A strong finish sees Freddy Loix claim victory in his ŠKODA Fabia R5 at the Rally van Haspengouw. Ole Christian Veiby steers his Fabia R5 to second place at the SM Vaakuna Ralli. A bout of flu impacts Vincent Verschueren’s effort at Rally van Haspengouw but he still manages to finish fourth. The British Rally Championship starts this week with the Mid Wales Stages, and there will be three Fabia R5s on the start-line. Julien Maurin announces a busy 2016 schedule as he seeks success on two fronts.
Freddy Loix triumphs at Rally van Haspengouw
The opening round of the Belgian Rally Championship 2016 saw an impressive victory for reigning champion Freddy Loix and co-driver Johan Gitsels in their ŠKODA Fabia R5 (title photo above) at the Rally van Haspengouw held on 12 tarmac stages (157 kilometers of competitive distance) around Landen.
In a closely fought rally and in perfect weather conditions, Loix pulled away in the final stages to finish 10 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
“We had to push hard from the very beginning of the rally, because our competitors were really quick. I was driving on the limits,” admitted Freddy Loix. “In the second loop, the battle for victory became a duel with Kris [Princen]. I could not go faster. After such an intense fight, the victory tastes really unique. We fought for every tenth of a second. It was the biggest battle since Ypres last year. The goal was to start the championship with a good result. And we succeeded. My ŠKODA Fabia R5 has been really fantastic. And just as reliable as last year! It’s awesome. A big thank you to my team, 2C Competition.”
Verschueren upbeat after flu-affected fourth place at Rally van Haspengouw
For fellow Belgian driver Vincent Verschueren, there was less to cheer. He was struck down with a nasty bout of flu during the rally, which affected his focus and energy and doubtless was a factor in several racing incidents.
In spite of this he managed to bring his Fabia R5 home in 4th place, just over a minute behind the victorious Freddy Loix.
“This is a very good result, because I felt really bad during the event. I didn’t have the energy to fight,” reported Vincent Verschueren after the rally. “I am very pleased with my new Fabia R5. This car gave me the confidence to attack from the very first stage. I am sure this will be a very interesting season!”
Veiby claims second at SM Vaakuna Ralli
Ole Christian Veiby continued his fantastic start to 2016 season and to his life with new ŠKODA Fabia R5 at the SM Vaakuna Ralli, run on snow and ice and on 8 special stages (110 kilometres of competitive distance) around the Finnish city of Mikkeli.
19-year-old Norwegian was gaining more experience behind the wheel of the four-wheel drive Fabia R5 and build on an impressive performance in the recent WRC Rally Sweden where he finished sixth in the WRC 2 category.
At Vaakuna Ralli he was second overall, just 2.3 seconds behind the winner, despite working a different co-driver as Jonas Andersson, member of official ŠKODA Motorsport team, stepped in for Stig Rune Skjærmoen. The result is all the more impressive when you consider how strong is the competition in Finland, and how dominant home drivers can be at their home events.
Speaking at the finish of the rally, Veiby was positive about the performance, but thinking about what might have been. “It suddenly felt like a bit of a bummer. I know I could have caught those seconds,” said Ole Christian Veiby. “This has been a very educational rally. Next time we will definitely offer the Finns a real battle. I don’t think it’s impossible that we can fight for the victory.”
Three Fabia R5s begin ŠKODA’s BRC Challenge
This week sees the start of the British Rally Championship 2016 with the Mid Wales Stages, a gravel event with almost 110 kilometers of competitive distance split into 6 special stages held around Newtown, on March 5th-6th, and there is a strong ŠKODA representation with three Fabia R5s on the start line.
Former BRC Champion David Bogie will be leading the charge, hot on the heels of his stunning 41 second victory at the Red Kite Stages, a first UK victory for the Fabia R5.
“I’m getting more and more comfortable in the Fabia R5, but there is more to come,” said David Bogie. “It’s going to be battle royal on the first round and a case of keeping out of trouble and driving at a very quick pace. If we can come away from the Mid Wales Stages with a good result, we’ll be looking good.”
Meanwhile Neil Simpson, ŠKODA UK dealer principal returns to the BRC after a 16-year absence. With the support of talented 21-year-old co-driver Elliot Edmondson, he will be looking to build on positive test performance in Scotland and Wales.
“I’m really looking forward to the Mid Wales Stages, although I’m under no illusion what a huge challenge it will be,” said Neil Simpson. “We have a championship target, and for round one we’d be delighted if we could bring the car home inside the top ten. I think that’s a very achievable aim.”
The third Fabia R5 will be driven by young British driver Desi Henry.
Maurin confirmed WRC 2 and French Gravel Rally Championship programmes for 2016
Julien Maurin has announced his schedule for 2016, which sees him combining his WRC 2 challenge with five rallies in the French Gravel Rally Championship.
Maurin, whose Fabia R5 is operated by the 2C Competition team and supported by Oreca, had a disappointing result in his opening event of the year, when he failed to finish at the Rallye Monte Carlo, but hopes to make up ground on his rivals at the WRC rallies in Portugal, Sardinia, Poland, Germany, France and Spain.
Meanwhile in France, he will compete in the Terre des Causses, Diois, Langres, Terre de Lozère and Cardabelles rallies. Speaking about the schedule Maurin was upbeat about his busy and exciting season ahead.
“After our WRC 2 performances, I wanted to continue competing at the international level. The Monte Carlo has not smiled on us but we were competitive and it confirmed our potential,” said Julien Maurin. “I was also seeking new challenges and to participate in the French Rally Championship is interesting. Sportingly, there is a title to go for. Technically, it will give me more experience on these surfaces and with the ŠKODA Fabia R5. I am convinced that we have a package that will enable us to win at the international and national level.”
Other ŠKODA customer teams in action
The Rali Serras de Fafe is the first round of the Portugal Rally Championship 2016. Run on gravel over 10 stages (120 km of competitive distance), this years’ event will see four ŠKODA Fabia R5s on the start line, with Miguel Barbosa, Miguel Campos, Pedro Meireles and Paulo Meireles behind the wheel.
The Saarland-Pfalz Rallye is round one of the German Rally Championship 2016. Rally run on a mixture of tarmac and gravel (12 special stages, 135 km of competitive distance) will see German driver Fabian Kreim and co-driver Frank Christian, in the new Fabia R5, look to retain the victory they won on this rally last year in a Fabia S2000. This years’ rally takes place on March 4th-5th in St. Wendel.