Given that this has taken less than two years, it is a remarkable achievement and one for which everyone at ŠKODA is rightly proud.
2015: Beginning with a bang!
The journey began at the 2015 Rally de Portugal, where the FABIA R5 made its debut appearance.
Even in those early days, it was clear that the car was something special, with the ŠKODA Motorsport pairing of Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm bringing it home second in the WRC2 category and teammates Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson finishing one place further back in third.
The FABIA R5’s first victory was secured at the next round, in what was only the car’s third WRC event. The Rally Poland was the setting as the Finnish duo of Esapekka Lappi / Janne Ferm claimed that maiden win by a margin of 56.1 seconds, with Pontus Tidemand / Emil Axelsson finishing just behind them to secure a fantastic ‘One-Two’ result.
Having found its way to the top of the WRC2 standings, the FABIA R5 had a taste for success and its fine form continued at the Rally Finland, where Lappi once again led home Tidemand in a dominant ‘One-Two’ win, which saw the nearest non-ŠKODA challenger finishing almost 5 minutes down the road.
The FABIA R5 wasn’t finished there. Jan Kopecký won the Rallye Deutschland by another big margin, 4 minutes and 13 seconds, to claim what was his first ever WRC2 victory. And that feat was repeated by the other ŠKODA Motorsport driver, Pontus Tidemand, at the penultimate round of the season, the RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada, heading home a remarkable ‘One-Two-Three-Four’ finish for the FABIA R5.
2016: Establishing a dominance
So, despite only joining the WRC2 midway through the 2015 season, the FABIA R5 managed to secure twelve podium finishes including four victories in that debut season. This meant expectations were high as the car went into its first full WRC2 campaign, as was shown by the number of customer teams who opted to run the car this season as well. The FABIA R5 didn’t disappoint.
After podium finishes in the opening two events of the year, the first victory was secured at the Rally Guanajuato Mexico in the FABIA R5’s first appearance at this event. It was the TGS Worldwide OU pairing of Teemu Suninen / Mikko Markkula who tasted victory by a colossal margin of more than 20 minutes.
In doing so, they also became the first ŠKODA Customer Team to win a WRC2 event in the FABIA R5, and it would set off on a fantastic season for them which would eventually see them finish second in the final WRC2 Championship standings.
In the following round, the Rally Argentina, there was another ŠKODA Customer Team victory as Nicolás Fuchs / Fernando Mussano steered their Wevers Sport prepared FABIA R5 to success, this time by a margin of 4 minutes and 36 seconds. The Culture & Sport Qatar Rally Team FABIA R5 of Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari / Killian Duffy also made it onto the podium in third place.
Back in Europe, the next round at the Rally de Portugal marked the first anniversary of the FABIA R5’s maiden WRC appearance. And it was celebrated in style, with ŠKODA Motorsport new pairing of Pontus Tidemand / Jonas Andersson winning the event, and Nicolás Fuchs claiming his second podium finish in a row, in second place.
On to the Rally Italia Sardegna, where in the previous year two FABIA R5s had made it onto the podium. And so it was again, but this time in first and second positions as Teemu Suninen claimed his second win of the season in a FABIA R5, this time for Team Oreca. Jan Kopecký / Pavel Dresler came home in second place for the ŠKODA Motorsport team.
The next round was the Rally Poland, the scene of the first FABIA R5 victory a year previously. And it was Teemu Suninen who again claimed a FABIA R5 victory, with Esapekka Lappi also making it onto the podium in 3rd place.
Victories were coming thick and fast for the FABIA R5 now, and in the next round, it was the turn of Lappi to claim his second successive win at his home rally, the Rally Finland. Suninen impressed once again in finishing second.
Lappi finished on the top of the pile in the next round at the Rallye Deutschland too, where he led home another remarkable ‘One-Two-Three-Four’ finish for FABIA R5 drivers. This was followed by success again at the RallyRACC Catalunya - Costa Daurada where Jan Kopecký pipped teammate Pontus Tidemand, who had won here the previous year, to the win by just 15.3 seconds.
With the season approaching its climax, Esapekka Lappi went into the final two rounds of the season knowing that two wins would see him finish ahead of Suninen and claim the WRC2 title. He got the first of these at the Wales Rally GB, where he led home another FABIA R5’s ‘One-Two-Three-Four’ finish, with no fewer than seven FABIA R5s in the top 9 places in the WRC2 standings.
The season ended with the car’s debut appearance at the Rally Australia and saw Lappi wrap up his second win in a row and fourth of the season to secure WRC2 Championship title. Another FABIA R5, driven by Nicolás Fuchs came home as runner-up.
2017: The 100% season?
After 10 victories and the WRC2 Championship, some may have been wondering how the FABIA R5 could improve on its performance in the new season. The answer might just be to aim even higher.
The traditional season curtain-raiser, the Rallye Monte Carlo, was one of the few WRC rounds the FABIA R5 hadn’t previously won. That was swiftly put right after a dominant display from Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger, who - after dropping down from the WRC class after the withdrawal of their former team - showed their class in great style to win by 3 minutes and 25 seconds from teammate Jan Kopecký.
The next round was the Rallye Sweden, where Pontus Tidemand went one better than his second place in 2016 to claim victory at his home rally for the first time. The young Norwegian Ole Christian Veiby and his co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen also made it onto the podium in third place for the Printsport Oy team.
Tidemand then enjoyed his second WRC2 win in a row with success at the Rally Guanajuato Mexico. Once again, another FABIA R5 made it onto the podium in third place as well, this time the Motorsport Italia car of Benito Guerra / Borja Rozada.
Which meant there was just one WRC2 event which the FABIA R5 had not tasted success in, and that was the Tour de Corse. So, when Andreas Mikkelsen / Anders Jæger took the win in Corsica last weekend, it was another landmark in the history of ŠKODA and the remarkable FABIA R5.
The FABIA R5 has now won every WRC Championship event in the WRC2 category. And with four victories out of four rallies already this season, it is on course to enjoy its best season ever. And maybe, just maybe, it can do the unthinkable and complete a 100% season. There is a long way to go, but who would bet against the FABIA R5 with the astonishing record it has?!