Barum Czech Rally Zlín will take place for the 42nd time this year. It will go on at the end of August in Zlín region. Let us have a look at previous years of the rally which has become one of the best events of the European Rally Championship.
An amateur competition, which started the history of the Barum Rally in 1971, continued as a part of the Car Championship of ČSSR in the next year. The spectators could especially admire the legend blue "alpin" driven by Vladimír Hubáček. In 70-ies the starting field included mostly cars Škoda 100, 110 and 120 driven by the top drivers as Milan Žid, Oldřich Horsák, Karel Šimek or Jiří Šedivý, but also by incoming generation to which belonged Václav Blahna, Leo Pavlík, Milan Zapadlo etc. For this period it was typical the presence of so called "sprint stages" and also of "qualification and special round stages". Even here it was the rule that the man who wanted to win had to hardly practise not only SS but also the total distances. Some of them were very difficult and technical sections, very often in the dark and with speed rhythm. It was driven in the heart of Beskydy and Javorníky and the course reached also Slovakia. Don´t make any illusions, there was a lot of beautiful parts but also a lot of speed asphalt ones as well as broken gavel ones there. Home fans used to watch competition stars of early 70-ies in the Vltava Rally in Klatovy. But after the year 1974, the focus was slowly moving to the superior driving field of the Barum Rally. The starting list of the 4th year was dominated by the names like Walter Röhrl, Franze Wittmann, Ilja Čubrikov or Werner Hauck. Many Austrian, German and Italian crews visited the Barum Rally also in the next years. Some of them with favour, some of them with apprehension drove through the famous gavel SS nearby Strážnice.
In the second part of 70-ies the super car from Mladá Boleslav, type Škoda 130 RS plant dominated. The legendary Norwegian John Haugland gained three victories (in 1976, 1979 and 1980) with this car. And when he had a bad luck in 1977 and 1978, they were his colleagues Václav Blahna and Jiří Šedivý who won. A few speed Italian drivers representing the team Quattro Rombi Corse visited former Gottwaldov during the decade break. They drove very well-prepared cars Fiat 131 Abarth and Fiat Ritmo. Even though the star crews "Lucky" Fabrizia Ponz and Ceccato de Antoni didn´t succeed, the team left a very good impression in Walachia. In 1981 it was their compatriot Andrea Zanussi with Porsche 911 SC who gained the victory. In those days the competition course was formed to the shape which was known till the 90-ies. Beside the classical stages Pindula and Maják, the new beautiful and hard SS in the Kašava surrounding were built as well as the Vsetín section. The charm and glamour of the Barum Rally was in its atmosphere together with the magic of night passages in Kopná, under the Malenovice castle or in Pindula.
Looking back to history of the Barum Rally we can find few really interesting years. Beside the years 197, 1976, 1981 and lately 1990 and 1991 it was surely the year 1985. In the course of the Barum Rally was firstly introduced the car Škoda 130 L, category B, the successor of legendary "130 RS". This legend managed to take, during its final ride, all victory places of the 13th rally after the beautiful Křeček fight against Swede Jokim. The starting field of the 15th year was kinged by foreign drivers with Renault 5 Turbo (Hungarian Ferjancz,Yugoslav Kuzmič) and Opel Manta or Ascona 400 (the Germans Moosleitner, Hainbach, Richter) and the absolute top was Audi Quattro, with which German Harald Demuth vindicated his victory from the year 1984.
For the next two years the competition reached Slovakia, the Topolčany surrounding. The name of Slovak mountains Tríbeč, in the heart of which one of the most beautiful central European SS Solčany - Lefantovce took place, was added to the name of rally. A similar beauty-spot was offered by mountains Povážský Inovec with 31 km of asphalt and gavel in the Dubodiel - Závada section. For the first time it was Leo Pavlík and Karel Jirátko who won, next to them stood on the "victory box" Jiří Sedlář and third came Armin Schwarz. While for the German driver it was the beginning towards to the European top, the talent of his opponent was burnt in 3-year later accident during the test ride. The epoch of the category A was started in the Barum Rally by the crew Attila Ferjancz, dr. János Tandari (Audi Coupé Quattro). In 1988 this crew appeared here again and its chance for victory was taken by the presence of the top Austrian drivers with the "Emperor" Franz Wittmann in the head. He dominated the rally for the next two years and gained the points to the Austrian Championship. At the beginning of the 90-ies the Barum Rally had the coefficient 10 and the starting lists with well-known names of the top European drivers fighting for the European victory. The great fight between Finn Sundstöm and Dutch Bosch with the Finnish victory in 1990 continued with the triumphs of Belgian Patrick Snijers (1991, 1994) and of German Erwing Weber (1992). The victory desire of Austrian Raimund Baumschlager was fullfiled in 1993. Josef Sivík, the driver who participated in all previous years of the Barum Rally, started for the last time in the 22nd year and he reached the final fifth position. Top Czech drivers captured then the second half of the 90-ies. Italian Enrico Bertone became, thanks to the Czech licence and especially thanks to the Czech (and later Slovak) "country back home" a part of that top and he firstly won in Zlín in 1995. So a new name of European champion appeared on the Barum Rally cup, after Snijers and Weber. Bertone´s absence allowed Czech Stanislav Chovanec to win in 1996, because it was him who managed best all the springes of that year night leg.
A dominant element of the track of the 90-ies became a test polygon in the Tatra Kopřivnice car factory area. That perfectly suited both Bertone driving style and the potential of his Toyota Celica cars, and became a basic success of his victories in 1997 and 1998. How would Bertone act in the trial for the third victory with Renault Megane Maxi – this remained an unanswered question. Famous Italian retired after SS 1 and it was Polish driver Janusz Kulig with Toyota Celica who rejoiced in victory. A Challenge Trophy for the Barum Rally winner could gain its permanent owner for the first time. A condition for that is a three-peat victory or five victories in total. Zlín driver Roman Kresta with company car Škoda Octavia WRC won the jubilee 30th Barum Rally Zlín, leaving back Italian Bertone. Kresta in his 24 fulfilled his big dream. The native from Trnava in Zlínsko became also the youngest winner in the Barum Rally history. Kresta triumphed over again in 2001.
In 2002 the organizers with Miloslav Regner in the head lived to experience a deserved evaluation – the promotion among the European elite with the highest coefficient 20! We could see totally 15 WRC specification cars and eight drivers with FIA B priority! More than a quarter of million spectators were watching a dramatic rally and an exciting fight between two excellent drivers for the period of three days. Czech champion Roman Kresta with Octavia and Italian champion Renato Travaglia with Peugeot excited the spectators, when only Polish drivers Janusz Kulig with Ford and Leszek Kuzaj with Peugeot were able to compete with them. Kresta had an accident in SS 3 and it was Travaglia who celebrated worthily the victory. He did a significant step towards the future European champion title in Zlín.
The dramatic final was complicated by bad weather in 2006. Nevertheless, the crew of Romant Kresta, Petr Gross (Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX) won the rally. There are only three other drivers who won Barum Rally three times - Enrico Bertone, John Haugland and Vladimír Hubáček. However, no-one has won three times consecutively so far. Václav Pech was second, however, he had some problems with his Lancer’s turbo which started to steam by the end of the SS 13. Jandík and Bouffier fought over the third place. It was the last special stage that decided that the crew of Bryan Bouffier, Xavier Panseri will achieve the third place. These French (Peugeot 206 S1600) became a nice surprise of the rally.
Last year the rally became a part of the prestigious Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC). The rally was won by Nicolas Vouilloz of the Peugeot Sport Espaňa team who also won Turkish Fiat Rally in May. The second place was achieved by Enrique García Ojeda of the same team. Peugeot 207 S2000 was successfully introduced by them. Also Czech drivers achieved high standings. Václav Pech achieved the third place, Roman Kresta was fourth and Václav Arazim sixth. All of them drove Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IX. Bernd Casier from Belgium was fifth. One of the Top 10 drivers was Simon Jean-Joseph from France who then became the European champion for the second time.
38th Barum Czech Rally Zlín was ruled by Peugeot cars – their crews were the four fastest in the finish! The winner was Freddy Loix from Belgium. His main rival during the rally was Bryan Bouffier, who returned to Zlín after one year pause. But French lost his winning chances after he was given one minute penalty for early coming to one of the time controls. The podium completed Loix’s team mate Nicolas Vouilloz. Fourth place went to the best Czech crew of Pavel Valoušek and Zdeněk Hrůza. French car Peugeot 207 S2000 was used specially for this rally also by Roman Kresta, but his journey ended already on the second special stage Pindula, where the local driver had a huge high-speed off. Another interesting moment of the rally was the debut of new Škoda Fabia S2000, which was ran due to missing homologation and unfinished development as a zero car with Jan Kopecký behind the wheel.
One year later, this new Czech car dominated Barum Czech Rally Zlín with probably the best starting field in its history. It offered various cars (24 specials of S2000 category) and famous and interesting names such as local drivers Jan Kopecký, Pavel Valoušek, Roman Kresta or junior world rally champion Martin Prokop, as well as foreign stars like Kris Meeke, who became an IRC Chamiopn by the end of the season, Juho Hänninen representing Czech factory team Škoda Motorsport. Everybody also had to count with drivers, who entered the single IRC race right at the Czech event, for example Evgeny Novikov from Russia or János Tóth from Hungary. But finaly it was Czech crew Jan Kopecký – Petr Starý, who was dictating the speed during the whole weekend. Second place went to Kris Meeke debuting at the Czech ground, as third finished Juho Hänninen. Roman Kresta was the fourth fastest and was happy to reach the finish after his dramatic retirement from previous year. The Top 5 completed Martin Prokop, who did start with S2000 car for the first time.
The anniversary fourtieth edition will remain in minds mainly because of its really unpleasant weather. Intensive rain during the whole event made the rally an extremely tough test of the driving skills and the cars abilities. Many favourite crews broke their teeth on demanding wet special stages – amongs them were for example local hero Roman Kresta or Jan Kopecký, the winner of previous Barum Czech Rally Zlín edition. On the other hand, the spectators could watch an intensive fight for the overall win between Belgian Freddy Loix and Frenchman Bryan Bouffier. Still before the final special stage it wasn’t clear, who would take the glory, but tough special stage Pindula served the solution very soon. Bouffier made a mistake and finished the rally with 10 minutes loss. Freddy Loix won in Zlín for the second time, second place took another representative of the Škoda Motorsport team, Juho Hänninen from Finland. The last podium place captured local driver and later Czech national champion Pavel Valoušek – all these drivers used Škoda Fabia S2000 cars.
One of the beggiset attractions of the 2011 edition was resurrection of the legendary special stage Maják with its route going through woody hills not far from the Zlín city centre. Its opening section is finished with famous hairpins at the Malenovice castle, which were again after more than 20 years fiiled with crowds of spectators. This stage was one of the key moments of the whole event. Bryan Bouffier (Peugeot) was forced to retire after braking two wheels at the same time, and Jan Kopecký (Škoda) was struggling with problems of his car. After first passage of SS Maják, the Czech almost completely lost his lead, which he hardly built during the first leg. Since that time the fight between Kopecký and his follower Freddy Loix was the spice of the event - the Belgian was hardly pushing up to the finish, but Kopecký defended his leading position and won the rally by the closest margin in the BCRZ history - only 1.2 seconds split these two rivals, both using the factory prepared cars Škoda Fabia S2000.