“The rally debut of our new Škoda Fabia R5 symbolically launched a new chapter of our motorsport tradition in the home of the brand. As such, we are particularly delighted to have made such a successful start. We were very excited, and the debut showed that we are on the right track with the new rally car,” commanding victory Michal Hrabánek said in a press release.
He warned against getting carried away: “We do not want to read too much into the first result. The car and the team will have to come through some very different tests at the coming rallies.”
The opening round of the Czech Rally Championship (MČR) went like clockwork, according to carmaker Škoda Auto. The Škoda Fabia R5 became one of very few rally cars ever to have won its first official special stage. And there was more success to come: by the end of an impressive display over 150.71 kilometers, Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler, in the green, white and black Škoda Fabia R5, had opened up a lead of 1:34.6 minutes over Bryan Bouffier. The Frenchman is no slouch, having finished runner-up in the 2013 European Championship – again behind Kopecký in a Škoda.
“The first start with our new Škoda Fabia R5 could not have gone better. We were obviously a bit tense as, after all the many tests, only an actual race would truly reveal how well the car was running. And it worked perfectly: we are very happy about the win and hope we were able to impress a lot of people with our new Fabia R5,” said debut driver Kopecký, who was even able to try out some different set-ups on his first outing with the new rally car. “We are already really looking forward to the next rallies, as it seems to be a great car.”
The experienced 33-year-old will be back in action at the Rally Český Krumlov, the second round of the Czech Rally Championship, on 22nd and 23rd May. At almost exactly the same time, Škoda Motorsport will make its comeback in the WRC 2 category of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) from 21st to 24th May. European champion Esapekka Lappi (FIN) and new signing Pontus Tidemand (S) will be at the wheel of the new Škoda Fabia R5. Hrabánek: “Running two cars will be another challenge with our new rally car. Before then, we will continue testing. The win puts us in a good position going forward, but we still have a lot of work ahead of us.”
Jan Kopecký and Pavel Dresler won 11 of the 12 special stages as the Škoda Fabia R5 made its race debut. Not only did the new car triumph on its very first special stage, but it won the longest stage on the rally by an impressive margin. Kopecký finished over 17 seconds ahead of Bryan Bouffier on both runs of the 25.59-kilometer stage.
Škoda has been involved in the world of motorsport since 1901. The brand has taken home many trophies from the Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC), FIA European Rally Championship (ERC), FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and several famous races, such as the oldest rally in the world – the Monte Carlo, which has taken place annually since 1911.
The Fabia Super 2000 rally car is the most successful model in Škoda’s 114-year history in motorsport. In 2014, Škoda won a hat-trick of titles in the Manufacturers’ and Drivers’ competitions in the APRC. The new reigning champions Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ) achieved the momentous feat of becoming the first duo in history to win the Drivers’ title in the ERC and then the APRC in consecutive years.