There was an outbreak of punctured tyres and broken wheels in eastern Europe at the weekend on the Barum Czech Rally Zlin. By all accounts it was a tough rally with some sections of road making the Isles of Mull and Man look positively smooth, fast and flowing. In fact, five of the top ten seeds didn't make it to the finish and not just because of punctures. Of the 105 crews which left the rally start, only 45 made it back to the finish, that's nearly half the entry.
Local pairing Pech Václav and Uhel Petr in their Mini John Cooper Works S2000 took the victory, with the best of the Brits, Neil Simpson and Claire Mole finishing just outside the top ten in 11th place in their Skoda Fabia S2000.
Alex Parpottas was 34th (10th RC4) in his Fiesta R2 and Chris Ingram made a strong showing first time out in his Rally Academy Peugeot 208 R2 finishing in 35th place and 11th in the RC4 class.
There was little luck for the Irish though, with Craig Breen and Scott 'Scoot' Martin retiring their 208 T16 on the 4th stage followed by Robert Barrable and Stuart Loudon 'retiring' twice!
Having set top six times on the first three stages, Breen retired on the fourth after making a wee mistake on a Left Hander. He then had to take to the grass on the outside of a bend to miss a road-side pole and with less grip on the green stuff than there was on the black stuff, he smacked a tree heavily causing quite a bit of damage to the car. Peugeot Rally Academy team mate, Kevin Abbring with Seb Marshall co-driving also retired on the same stage.
As for the Tunnocks team, the Fiesta broke a driveshaft in SS3 and burst the radiator on SS4. They re-started under Rally2 rules on the second day but things didn't get any better. Another puncture on the third stage of the day followed by a wheel hub breakage on the next stage put the luckless duo out of the game for good this time.
Mark Higgins and Carl Williamson retired the JRM Subaru on SS10. They were lying second in the Production Cup at the end of Day 1, but at the end of the first stage on Day 2, they were forced to retire the car with an electrical fault. Afterwards Mark said: “The brief was to get the car to the finish and not do anything silly, but the whole package was working incredibly well on the first day and that allowed us to push our way up the leaderboard to second place in GrpN and 15th overall. I felt confident on the Hankook tyres and Ohlins dampers we were using. Everything worked fantastically well."