Jan Kopecky stands as the biggest barrier between team-mate Kalle Rovanperä and a fifth straight WRC 2 Pro victory at ADAC Rallye Deutschland (22 - 25 August) this weekend.
Kopecký edged the teenage Finn to win the WRC 2 support category in Germany 12 months ago after fighting back from a puncture. It paved the way for him to go on and win the title.
Having secured the Czech championship last weekend, Kopecký is hunting his first Pro success of the season after second places in Portugal and Italy in a Skoda Fabia R5.
“It’s all about avoiding a puncture. Last year, I was leading WRC 2 until I collected a puncture on the notorious Panzerplatte stage on the military area of Baumholder,” he said.
“Nevertheless, I could win the category thanks to a successful race to catch up. My aim this time is not to repeat this mishap, but to win again.”
Rovanperä holds a 38-point lead over Mads Østberg after wins in Chile, Portugal, Italy and Finland, but acknowledges his colleague is likely to be his biggest threat on Germany’s asphalt.
“I expect the toughest competition to come from him. After all, he won the category already in 2015 and 2018. But there are also a lot of other strong drivers and Tarmac specialists aiming for victory,” he said.
Østberg returns in a Citroën C3 after missing the previous round in Finland while Eric Camilli drives the new Ford Fiesta on its first asphalt WRC outing.
Nikolay Gryazin heads the WRC 2 field, the Russian aiming to take the championship lead in his Fabia. Victory in Finland elevated him to third, just six points off the top, and with both leader Benito Guerra and Pierre-Louis Loubet absent, Gryazin can move clear.
His closest rivals in Germany are Kajetan Kajetanowicz (Volkswagen Polo) and Fabio Andolfi (Fabia), who hold sixth and eighth respectively.
Former junior world champion Stéphane Lefebvre (Polo) makes his season debut while fellow Frenchman Nicolas Ciamin (Polo) could also feature strongly.
All must keep a close watch on German stars Fabian Kreim, national champion in 2016 and 2017, and last year’s winner, Marijan Griebel (both Fabias).