WRC 2 in 2018:
Kopecký tops Skoda shoot-out
A battle between determined team-mates provided season-long drama in the WRC 2 category during 2018, as Jan Kopecký dethroned reigning champion Pontus Tidemand.
Running complementary programmes, the Skoda Motorsport duo dominated the series as they swept to eight victories between them in their Fabia R5s.
Only directly competing against each other once, Kopecký and Tidemand traded the championship lead five times and the destination of the title was only decided at the penultimate round, RallyRACC Catalunya – Rally de España.
Finishing second in Spain earned Kopecký his first WRC 2 title. His success came after three seasons trying and 16 years after he tackled his maiden WRC event. The 36-year-old was a popular winner.
Although he was crowned champion in Spain, the reality was the title fight had taken a decisive twist a month earlier.
Going head-to-head with Kopecký at Rally Turkey, Tidemand knew he had to beat his Czech rival to stand a chance of retaining his crown. But breaking two wheels on consecutive stages proved disastrous for the Swede and he scored zero points.
Tidemand also lost seven crucial points when he suffered a surprise defeat at Rally Sweden. The 27-year-old was favourite for victory at his home event but was eclipsed by Toyota development driver Takamoto Katsuta who mastered the snowy conditions and secured his first WRC 2 success.
While experienced heads Kopecký and Tidemand led Skoda’s title charge, their 18-year-old team-mate Kalle Rovanperä made his own headlines as he translated his raw pace into stunning victories in Spain and at Dayinsure Wales Rally GB.
However, his inexperience at the highest level also cost him. He crashed out of the lead at YPF Rally Argentina and dropped from first to third at Neste Rally Finland after clouting a rock and picking up suspension damage.
Gus Greensmith emerged as the closest challenger to the dominant Skodas, but the Briton struggled for consistency across the season.
He steered his Ford Fiesta to four podiums, but a nasty crash during his pre-event ADAC Rallye Deutschland test forced a co-driver change and a pair of retirements there and in Turkey robbed him of his early momentum. He finished fourth in the standings.
Other drivers that found rally-winning form were Eerik Pietarinen and Alberto Heller. Pietarinen made a successful category debut in Finland as he took victory on his home stages by more than a minute. Heller took his maiden WRC 2 win at Kennards Hire Rally Australia, finishing 27 minutes ahead of Gianluca Linari’s Subaru Impreza.
2018 reflections - part 1
Retrospective from a memorable year
Junior WRC in 2018: Super Swedes show their class
Emil Bergkvist had to work hard for title success
In Pictures: WRC Gala Night Awards
WRC stars bring glitz and glamour to Sydney