ŠKODA Motorsport begins its title defence in the Czech Rally Championship at the 51st Rallye Šumava Klatovy. Reigning champions Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZ/CZ), in the ŠKODA Fabia R5, are out to repeat last year’s success on the demanding routes in and around the Bohemian Forest mountains. The second ŠKODA works duo of Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (S/S) will also make a guest appearance in the national championship on Friday and Saturday.
“A year ago we celebrated a successful rally debut for our ŠKODA Fabia R5 with victory at the Rallye Šumava Klatovy,” said ŠKODA Motorsport director Michal Hrabánek. “The success we have enjoyed around the world with our new rally car since then is confirmation of the great development work done by our team.” However, Hrabánek is aware that this is no reason to rest on their laurels: “We are working hard to continue improving. It’s only way how to have any chance of defending the title in our company’s homeland. We are looking forward to the first appearance of 2016 in front of our home crowd.”
The Rallye Šumava Klatovy is the first of six rounds of the Czech Rally Championship. Like last year, when the ŠKODA Fabia R5 made its debut, thousands of rally fans are expected to line the 12 special stages, which feature roughly 150 kilometres against the clock.
After victories here in 2012 and 2015, Jan Kopecký would love to win the iconic rally, which was first held in 1964, for the third time. “We obviously have fond memories of last year, when we drove the Fabia R5 here for the first time,” said the experienced 34-year-old Jan Kopecký. “However, it will not be easy to repeat this success: the opposition is even stronger than in 2015.”
Reigning Asia-Pacific champion Pontus Tidemand enjoyed a successful first outing with new co-driver Jonas Andersson in February, finishing second at the Rally Sweden. After his home event in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC2), 25-year-old Tidemand now lines up in the homeland of the ŠKODA brand. “Jonas and I are particularly looking forward to rallying in front of the Czech fans,” said Pontus Tidemand. “This spectacular rally is a real challenge, and also a great test for the next outings in the World Championship.”
From 19 to 22 May, Tidemand/Andersson, Kopecký/Dresler and the third ŠKODA works duo of Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm will be in action at the WRC round in Portugal.
In the Czech championship, Kopecký can look forward to a new instalment of last year’s duel with rival Václav Pech (CZ). He will also receive tough competition from ŠKODA customer teams with other Fabia R5s.
Did you know that…
…the ŠKODA works team of Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler won eleven of the 12 special stages at last year’s Rallye Šumava Klatovy? In the end, the dominant duo marked the first rally outing of the Fabia R5 with a dominant victory, finishing 1:34.6 minutes ahead of second-placed Frenchman Bryan Bouffier.
…the ŠKODA Fabia R5 has already won five national titles and one continental championship within just one year of its launch? Pontus Tidemand triumphed at the Rally Longyou in China last October to be crowned champion of the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). ŠKODA has been the manufacturer to beat in this prestigious championship for the last four years.
…Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler won the title in last year’s Czech Rally Championship without suffering a single defeat? They were victorious at five out of five rallies with the ŠKODA Fabia R5.
…the schedule in the Czech Rally Championship is identical to last year’s? The Rallye Šumava Klatovy once again forms the first of six rounds. Other highlights of the national championship in 2016 include the Rally Bohemia, which represents ŠKODA’s home rally around the company’s headquarters in Mladá Boleslav, and the Barum Czech Rally Zlín, which also forms part of the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC).