Into rival territory! The ninth round of the 2010 IRC takes teams to the Barum Czech Rally Zlin in the Czech Republic, home of the biggest rivals of the Peugeot 207 S2000 and its drivers! This explains why the French make's representatives ...
Into rival territory!
The ninth round of the 2010 IRC takes teams to the Barum Czech Rally Zlin in the Czech Republic, home of the biggest rivals of the Peugeot 207 S2000 and its drivers! This explains why the French make's representatives have set their sights so high for the weekend, although their expectations are tinged with a certain degree of lucidity.
A support role for French and Polish Championship proponent Bryan Bouffier
To defend his chances, Meeke will be able to count on the support of fellow 207 S2000 contender Bryan Bouffier who has good previous experience of the Czech fixture which he finished in third place in 2008.
"It's a great event for drivers," enthuses the Frenchman. "It is extremely popular and there is always a terrific atmosphere."
At the end of July, Meeke and Bouffier attended a test session during which they worked on establishing a set-up for the Barum Rally's specific asphalt tests.
"It's not easy to find the ideal compromise between optimum performance and driveability for this event," notes Bryan. "You need a car that is capable of taking the frequent bumpy portions in its stride, but which is also nicely balanced through the faster corners. Even so, I will do my utmost to score as many points as possible for Peugeot in the IRC Manufacturers Challenge."
More international experience for Thierry Neuville
The Czech event is the fourth of the six appearances that figure on Thierry Neuville's 2010 programme with the Peugeot Belgium-Luxemburg 207 S2000. "As has been the case practically each time out, I will have a great deal to discover and learn," stresses the Belgian youngster, "and I haven't driven the car since Ypres!"
Thierry completed his home round in a resounding third place and was also the best-placed Peugeot driver at the finish.
"My number one priority will be to find my marks again before gradually upping my pace. I will be careful not to exceed my limits, however, because my car won't have the latest evolutions that Kris and Bryan will benefit from."
No fewer than eleven Peugeot 207 S2000s have been entered for this weekend's Barum Rally Zlin, including a car for Peugeot Turkey's Burçu Cetinkaya who is continuing to familiarise himself with the top European rallies.
Kris Meeke (Peugeot UK): cautiously ambitious
On his way to claiming last year's IRC crown, Kris Meeke finished second on the 2009 Barum Rally Zlin.
"I picked up a puncture on the super-special through the streets of Zlin. I know exactly where I hit the kerb, and I won't be making the same mistake twice. I spent the next two days fighting my way back up to second place. Even without that puncture, though, I don't believe I would have been able to catch Jan Kopecky who was very quick on home soil."
That observation leads the Peugeot UK driver to be cautiously ambitions ahead of this year's visit to the Czech Republic.
"This time round, given how the first part of the season has gone, I will be pleased to finish on the podium. I really enjoy the Barum Rally. It's as near as the IRC gets to the sort of event I am familiar with back home in Ireland. It's fast, tricky and varied, with plenty of surprises. You've constantly got your work cut out because the grip keeps changing all the time."
Kris believes he is better equipped for the specific challenge of the Czech stages than he was 12 months ago: "Peugeot Sport's engineers have clearly done their homework. The 207 S2000 has taken a leap forward in terms of driveability. Its handling is progressive and predictable, which means I now feel particularly confident over the bumps and changes of grip. I feel optimistic, but I don't want to get carried away given the number of times I've put too much faith in my chances this year. That said, I haven't changed the way I approach each rally. I still have a mathematical chance of defending my title and I will continue to give it my best shot all the way. I'm not someone who gives up easily!"