In the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), where the ŠKODA Motorsport and the FABIA R5 are reigning WRC2 champions, they have a 100% record after four rallies. Andreas Mikkelsen has won the Rallye Monte Carlo and the Tour de Corse, while Pontus Tidemand has won the Rally Sweden and Rally Mexico.
They sit joint top of the WRC2 rankings with 50 points each, while ŠKODA Motorsport leads the WRC2 Teams Championship with a perfect 100 points. In addition, there have also been three further FABIA R5 podium finishes in the WRC2 championship, with Jan Kopecký finishing second in Monte Carlo, Ole Christian Veiby coming third in Sweden for the Printsport Oy team, and Benito Guerra finishing third in Mexico for the Motorsport Italia team.
But it’s not just in the WRC where ŠKODA has made a strong start. The FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) has seen just one of its eight scheduled rounds so far, the Azores Rallye, but the signs were extremely good for the season ahead.
Bruno Magalhães won in the Azores in his FABIA R5 and Marijan Griebel ensured a One-Two win for the FABIA R5, while there were a remarkable six FABIA R5s in the top 10, which bodes well for the upcoming rounds, with the Rally Islas Canarias next up from May 4th to 6th.
Alongside the ERC this year is a new 6-round ERC Junior U28 Championship, which offers the next step on the rallying pyramid for drivers under the age of 28, and it is Marijan Griebel who heads the way so far after his Azores result.
In South America, the FIA CODASUR South American Rally Championship began with the Rally Trans Itapúa in Paraguay on March 31st to April 1st. This saw FABIA R5 drivers fill the top four places, with Marcos Ligato taking the win ahead of Gustavo Saba, Didier Arias and Tiago Weiler. The result means Ligato leads the five-rally championship ahead of the next round which will be the Rally Internacional de Erechim in Brazil, which takes place from May 19th to 21st.
The Rally Trans Itapúa was also the second round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship (CNR) in which reigning champion Gustavo Saba leads the way after his victory in the Paraguayan standings at that event. And it was another FABIA R5, driven by “Miki” Zaldivar, which won the opening round, the Rally del Guairá. The championship will continue with the Rally del Santaní, but not until the 9th June.
Back into Europe, and there have been plenty more success stories to share. One of the first championships of the year to get underway was the Latvian Rally Championship (LRČ), with the Rally Alūksne taking place on January 13th and 14th. Reigning champion and wunderkind, Kalle Rovanperä (TGS Worldwide OU) from Finland won that and also the second round, the Rallijs Sarma, to lead the championship by 17 points from fellow FABIA R5 driver Nikolay Gryazin. The seven-rally championship continues with the Talsi Rally on May 19th and 20th.
Elsewhere in the Baltics, Nikolay Gryazin’s (Sports Racing Technologies) result at the Rally Alūksne meant he finished first in the Estonian Rally Championship (EMV) standings and leads the way ahead of the second round, the Harju Rally (May 26th – 27th).
Teemu Asunmaa (Hannu’s Rally Team) leads the way in the Finnish Rally Championship (Ralli SM) after victories at the Arctic Lapland Rally and the Tahko Ralli and a second place overall (first in the championship standings) at the Vaakuna Ralli behind fellow FABIA R5 driver Kalle Rovanperä, who is ineligible for championship points because of his age. Hannu’s Rally Team also leads the way in the Team Championship after the three winter events of the championship. It returns with the first of four summer rallies, the Riihimäki-ralli on 19th and 20th May.
The Vaakuna Ralli was also the first event of the 6-round FIA Baltic Rally Trophy (BRT). Nikolay Gryazin came top of the BRT standings in that event and third overall. The trophy resumes on May 19th and 20th with the Rally Talsi in Latvia, which is also the second round of the Lithuanian Rally Championship (LARC). That championship got underway with Halls Winter Rally, which was won by FABIA R5 driver Dominykas Butvilas.
Into Western Europe, and there have already been three rounds of the Belgian Rally Championship (BRC) completed, with FABIA R5 drivers winning them all. Kris Princen (BMA) won the opening round, the Rally van Haspengouw, Benoît Allart (San Mazuin team) took maximum points at the next round, the Spa Rally, while it was Vincent Verschueren (GoDrive) who won the TAC Rally. Verschueren’s two second places ensure he leads the championship (52 points) ahead of Princen (36 points), while Allart is currently fourth.
ŠKODA dominance in German Rally Championship (DRM) has continued with reigning champion Fabian Kreim (ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland) winning both opening rounds, the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye and the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg. The latter event saw a FABIA R5’s One-Two-Three win with Dominik Dinkel (Brose Motorsport) finishing second and Sandro Wallenwein (race:pro motorsport) third. Kreim (60 points) leads Dinkel and Wallenwein (both 32 points) in the championship standings ahead of the third round, the Rallye Rund um die Sulinger Bärenklaue in Sulingen on May 5th and 6th.
On to Austria, where Raimund Baumschlager (BRR) won the opening round of the Austrian Rally Championship (ORM), the Rebenland Rallye, but was forced to retire from the second round. This means that it is actually another FABIA R5 driver, Andreas Aigner (car prepared and run by Eurosol Racing Team Hungary) who heads the championship standing with 29 points (from fifth and second place finishes respectively), just one point ahead of Baumschlager and Hermann Neubauer. The next rally in Austria will be the Wechselland Rallye on April 28th and 29th.
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On top of these results, there have also been victories in the opening rounds of five more national championships. Fredrik Åhlin (CA1 Sport) won the Border Counties Rally in the first round of the British Rally Championship (MSA BRC), while Hermen Kobus won the Zuiderzee Rally in the Dutch Open Rally Championship (ONRK).
Reigning Champion Norbert Herczig (ŠKODA Rally Team Hungaria) got his defence of the Hungarian Rally Championship (ORB) off to the perfect start with victory at the Miskolc Rallye, while Martin Koči (Styllex-Lracing) won at the Rally Rožňava, in the Slovak Rally Championship (MSR).
And last but not least, at our home series, the Czech Rally Championship (MČR), ŠKODA works driver Jan Kopecký got his title defence off to a great start too with success at the Valašská Rally. The next round in this championship takes place this weekend (April 21st and 22nd), with the Rallye Šumava.
Phew! That’s a lot of rally wins and championship leads to report, and we haven’t even mentioned many of the smaller national championships, such as the various sprintrally, regional or local series. But we are keeping an eye on the performance of every single FABIA R5 driver and wish all of them the very best for the rest of the season.
2017 is promising to be a very fruitful year for the FABIA R5!