2016 has been a year of unprecedented success for ŠKODA Motorsport and the FABIA R5 car. As well as winning the WRC2 Championship, there have also been title victories in no fewer than 13 national and regional championships around the world.
Where better to start than in our own domestic championship, the Czech Rally Championship, where the local ŠKODA Motorsport pairing of Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler secured the championship crown with five successive rally victories. They confirmed their win with success at a remarkable Barum Czech Rally Zlín, where they led home a ‘1-2-3-4-5’ finish for FABIA R5 drivers.
It was a busy season for the young German driver Fabian Kreim, who along with co-driver Frank Christian, drove no fewer than 18 rallies in Europe and Asia. His endeavours were rewarded for the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland team in Germany, where he was crowned German Rally Champion for the first time, winning six rallies along the way.
In Belgium, Freddy Loix once again dominated proceedings, winning the opening six rounds of the Belgian Rally Championship, alongside co-driver Johan Gitsels, to claim his third successive championship win in a ŠKODA. He has since announced his retirement from rallying, meaning there will definitely be a new Belgian champion next year.
Norbert Herczig is another FABIA R5 driver who has stood astride his domestic championship this year. Five wins saw him and co-driver Igor Bacigál win the Hungarian Rally Championship for ŠKODA Rally Team Hungaria.
One of the stories of the season has been the performance of the Finnish driver Kalle Rovanperä in the Latvian Rally Championship. Five rally wins and two-second places saw him claim the title for the TGS Worldwide OU team alongside co-driver Risto Pietiläinen. At just 16 years of age, he is the youngest ever Latvian Rally Champion and looks to have a great future ahead of him.
Pavel Valoušek / Veronika Havelková won the Slovak Rally Championship in fine style for the Energy Oil Motorsport team. The Czech crew won two events and finished second in another two rallies.
Esben Hegelund was again the man in form in Denmark as, alongside co-driver Karsten Isaksen, he won the Danish Rally Championship with the car prepared and run by the Wevers Sport team. He won the opening five events of the season, which incidentally were also the first five rallies he had ever driven in a ŠKODA FABIA R5. He was however denied a clean sweep of all six events after illness forced his withdrawal from the final round of the season.
In the French Tarmac Championship, it was the Team 2C Yacco driver Sylvain Michel who took the title. Consistency was the key for Michel who secured six podiums from the seven events he competed in, working with two co-drivers, Lara Vanneste and Jérôme Degout, along the way.
The Irish Forest Rally Championship was won by British driver Desi Henry and his Irish co-driver Liam Moynihan. They clinched the title with victory at the Glens of Antrim Forest Rally, which was their third rally win of the season.
There is also plenty of success to report outside Europe as well.
In the FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), Nasser Al-Attiyah was driving his debut season in a ŠKODA FABIA R5. Victory in the opening three rounds of the championship, in Qatar, Kuwait and Jordan, was enough to ensure he won the title alongside his French co-driver Matthieu Baumel.
ŠKODA’s dominance of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) also continued as Indian driver Gaurav Gill claimed a fifth successive title for ŠKODA and his second. He has won all six rounds of the season.
There has been plenty of success in South America too, where Paraguayan driver Gustavo Saba won the CODASUR Rally Championship title in his FABIA R5. Victory at the Rally del Atlántico, his third of the CODASUR season, was enough to ensure he pipped compatriot Didier Dominguez and secured his fourth title.
And Saba made it really successful season for both himself and ŠKODA in South America. A comprehensive victory in the final event of the season, the Rally de la República, saw him clinch the Paraguayan Rally Championship to cap a fantastic 2016 season for him.
Across Europe, the Middle East, Asia-Pacific region and South America, the success of the ŠKODA FABIA R5 has been one of the stories of the season. And we are looking forward to writing more history in 2017.