An important sporting focus at the Central European Rally is the fight for the drivers' title in the WRC2. Veteran and defending champion Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR, Skoda), is only four points ahead of his nearest rival, Frenchman Yohan Rossel (Citroën), with Mikkelsen's English team-mate Gus Greensmith only one point behind. The problem for Rossel and Greensmith ahead of the Central European Rally: both have completed one more rally each than the leader. Mikkelsen thus had all the aces up his sleeve and his rivals were just waiting for him to run into trouble.
However, it was Rossel who got into trouble first and retired on Friday morning after finishing Day 1 leading WRC2. Mikkelsen, who took second place on Thursday, also stumbled shortly afterwards, however. Lucky for him that he was in the Czech Republic, where Škoda means as much to the local fans as Ferrari does to the Italian tifosi, he was pulled out of a seemingly hopeless position and limped on for the rest of the day with a badly damaged rear suspension.
This meant the initiative fell to Greensmith, who struggled to find confidence in the conditions throughout the day and ended up dropping to ninth in class, despite scoring the highest number of points among the potential class champions. Meanwhile, the lead was held by the Hyundai of Emil Lindstrom, who is only competing for team points in this event. The star of the day was Adrien Fourmaux, the newly crowned British Rally Championship title winner, who was thrilled with the performance of his heavily revised M-Sport Ford Fiesta MkII. Despite losing a minute due to a puncture, he fought his way back to the front on a good day. Here are the voices of the protagonists.
#21 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) / Torstein Eriksen (NOR), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2
"It was a tough day. We went off the track and lost a lot of time there. After that, it was just a matter of getting the car to the service in one piece. We had a shock problem at the left rear."
#22 Gus Greensmith (GBR) / Jonas Andersson (SWE), Škoda Fabia RS Rally2
"Our day wasn't really good. We should have got more out of the day to attack in the championship. In some places it was quite dry and in other places it was really bad mud. Without a gravel crew it's really hard to know what it's going to be like. Compared to last year in the WRC, it's much harder to read the road in WRC2. I tried to take some speed but not take any risks."
#24 Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) / Alexandre Coria (FRA), Ford Fiesta MkII Rally2
"Well, I really, really pushed and took some risks. Sometimes you have to take some, but you also have to accept to back down sometimes. It was a good stage, I'm really happy with our pace, let's see what the guys behind are doing. But it was really difficult conditions. Every corner that was cut was pure chaos.... I'm really happy that we're at the stage finish."
#27 Emil Lindholm (FIN) / Reeta Hämäläinen (FIN), Hyundai i20 N
"It was not a relaxed day at the office. But I think our performance was okay. I mean, we are leading the class and we should be happy about that. That in a new and very demanding rally. The times have varied a lot from stage to stage. We arrived here and without any problems - that's how rallying works!"
#31 Erik Cais (CZE) / Daniel Trunkát (CZE), Skoda Fabia RS
"It was definitely a long day. The stages were incredibly difficult. I liked that a lot. I'm super happy with our result, which we achieved in front of our home crowd. In the morning I still had my problems with the conditions. Later I found a good rhythm. That made the afternoon much better."