What else would you expect from a “rally of 10.000 corners” than to deliver spectacular battles during the first leg of 2013 Tour de Corse, round five of the European Rally Championship. Set on the notoriously twisty and narrow, not to mention bumpy roads, this rally is one of the old classics, with plenty of character still intact. Oh, and when I say “roads”, I mean sidewalks with dashed line in the middle. Seriously, both from helicopter shots and onboard cameras, the roads often looked like being barely wide enough to fit a car. Add to that the always changing surface, many, many patches of different asphalt and even occasional shower or a wet spot, and that’s Tour de Corse for you.
The big story, or rather stories, today are the retirement of Robert Kubica, as well as a costly mistake by Craig Breen. Irish driver was in the lead of the rally when he made a small, but decisive mistake on special stage 4 – he lost the rear end in one of the corners, and clipped a bank. Fortunately, hit wasn’t hard enough to cause major damage to the suspension, but the tyre was murdered, and lead was lost.
Kubica then inherited the lead, but only for a short while. Not far before the end of special stage five Kubica encountered serious problems with his car. Big misfires and fuel problems meant engine was not working properly, and crew wasn’t able to track down the exact problem, so they retired for the day. If Lotos and Citroën repair Kubica’s car, he will be back tomorrow for extra leg points. Big shame for Robert, but he took it with a smile and a very positive attitude, despite not being entirely satisfied with the speed up to that point. He did, however, prove once again that he really is as fast and talented as he thinks he is – all we can hope now is he will be able to restart tomorrow.
With Kubica’s retirement all was not over, though. Bryan Bouffier inherited the lead, but also for a very short while. On the final stage of the day, an inspired drive by Jan Kopecky, and tricky conditions with few kilometers on mixed damp, wet and dry tar, saw Bouffier demoted to second place, 3.6 seconds behind new leader, Kopecky.
Is the fight very much on for tomorrow? You can bet your spare pace notes pencil it is! Kopecky, Bouffier and Breen are locked in the battle, but there is so much more to look for in tomorrow’s stages. From Kubica to always engaging Francois Delecour and the rest of the gang. Special attention should also be directed to the Mini of Stephane Sarrazin – as he is picking up the pace very quickly. Bring it on!