Kostka holds overnight lead in Zlin

Tomáš Kostka is the surprise leader of Barum Czech Rally Zlín after the opening stage of the Intercontinental Rally Challenge qualifier.

Driving a ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000, the young Czech driver – a successful circuit racer and a pacesetter in the Czech rally sprint series – was fastest through SSS Zlín, which featured three laps of a course on the streets of the rally’s host city in south-east Czech Republic.

Last year’s winner and national hero Jan Kopecký was second quickest in a factory Fabia, three seconds behind the impressive Kostka, who claims his first stage win in the IRC. Robert Barrable was third for ŠKODA Ireland with Juho Hänninen and Andreas Mikkelsen fifth and seventh respectively.

Mikkelsen, who was 14.4 seconds off the pace, reported losing time by selecting dry weather tyres, albeit with cuts, in the mistaken belief the persistent light rain would subside.

Jaroslav Orsák set the pace in the IRC Production Cup with Robert Consani topping the times in the IRC 2WD Cup in his Renault Mégane RS. However, there was early frustration for Pavel Valoušek who failed to complete the run following a reported engine problem on his Peugeot 207 Super 2000.

Although earlier rain had largely subsided, the stage surface remained damp and slippery with temperatures peaking at 17 degrees centigrade. Once again, thousands of spectators watched the stage, which included sections on cobbled roads and a railway crossing.

The first full day of action gets underway at 10:10 local time on Saturday with the 15.94-kilometre Slušovice stage. Live coverage of the ‘circuit’ test, back on the schedule for the first time in five years, will be shown on Eurosport from 10:00.

After the running order was reversed for tonight’s super-special, top seed Juho Hänninen will run at the front of field through Saturday’s eight stages.