A legendary round of the European Autocross Championship, this year’s Nova Paka event in the Czech Republic served up varied (four categories and four winners of different nationalities) and sometimes unexpected results. The exception was in SuperBuggy, where Bernd Stubbe, untroubled, continues to dominate.
The Nordschleife of the Nürburgring is also called the “Green Hell”, on account of the extreme difficulty of negotiating the 22 kilometre circuit in the heart of the Eifel forests. Although Nova Paka is far shorter at only 903 metres, for Autocross drivers this circuit serves to separate the wheat from the chaff in the FIA European Championship. Apart from the starting area, no section of the track is flat, and the relief is truly impressive. The uphills are like walls, the downhills like toboggan runs – reminiscent of the roller coaster thrill rides that you find in amusement parks. While the circuit is a real challenge for the drivers, for the spectators, positioned on the infield with a panoramic view of the whole show, it is paradise.
Every year since 1979, Nova Paka has hosted one of the two Czech events featured on the calendar of the FIA European Autocross Championship, and there are many drivers whose ambition it is to race there at least once in the course of their career. It is therefore not surprising that a new record for participation was set at this year’s edition, with 119 starters, 40 of them in the flagship category (SuperBuggy) and more than 20 in JuniorBuggy.
Except for Jakub Novotny, who emerged as the winner in the Junior category to the delight of the crowd, the local drivers did not achieve the results that they had hoped for, at least in the race itself. Leading after the qualifying heats for the SuperBuggy category, both Jakub Kubicek and Radek Jordak knocked themselves out, impacting the guardrail on the inside of the last corner and each of them breaking a wheel, Kubicek in the semi-final and Jordak in the final. Both of them were at the time trying to hunt down the notorious Bernd Stubbe, who had been less dominant than usual on the qualifying heats but proved omnipresent when it came to the final phase. The German led the final from start to finish, fully asserting his authority, and finished ahead of Latvia’s Ervins Grencis and Czech David Horak. With four victories from the five races run so far this season, Stubbe is logically way ahead of his closest rivals, in a Championship that he is well on the way to winning for the tenth time.
Despite the great expectations of his many supporters, Vaclav Fejfar (Skoda Fabia) was prevented from continuing his duel this season in the TouringAutocross category with the young Russian Matvey Furazhkin (Skoda Fabia). With a broken engine, the veteran was obliged to throw in the towel in the qualifying stages, leaving Furazhkin to carry off his fifth easy win in a row.
The Czech Republic’s Petr Nikodem, now a two-time European Champion in the Buggy1600 category after serving his youthful apprenticeship in JuniorBuggy, hoped to excel in his home race and thus justify his status as favourite. But throwing a spanner in the works was Austria’s Remo Kobras, a driver who takes part only sporadically in the European Championship events but was on great form at Nova Paka. The clear winner of his semi-final, Kobras did not succumb to the pressure in the final and committed no errors that would have given Nikodem an opening to overtake. Nikodem nevertheless remains the leader in the provisional classification of the Championship, ahead of his compatriot Milan Vanek, who finished third at Nova Paka, and Frenchman Vincent Mercier.
In JuniorBuggy, Jakub Novotny, the winner at Nova Paka, has reduced the Championship lead of the Netherlands’ Bart Van der Putten to a mere 5 points. Van der Putten took the second step of the podium in the Czech Republic, accompanied by his sister Chantal who achieved a brilliant third place in the final.
Four events remain to be run in this year’s FIA European Autocross Championship. The next competition will take place in France, at the Saint-Georges-de-Montaigu circuit, on 21 and 22 July.
To consult the provisional classifications of the European Championship, click here.
To view the photo gallery of the Nova Paka event, click here.