the stages in Madeira, the g-Force Profiler A10 showed that it is equally at home over the faster, more rolling terrain found in the countryside round Zlin and which calls for different strengths from a tyre, including precision and response. We practically didn't have any punctures this weekend; Luca Rossetti punctured after going off and Bernd Casier picked up a slow puncture after cutting a corner on Saturday morning. The drivers knew the stages better this year and had marked all the metal rods and trickier turns in their notes. The rally turned out to be a fight between the two Peugeot-Belux drivers."
Renato Travaglia (5th, Abarth/BFGoodrich):
"I gave it everything I had on the final stage in an attempt to beat Valousek and I nearly went off in the process. My car performed well this weekend but I made a poor tyre call on Saturday morning and that possible cost me fourth place. At least we're the best placed Abarth Grande Punto finishers today."
Luca Rossetti (7th, Peugeot/BFGoodrich):
"I'm disappointed. We were third when we went off. The Rally Principe de Asturias doesn't figure on my programme, so our chances of winning the IRC title have taken a bit of a blow. We'll see where we stand after the Sanremo--"
Next round: Rally Principe de Asturias (September 12-13)