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Wonderkid Kalle Rovanperä roars to victory on Finnish debut at the Vaakuna Ralli, while Nikolay Gryazin wins in the Baltic Rally Trophy standings. Pedro Meireles gets off to a winning start at the Rali Serras de Fafe in Portugal, while other ŠKODA Customer Teams win rallies also in Scotland, Spain, Sweden and Paraguay.

Kalle Rovanperä takes the headlines as flying FABIA R5s dominate at the Vaakuna Ralli

The Vaakuna Ralli was the second round of the Finnish Rally Championship (FRC) 2017 and saw no fewer than nine ŠKODA FABIA R5s taking part in near perfect winter conditions in Mikkeli; the highest number in any round of the Finnish Championship to date.

Amongst them was Finnish wonderkid Kalle Rovanperä, who along with co-driver Risto Pietiläinen was competing for the TGS Worldwide OU team. Rovanperä is just 16-year-old, but already an experienced rally driver and the reigning Latvian Rally Champion.

 

Kalle Rovanperä / Risto Pietiläinen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, TGS Worldwide OU. Vaakuna Ralli 2017

He has received special dispensation to compete in the Finnish Rally Championship and this event was the first time any driver aged under-18 and not holding a full driving license has taken part. He has to let co-driver Risto Pietiläinen drive the car, when not competing in the stages themselves, and is not eligible to score points towards the championship.

Rovanperä has continued his good form from 2016 into this season with wins in the opening two rounds of the Latvian Championship, and he kept his run going with a victory here at the Vaakuna Ralli on his Finnish debut too.

It was a dominant victory too with Rovanperä winning six of the nine stages to claim victory by a margin of 10.7 seconds from his closest rival and fellow FABIA R5 driver, Teemu Asunmaa. That was despite suffering a puncture which cost him some 30 seconds as well.

 

Teemu Asunmaa / Jonne Halttunen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Hannu's Rally Team. Vaakuna Ralli 2017

Whilst all the talk was about Rovanperä’s spectacular debut, it was second placed Teemu Asunmaa, who extended his lead in the Championship. Driving a FABIA R5 for Hannu’s Rally Team alongside co-driver Jonne Halttunen, Asunmaa had won the opening round of the season, the Arctic Lapland Rally.

He was neck and neck with Rovanperä throughout the Vaakuna Ralli, and with Rovanperä ineligible for championship points, it was Asunmaa who took maximum points to retain his grip on the Championship standings, despite finishing second.

 

Mikko Lehessaari / Reeta Hämäläinen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Hannu's Rally Team. Vaakuna Ralli 2017

Further down the field, the other Hannu’s Rally Team car of Mikko Lehessaari / Reeta Hämäläinen came home in 8th place in the Finnish Championship standings. After a 7th place finish in the opening round of the Championship, the Arctic Lapland Rally, Lehessaari was pleased with the feeling of his FABIA R5 and felt his driving improved during the event.

 

Ville Ruokanen / Timo Pallari, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Printsport Oy. Vaakuna Ralli 2017

Elsewhere, Ville Ruokanen / Timo Pallari, driving for the Printsport Oy team, finished 9th in the FRC standings in what was just his second event in a FABIA R5, while veteran Dutch driver Kees Burger made just his second appearance in a FABIA R5 (Jan Dohmen Rally Team) and finished 15th in the FRC standings.

The next round of the Finnish Rally Championship is the Tahko SM Ralli which takes place on 10th and 11th March.

 

Nikolay Gryazin / Yaroslav Fedorov, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Sports Racing Technologies. Vaakuna Ralli 2017

Nikolay Gryazin impresses at the Vaakuna Ralli in the Baltic Rally Trophy

The Vaakuna Ralli was also the opening round of the Baltic Rally Trophy 2017 and competing in that championship was 19-year old Russian Nikolay Gryazin. Driving a ŠKODA FABIA R5 for the Sports Racing Technologies team alongside co-driver Yaroslav Fedorov, Gryazin has already finished second behind Rovanperä in both opening rounds of the Latvian Championship this season.

He has mostly driven R2 cars up to this point, but a single FABIA R5 drive in 2015 was followed up by three more in 2016 and this year he will be competing in the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) as well as the Baltic Rally Trophy.

He is definitely seen as a driver with a bright future, and he lived up to that billing at the Vaakuna Ralli where he finished top of the Baltic Rally Trophy classification and third overall to complete an all ŠKODA FABIA R5 podium.

The next round of the Baltic Rally Trophy will be the Rally Talsi in Latvia, which takes place on 19th and 20th May.

Pedro Meireles win at the Rali Serras de Fafe in opening round of the Portuguese Championship

The Portuguese Rally Championship 2017 got underway this weekend with the Rali Serras de Fafe and it proved to be a perfect start to the season for ŠKODA FABIA R5 crew Pedro Meireles / Mário Castro.

Pedro Meireles / Mário Castro, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Rali Serras de Fafe 2017

The duo, whose FABIA R5 is prepared and run by AR Vidal Racing, enjoyed an excellent campaign last year, finishing second overall in the Championship, and just missing out on victory in this event, finishing second by a margin of just 9.6 seconds.

It was a different story this year though as they impressed throughout the rally, winning five of the 13 stages, and coming second in five more, as they claimed the win by a margin of 59.2 seconds. They will hope this result is a marker for the rest of the season.

 

Paulo Meireles / Marcos Gonçalves, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Rali Serras de Fafe 2017

Pedro’s brother Paulo Meireles and his co-driver Marcos Gonçalves, driving a FABIA R5 also prepared by AR Vidal Racing, finished in fourth place. The Rali Serras de Fafe was their sole event last year, meaning this was just their second outing in the car.

The next highest placed ŠKODA was driven by Hugo Mesquita / Valter Cardoso. They finished sixth overall in the Veloso Motorsport-run FABIA S2000.

 

Miguel Barbosa / Miguel Ramalho, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Rali Serras de Fafe 2017

They finished one place ahead of the BP Ultimate Vodafone ŠKODA Team FABIA R5 of Miguel Barbosa / Miguel Ramalho. Barbosa made his rallying debut last season after previously competing in other disciplines, but he nonetheless impressed with 2 podium finishes and consistent performances which helped him to secure 3rd place overall in the Portuguese Rally Championship. And Barbosa was satisfied with his start to his second season, despite losing some time due to tyre damage sustained on the Lameirinha stage.

The other FABIA R5 to finish inside the top 10 was driven by Diogo Salvi / Carlos Magalhães, who came home in 8th place. This was Salvi’s third event in a FABIA R5, but the first time he has finished.

The next round of the Portuguese Rally Championship is the Rali de Castelo Branco, which takes place on 11th and 12th March.

David Bogie leads from start to finish to win the Snowman Rally in Scotland

The ŠKODA FABIA R5 of David Bogie / Kevin Rae dominated the Snowman Rally in Inverness, leading from start to finish as they claimed a comfortable victory in the opening round of the Scottish Rally Championship.

Bogie, who was the 2011 British Rally Champion, and has won the Scottish championship on five occasions, was in a class of his own on the Inverness-based event, winning the slippery five gravel stage event by 58 seconds. Even a spin on the penultimate stage didn’t prevent him setting joint equal fastest time.

The Snowman Rally will prove to be perfect preparation for Bogie’s tilt at the 2017 British Rally Championship. His next event will be the 1st round of that championship, the Border Counties Rally, which takes place on 17th and 18th March and which is also the next round of the Scottish Championship.

NEWS IN BRIEF

Albert Orriols / Lluis Pujolar, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Escudería Osona. Ral.li Esprint Sant Julià 2017
  • Albert Orriols and his co-driver Lluis Pujolar won the Ral.li Esprint Sant Julià in Catalunya, for the Escudería Osona team. It was the experienced Spaniard’s debut drive in a FABIA R5 and it ended in victory despite finishing with the same time as the runner-up Xavi Domenech in this six-stage rally sprint event.
  • There was also success for Jörgen Jonasson / Philip Jonasson at the Vännäs-Plåt Rallyt in Sweden. They took the victory, finishing 2 minutes 10 seconds ahead of their nearest rivals over this seven-stage rally.
  • The opening two rounds (“fechas”) of the Paraguayan Super Prime Series took place this weekend at the Super Prime Copa de Verano event. The “Primera fecha” (1st round) saw success for Pedro Fadul / Hans Thiede, while fellow FABIA R5 pairing of Blas Zapag / Diego Gimenez finished second. In the “Segunda fecha” (2nd round), which took place the following day, there was a victory for another FABIA R5 driver, Miguel Zaldivar.
  • The FIA has launched a new ERC Junior Under 28 Championship (ERC Junior U28) for 2017, which will see a number of talented young ŠKODA FABIA R5 drivers participating. Those confirmed so far include Sports Racing Technologies drivers Nikolay Gryazin and Ralfs Sirmacis, who finished third overall in the ERC last season.

COMING UP THIS WEEKEND

24-25 Feb RALLY VAN HASPENGOUW Belgian Rally Championship Round 1 Asphalt
24-25 Feb ÖSTERSUND WINTER RALLY Swedish Rally Championship Round 2 Snow/Ice
25 Feb NUMEDALSRALLY Norwegian Rally Championship Round 3 Snow/Ice
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