Austrian rally driver Simon Wagner switched to the latest Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 competition car this year. And he's celebrating multiple successes with it right away. He defended his title in the Austrian National Rally Championship and also performed well at the recent Barum Rally, which is part of the European Rally Championship. According to Simon, this is also due to the fact that his new car is easy to drive.
Simon Wagner celebrates his third consecutive Austrian championship title this year. While he won the previous two behind the wheel of a Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo, this year he defended the title with the brand new Fabia RS Rally2. He also enjoyed this year's Barum Czech Rally Zlín, finishing third in the ERC championship standings, just like last year with the previous generation of Škoda Motorsport's rally car. He can compare the two cars well and feels the new generation has a great potential. "I know we will be even faster," he explains.
You've had a lot of experience with the previous generation Fabia Rally2 evo, and now you're driving the new Fabia RS Rally2. What surprised you the most when switching to a new car?
What really surprised me was the fact that the Fabia RS Rally2 was really easy to drive from the start. The car gives you more confidence, you feel safe, and so you're immediately going fast. But it took me a while to get to the point where I was really very quick. But we worked hard on acceleration and I think we´ve found the right settings to base the process on.
What does that proverbial extra bit lie in?
It's in the details of the settings, such as yaw or convergence.
As a private driver, I don't have as much space to test, so everything is fine-tuned during competitions. I have a lot of things in my head that I want to try, but we just need the mileage to test them all out. Then we'll be even faster and we'll be safer. I'm looking forward to what's to come because I know the car is going to be a lot faster very soon.
How are both cars doing speed-wise? Can they be compared?
They're both definitely very fast cars. I think it's incredible that the new car has been at least comparable to the “evo” in speed since its launch to the "evo" (note: Fabia Rally2 evo), which has years of development behind it. The Fabia Rally2 evo was in development for a number of seasons and has reached a certain threshold of performance; the Fabia RS Rally2 started from almost the same level and has a lot of potential to it. So far it's only been around for just over a year.
How do you evaluate the current season with the car?
It was great. We fought great battles in the home Austrian championship and won in the end, so that's great. We also did well in some of the European championship events. I expected a bit more there after last year's two podiums, but at least we managed to replicate our success at the Barum Rally.
What makes you so successful at the Barum Rally?
I don't know why, but I just love the rally. It's hard, the weather is often unpredictable, the track is quite damaged and because of all that, the grip is constantly changing and it's not easy to estimate the limit. But that's what makes it fun to ride. The spectators also add incredibly to the magic. They celebrate every driver, especially those with Škoda cars, no matter which country they come from.
What are your further plans?
Now we are going to the Central European Rally, part of the World Championship. The competition will be huge; there are about 40 Rally2 cars on the start list. Expectations are not high, but hopefully we will be fast. We want to cover as many kilometres as possible. For next year we are of course planning to run the Austrian championship again, this is important for our great partners, including Škoda Austria. And we are planning a full season of the European Championship.
The Central European Rally will be a bit of your home event, right?
Yes, to a certain extent yes. Even though it's partly my home rally, it's going to be a step into the unknown for me because of the tyres. I know the Austrian stages well, so I know what to expect. I'm hoping that my experience of the narrow and rutted Barum Rally stages will help me in the south of the Czech Republic, but the stages in Germany are big unknowns. But it is going to be the first time for all of us, so hopefully the differences will be erased. I'm really looking forward to this event and I hope the fans will enjoy it as much as we do.