A delicately-poised title fight and a wealth of local talent gave rise to a margin of just 2.5 seconds separating the top 10 contenders in WRC2 after the opening stage in Prague. Czech star Erik Cais had the honour of leading the entire field – including the works teams of the WRC – on home soil into the first competitive test of the Central European Rally. The day ended on the historic Circuit of Klatovy with Frenchman Yohan Rossel’s Citroën at the head of the field. Points leader Andreas Mikkelsen survived a scare after bouncing off a hay bale and young Finn Sami Pajari coped well with an overshoot to stay in the hunt after an exciting first day’s running.
#11 Thierry Neuville (BEL) / Martijn Wydaeghe (BEL), Hyundai i20 N Rally1 Hybrid
"That was a long day. We didn't drive much, but we travelled a lot and did a lot of waiting. In the special stages we were calm on the road, drove cleanly. We didn't push hard. Apparently a good approach as we are in the lead. The tyre choice was not easy for the second stage. It looks like we didn't do a bad job."
#31 Erik Cais (CZE) / Daniel Trunkät (CZE) Škoda Fabia RS Rally2
“It was good, but I couldn’t shift some gears without clutch so it was a little bit tough to know when I can shift and when I can’t. So we need to figure it out, this, otherwise the car was working perfectly.”
#20 Andreas Mikkelsen (NOR) / Torstein Eriksen (NOR) Škoda Fabia RS Rally2
"The second special stage was good, but not easy. It was damp and also wet in some places. This stage was still easy, so I can imagine roughly how it will be tomorrow in the forest. We have a tough day ahead of us."
#21 Yohan Rossel (FRA) / Arnaud Dunand (FRA) Citroën C3 Rally2
"It is the shortest day of the rally. Let's see how it will be tomorrow. The second stage was not easy - in the dark on such a fast track."
#23 Sami Pajari (FIN) / Enni Mälkönen (FIN) Škoda Fabia RS Rally2
“I tried to really have a good feeling and it was going let’s say okay level at least. On the last lap (of SS2) we overshot one junction a bit. I just completely locked the wheels on the braking, so a bit of time lost there but no drama.”
#24 Adrien Fourmaux (FRA) / Alexandre Coria (FRA) Ford Fiesta MkII Rally2
“Actually it was quite a tricky stage that one in the dark with the dirt. I was watching the live (coverage) and it looks quite clean on the first Rally1 car but when you arrive it’s much different actually a lot of dirt is going on the road. It’s drying up also on some lines which was surprising. But I’m happy with the day, it was a short day actually but really long with the long road section, tomorrow will be a big challenge so looking forward.”
#45 Albert von Thurn und Taxis (GER) / Jara Hain (GER), Skoda Fabia RS
"I am happy to be in Passau. The long liaison stages and the two short stages - that doesn't suit me so well. But I am satisfied with how it went. The second special stage was difficult. A thin track was clean and the rest was dirty - especially in the cuts. It went better than I thought. I was rather cautious today. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."
#46 Martin Roßgatterer (AUT) / Jürgen Heigl (AUT), Skoda Fabia Evo
"When I inspected it, it quickly became clear to me why this is the top class. The special stages are incredibly difficult. The cuts in particular are extreme. I am incredibly grateful to have been given the chance to prove myself at this level. What has already happened today, the hustle and bustle - it's impressive! I hope I can enjoy it until Sunday."
#49 Johannes Keferböck (AUT) / Ilka Mimor (AUT), Skoda Fabia RS
"It was slippery today and with my glasses it's hard for me to drive at night. Today was the day to get into a groove, tomorrow the rally starts!"