Czech driver Martin Prokop has returned to the FIA World Rally Championship with the new Škoda Fabia RS Rally2. He enjoys racing immensely and the new car gives him unprecedented confidence and speed behind the wheel. Thanks to his extensive experience, Martin can also compare the Fabia RS Rally2 to older WRC cars or specials at the legendary Dakar Rally.

Martin Prokop's racing career was linked to Škoda primarily in its early days, and now he is returning to the brand after many years. After one start in the last season, this year he is behind the wheel of the Fabia RS Rally2 in several World Championship events. And he can't praise the new car enough. He finished sixth in the very first event he entered with his new car, the Rally Portugal, and he even finished fourth in the WRC2 category in his favourite Sardinia.

The Fabia RS Rally2 seems to be a perfect fit for you. What attracted you to it?
I feel great in the car from the first kilometre, it's very comfortable. The word comfortable may sound a bit odd in connection with a rally special, but I just feel very good in the car, it does everything I want it to do. The more I want from it and the more I push it, the more I want to push the car, and at the same time it remains enjoyable, the feeling of driving is amazing. Compared to the previous Fabia Rally2 evo I had the opportunity to test in the past, I also feel more emotion here. The Fabia RS Rally2 is the car for me. I feel great in it, I'm having fun, I'm enjoying it, I'm reaching the end of the stages with a smile on my face. And that's what it's all about, I want to enjoy myself rallying.

What surprised you about the car?
In Portugal, I was surprised at the beginning by the great grip of the car, because until then I had only ever tested only on slippery surfaces. So, it was the first time I drove on a big grip and that first morning was not very good. But then we adapted, we put on hard tyres and suddenly it was there. The times were great, I don't think I've gone that fast in maybe 10 years, the car let me go the way I wanted to go. It was the same in Sardinia. My speed was surprising at times. I really must think back a lot to when I drove a competition car that fast. It was a great feeling.

What are your plans for the Fabia this year?
I'm going to the World Championship rallies in Poland and Finland. It's going to be two fast races, and I'm curious to see how I'll perform there with the Fabia. Then I'll probably take a bit of a break, we are expecting the birth of our second offspring, so I'll probably hang it up for a while in August. And in the autumn, I think, I will be mainly preparing for the Dakar. Anyway, I want to continue with Škoda.

You returned to the Czech car manufacturer after many years, having started with its cars in the past. How do you recall those beginnings?
My first races were in a Škoda Felicia 1.6 N-Class and the first proper "A" car I drove was a Škoda Octavia WRC. That was in 2003, I drove it at the end of the season Prague Rallysprint and then the whole 2004 season.

What was the Octavia WRC like?
Its length made it an incredibly fun car to drive, it skidded like no other. But at the time I was driving it, it was probably not ideal for me, actually (laughs). I was a young and wild boy, and the car liked to go wild, but that also meant I wasn't getting good times. So, I enjoyed my year with the Octavia WRC and decided that I needed to look for a car that required pure style.

Is it possible to compare the former WRC cars to the current Fabia RS Rally2 for the WRC2 category?
I still have a 2015 homologated WRC car at home, so I can compare those quite well. Today's WRC2 cars are much faster, and that also applies to the Fabia RS Rally2. It's not as aggressive, it doesn't skid as much as the older WRCs, but it's faster. Maybe there's not as much emotion when driving, it literally splashes behind the wheel of a WRC, you're always going sideways, slamming the exhaust, roaring on the brakes, that's where the WRC2 cars are calmer. But faster.

You also do a lot of Dakar Rally, what is the difference between the cars here?
The grip. The Dakar special simply doesn't have the grip that the classic rally cars have. The car is twice as heavy, it brakes less, it skids more, G-forces are generally smaller, except when you sweep out a big hole. But the power is higher and you're trying to go all out all the time. That wouldn't be possible for so long with a WRC2 rally car with the G-forces it is capable of. After all, G-forces are what tires you out the most when driving.

What do you enjoy about Dakar?
A lot of things come together at Dakar rally: in addition to racing experience, life experience. You often deal with situations and make decisions that have nothing to do with motorsport. And at such moments, you can make the most of life experience. It is a physically demanding competition, but one with a great atmosphere, the differences between the motivation of rookies and experienced matadors are blurred a lot.

But you keep coming back to classic rallies. Why?
I grew up watching rallies since I was a kid. And it keeps me in some sort of shape. I'm not going to be the best at taking risks in Dakar. A lot of guys out there take a lot of risks. I'm trying to draw on my racing experience, on the fact that I can drive a rally car like not many of the guys from the starting field, and thanks to that I don't take as many risks as the others do.