Škoda Motorsport confirms APRC, CZ and WRC2 programmes

Huh, but what happened to European Rally Championship, in which Škoda dominated for so long? The R5 category cars are top class in ERC and it would seem natural for Škoda to bring their latest and most elaborate rally weapon to this particular series. I don’t have a clue, but I do have some possible explanations, none of which may be based on actual facts, mind you. For one, Škoda maybe does not want to launch its ERC comeback with one third of a season already finished. If titles are their goal, they probably want a fresh season, even though a limited ERC programme would not hurt them I suppose. In the presentation, Škoda said they want to introduce the car to new audiences, hence APRC participation with Pontus Tidemand. Škoda does not need special introduction in Europe – privateers will use the car in ERC I suppose, and it will meet its market goals even without direct manufacturer participation. Fabia R5 popularity will grow, if she can prove she is fast and reliable and for that I am sure WRC2, APRC and CZ national championships are enough.

It may also be that Škoda does not have a fully developed ERC programme, if they wish to run APRC, CZ and WRC2 alongside ERC campaign. Jan Kopecky should be fully capable of competing in ERC but if Škoda feels the need to show its potential in domestic market, perhaps it’s not possible to run ERC and CZ championship programmes at the same time. I would assume it’s important for Škoda to make a good first impression on key markets, and WRC2 should allow them to do that in key European regions without actually competing in the ERC. Besides, their announcement says Kopecky will “primarily” compete in Czech national championship. Primarily does not mean exclusively.

It’s a proper, elaborate and I would hope well thought out programme, with talented drivers and high ambitions. To me this is a final stage in preparation for full on assault in 2016, but what they’ll be attacking next year remains to be seen. For now I am very happy to see one of my favourite teams back in the WRC(2) – may it give Fiesta R5s a run for their money, finally.

Official announcement by Škoda Motorsport follows below. Oh, by the way, the new livery is sweeeet.

The new ŠKODA Fabia R 5

Green light: the new ŠKODA Fabia R 5 celebrates its debut on the world’s rally tracks. ŠKODA Motorsport will contest three elite rally championships this year. Fans can see the new high-tech four-wheel drive Fabia R 5 in action in the WRC 2 category of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) and the Czech Rally Championship (MČR). The new car hoping for victories will also contest the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) during the course of the season. New recruited Swedish super talent Pontus Tidemand will represent ŠKODA in the prestigious championship, with the final being held in the core market of China. Asia-Pacific Champion Jan Kopecký (CZ) and European Champion Esapekka Lappi (FIN) will also take the wheel for the ŠKODA Motorsport works team – now in the new Fabia R 5.

​”We are delighted that the International Automobile Federation, the FIA, homologated our new ŠKODA Fabia R 5. Now we want to see how competitive our new rally car is,” said ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek. He is hoping that the new Pontus Tidemand/Emil Axelsson (S/S) team will be a breath of fresh air: “We already have the Asia-Pacific champion and the European champion driving for us, who have both delivered strong performances over the past few years. In Pontus Tidemand and Emil Axelsson we have added another very talented duo to ensure we have an even better standing for the future.”

Former Junior World Rally Champion Tidemand and his co-driver will contest the APRC for ŠKODA. His season gets underway with the rally in New Zealand from 17 to 19 April – initially in the Fabia Super 2000. Jan Kopecký’s victory in ŠKODA’s core market of China clinched the title hat trick in the APRC in the Fabia Super 2000 for the Czech car manufacturer last year. “I am really looking forward to the new challenge. I am proud that my name has been added to the list of drivers for a brand as successful as ŠKODA,” said 24-year-old Tidemand, regarded as one of the most talented rally drivers in Europe.

Esapekka Lappi, who is the same age, achieved something sensational when he won the European title in 2014. Alongside his co-driver Janne Ferm, this year he will compete with the world’s elite in selected races in the WRC 2 category of the FIA World Rally Championship. ŠKODA Motorsport makes its return to the WRC at the Rally Portugal from 21 to 24 May in the new ŠKODA Fabia R 5, after a break of almost two years.

“We can’t wait for our first race in the new Fabia R 5. We are excited about the new car, it’s something really special,” said Lappi. “We are delighted to return to the WRC top tier.” Also in the new rally car, Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler will primarily compete in the Czech Rally Championship, which gets underway with the Rally Šumava Klatovy on 24/25 April.

“I am delighted that we are able to show off the new ŠKODA Fabia R 5 and what it’s capable of to the fans in our home country,” said Kopecký. Like Pontus Tidemand, he will also make selected appearances in the WRC 2 during the course of the season. The rally old hand believes that the Fabia R 5 will be an instant success: “We have tested the new car extensively. I am convinced that our team of many international engineers has done a great job.”

After an extensive inspection, the highest authority in motorsport, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) gave the new ŠKODA Fabia R 5 the green light on 1 April. The Fabia R 5 is based on ŠKODA’s spectacular new production Fabia and is the successor of the Fabia Super 2000, which went down as the most successful rally car in the 114 years of ŠKODA Motorsport’s history. The Fabia Super 2000 has picked up almost 50 national and international titles in total since 2009, in part due to the successful customer programme.

The new ŠKODA Fabia R 5 is to continue the success story. The new high-tech construction is fitted with a 1.6 litre turbo engine, as stipulated by the FIA regulations. That is a significant difference to the two-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine of the Fabia Super 2000. The new car with four-wheel drive also makes use of a sequential five-speed transmission and McPherson struts. As stipulated by the regulations, the car weighs at least 1,230 kilogrammes. To ensure that everything fits together perfectly, the ŠKODA Motorsport team has invested 15 months in intensive development since the start of the project. The aim is the reward on the rally tracks around the world.

2015 Calendar

FIA World Rally Championship 2 (WRC 2)

Event Date
Rally Monte Carlo 22/01 – 25/01/2015
Rally Sweden 12/02 – 15/02/2015
Rally Mexico 05/03 – 08/03/2015
Rally Argentina 23/04 – 26/04/2015
Rally Portugal 21/05 – 24/05/2015
Rally Italy 11/06 – 14/06/2015
Rally Poland 02/07 – 05/07/2015
Rally Finland 30/07 – 02/08/2015
Rally Germany 20/08 – 23/08/2015
Rally Australia 10/09 – 13/09/2015
Rally France 01/10 – 04/10/2015
Rally Spain 22/10 – 25/10/2015
Rally Great Britain 12/11 – 15/11/2015

Czech Rally Championship (MČR)

Event Date
Rally Šumava Klatovy 24/04 – 25/04/2015
Rally Český Krumlov 22/05 – 23/05/2015
Rally Hustopeče 19/06 – 20/06/2015
Rally Bohemia 10/07 – 12/07/2015
Barum Czech Rally Zlín 28/08 – 30/08/2015
Rally Příbram 02/10 – 04/10/2015

Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC)

Event Date
Rally Whangarei – New Zealand 17/04 – 19/04/2015
Rally New Caledonia – New Caledonia 15/05 – 17/05/2015
Rally Queensland – Australia 19/06 – 21/06/2015
Rally Malaysia – Malaysia 14/08 – 16/08/2015
Rally Hokkaido – Japan 18/09 – 20/09/2015
Rally China – China 30/10 – 01/11/2015