MOTORSPORT NEWS Rally

SKODA FOCUS ON KALLE

REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION SKODA MOTORSPORT WILL THROW ITS WEIGHT BEHIND TEENAGER KALLE ROVANPERÄ AS IT BIDS TO WIN THE INAUGURAL WRC 2 PRO CHAMPIONSHIP THIS SEASON.

The Czech manufacturer trimmed its works driver line-up to Rovanperä and 2018 WRC 2 champion Jan Kopecký for 2019, but it is the 18-year-old Finn who will spearhead its challenge in the new manufacturer-supported Pro category.

Rovanperä finished second in WRC 2 Pro behind Gus Greensmith at last month’s Rallye Monte-Carlo after an opening night crash. He will also compete in this week’s second round at Rally Sweden (14 – 17 February).

Team director Michal Hrabánek said that while Kopecký would appear on selected WRC rounds, Skoda is likely to feature private Fabia R5 drivers competing under the works team banner as it puts an increased emphasis on its customer programmes.

Finnish champion and privateer Eerik Pietarinen has been included in Skoda’s official team in Sweden and Hrabánek said:

“Already by winning the WRC 2 category at Rally Finland 2018 he proved his outstanding speed and talent. We closely observe the progress of other talented and fast Skoda customers and may integrate some of them into our works team on selected WRC rallies.

Skoda is due to introduce a new-evolution Fabia R5 this year but Hrabánek was unable to provide a timeframe for the car’s WRC debut.

“The final timing is not yet fixed. The most important aspect for us is to be 100 per cent sure, that the car is fully developed and bullet proof ready for competition without any compromises. This is our responsibility.

“Thoroughness in the development of a new car has absolute priority. Due to the homologation planned for the middle of 2019, we could introduce the car after the second quarter,” he added.