With three rounds of the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge still to contest, Skoda has sewn up this year’s Manufacturers’ crown to bring a halt to three years of Peugeot domination. The Czech carmaker’s success brings BFGoodrich’s score to four consecutive titles.
A run of six wins – including three one-two finishes and two one-two-threes – from the nine events contested to date this season has seen the Skoda Fabia S2000 dominate on every type of terrain, from dirt to sealed surfaces.
Although the company Skoda was founded in 1869, it was only in 1926 that the first Skoda-badged car rolled off the production line of its Mlada Boleslav plant in the then Czechoslovak Republic. The make’s competition debut, too, dates back to the interwar period when it successfully campaigned its 1101 and 1102 models on a variety of European rallies.
In the 1970s, the 180 RS, 130 RS and 120 S Skoda Coupés notched up a number of international rally wins ahead of the brand’s involvement in the World Rally Championship with the Favorit, Felicia and Felicia Kit-Car.
More recently, Skoda made an ambitious assault on the WRC (in association with Michelin) with the Octavia, scoring a podium finish on Kenya’s Safari Rally before the Fabia WRC went on to post some top results until its withdrawal in 2007.
It was at the Geneva Motor Show in February 2007 that Skoda took the wraps off its new Fabia S2000 ahead of the firm’s Intercontinental Rally Challenge programme. After focusing on the car’s development in 2008 (with Carlos Sainz enrolled for some test work), the BFGoodrich-equipped Skoda Fabia S2000 made its debut on the 2009 Rallye Monte-Carlo where it impressed in the hands of Juho Hanninen and Jan Kopecky.
Its maiden IRC win came on gravel, in Russia, in July 2009, with Finland’s Juho Hanninen at the wheel. That success was followed up in August by a home success on asphalt for Czech driver Jan Kopecky, while Briton Guy Wilks rounded the year off with a further victory in muddy Scotland.
This season, the face-lifted version of the Skoda Fabia S2000 has emerged as the car to beat in the S2000 class. “Its excellent chassis is very well balanced,” says BFGoodrich’s IRC programme manager Jacques Morelli. “Skoda and BFGoodrich started working together in the WRC in 2006 and our association continued in the IRC, with the Manufacturers’ title coming after its second year in the series. The Skoda Fabia S2000 is also starring on BFGoodrich customer-competition tyres in a variety of national championship, including the Czech series with Pavel Valousek, and in Spain with Alberto Hevia. Both drivers currently top their respective points tables…”
Michal Hrabánek (Director, Skoda Motorsport): “This result is a huge success for the Skoda brand in general. We see the IRC Manufacturers’ title as the fruit of a team effort by all those involved in the Skoda Fabia S2000 project. I would like to thank not only our drivers, but also the team’s engineers and mechanics. This is an important step in Skoda’s motorsport history. The season isn’t over yet and we now intend to focus on winning the Drivers’ crown, beginning with our preparations for the Rally Sanremo.”
Indeed, Skoda and BFGoodrich have planned a big test ahead of late-September’s visit to the Italian Riviera.
Skoda’s IRC wins with BFGoodrich:
2009 Russia Rally (Hanninen)
2009 Barum Rally Zlin (Kopecky)
2009 Rally of Scotland (Wilks)
2010 Rally Argentina (Hanninen)
2010 Rally Islas Canarias (Kopecky)
2010 Rally Italia-Sardegna (Hanninen)
2010 Ypres Rally (Loix)
2010 Rali Vinho Madeiras (Loix)
2010 Barum Rally Zlin (Loix)
Photos: barum.rally.cz / A. Lavadinho
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