BARUM CZECH RALLY ZLIN (29-31 AUGUST): THE PEUGEOT RALLY ACADEMY BACK IN ACTION AFTER SUMMER BREAK
More than two months after the team’s last appearance at Belgium’s Geko Ypres Rally in June, the Peugeot Rally Academy kicks off the second part of its 2014 ERC campaign in the Czech Republic where two Peugeot 208 T16s will appear in the hands of Craig Breen and Kevin Abbring, along with a Peugeot 208 R2 for Stéphane Lefebvre. The Peugeot squad will be targeting a seventh win for the Peugeot 208 T16 this season on this hugely popular event.
The Barum Czech Rally Zlin… a top FIA ERC fixture…
The 122 crews registered for the 44th running of the Czech event, round eight of the 2014 ERC, features almost 238 competitive kilometres divided into 15 special stages. The entry list includes 208 T16s for Craig Breen and Kevin Abbring, plus a 208 R2 for Stéphane Lefebvre. In addition to the Peugeot Rally Academy trio, Christopher Ingram and Gino Bux are also taking part in 208 R2s with backing from Peugeot UK (which was behind Kris Meeke’s programme in the Peugeot 207 Super 2000 in 2009) and Peugeot Belgium Luxembourg (also active in the IRC and ERC over the years) respectively. Bruno Magalhães, who secured one of the 208 T16’s first outright successes on the island of Madeira, will be in the Czech Republic, as well.
Craig Breen’s sights set on title…
Craig Breen and Scott Martin are third in the provisional ERC standings and will be out to narrow the 48-point gap that separates them from the current leader, Finland’s Esapekka Lappi. The Irishman is reputed for his speed on asphalt and his aim is to notch up his second victory of the year after his triumph on March’s Acropolis Rally. He will have the benefit of his previous visit to the Czech rally in 2011. After what has been a studious break for everyone at the Peugeot Rally Academy, Craig and Scott will be able to count on the work put in over the summer to make the 208 T16 an even more reliable and competitive package. They have been seeded number one and fully intend to honour that status by figuring at the top of the leaderboard at the finish in Zlin on Sunday evening.
Kevin Abbring eager for revenge
After coming close to winning in Ypres where he emerged ahead of the Belgian classic’s multiple winner Freddy Loix, Kevin Abbring has his sights on a top result this weekend. He came second in the Acores and, along with his co-driver Sebastian Marshall, has consistently challenged for victory each time out this season. They certainly have the ability and speed required to get their score off the mark in the Czech Republic.
Stéphane Lefebvre: in a strong position for the FIA ERC Junior title!
Stéphane Lefebvre currently sits second in the FIA ERC Junior standings, a single point short of fellow 208 R2 runner Jan Černý, and his objective in the Czech Republic is to move to the top of the table. The Frenchman and his co-driver Thomas Dubois have already won the category in the Acores and in Ypres and hope to make it three in a row in Zlìn. Stéphane is perfectly familiar with the 208 R2 with which he has secured 32 fastest times, but he won’t be able to afford to make any mistakes against his direct rival who will be competing on home soil. Chris Ingram/Gabin Moreau and Gino Bux/Eric Borguet are respectively third and fourth in the provisional FIA ERC Junior standings in their respective 208 R2s. The Peugeot UK- and Peugeot Finance-backed Englishman is a quick up-and-coming youngster whose association with the 208 R2 promises to reap rewards very soon. Gino Bux, too, benefits from support from a Peugeot subsidiary, namely Peugeot Belgium-Luxembourg, and he stands out as another potential podium finisher, as he demonstrated in the Acores. The seven other 208 R2 drivers on the entry list include Andrea Crugnola who came second behind Stéphane Lefebvre in Ypres.
The 208 T16 en route to another win in 2014?
The 208 T16 has already collected six wins this season (two in Italy with Paolo Andreucci, two in Denmark with Christian Jensen, one in Portugal with Bruno Magalhães and ERC success for Craig Breen in Greece). It has also provided an eloquent demonstration of its speed with a score of 28 stage victories in the ERC (Breen: 13 / Abbring: 15) and is a serious contender each time out. Victory in the Czech Republic on Sunday would see Peugeot Sport’s latest challenger join the 206 WRC (2002, in the hands of Renato Travaglia) and the 207 S2000 (2007, Nicolas Vouilloz / 2008, Freddy Loix) on the list of Barum Czech Rally Zlìn winners.
Craig Breen: «It’s great to be back in the company of everyone at the Peugeot Rally Academy for the Barum Czech Rally Zlìn. It’s been some time since our last outing together in Ypres and I can’t wait to get back in the 208 T16. I did this rally in 2011 and it really is a one-off event, with extremely narrow, but fast and bumpy stages. Changeable weather frequently adds to its complexity and there is likely to be a close fight for the top places, not only between the leading ERC drivers, but also between the local crews who are very quick. Scott [Martin] and I will just try to give it our very best shot.»
Kevin Abbring: «I have fond recollections of this rally because I won the two-wheel drive class here in 2010. I believe it has changed a bit since then, though. If the weather is dry, it will probably be a delicate exercise because of the changes in grip levels but I think it will be exciting because the stages flow nicely. If it rains, it will be more complex because there is a great deal of black-top asphalt which can become as slippery as ice, and it’s the sort of hazard that is difficult to note. There are always a lot of spectators and the atmosphere is incredible, but it could turn out to be one of the toughest rounds of the championship.»
Stéphane Lefebvre: «This is my first attempt at the Barum Czech Rally Zlìn. My sights are set on the FIA ERC Junior title so I will need to win. My main rival will probably be Jan Černý because it’s his home event and he is leading the championship. We’ll do our best to match his pace and hopefully beat him!»
Provisional championship positions:
1 Esapekka LAPPI (Skoda Fabia Super 2000) 118 points – 2. Sepp WIEGAND (Skoda Fabia Super 2000) 78 points – 3. CRAIG BREEN / SCOTT MARTIN (PEUGEOT 208 T16) 70 points – 4. Vasily GRYAZIN (Ford Fiesta Super 2000) 53 points – 5. Kajetan KAJETANOWICZ (Ford Fiesta R5) 48 points – 6. Robert KUBICA (Ford Fiesta RRC) 39 points – 7. Ott TANAK (Ford Fiesta R5) et KEVIN ABBRING / SEBASTIAN MARSHALL (PEUGEOT 208 T16) 38 points etc…
Timetable: Wednesday (August 27): recce
Thursday (August 28): recce / scrutineering and documentation
Friday (August 29): qualifying / test s/ start ceremony / Zlìn super-special
Saturday (August 30) and Sunday (August 31): 2014 Barum Czech Rally Zlìn