A winning start for Kris Princen as FABIA R5s claim ‘One-Two’ at the Rally van Haspengouw

The retirement of Freddy Loix, for so long the dominant force in Belgian rallying, has left the Belgian rally championship more open than it has been for a long time. Nevertheless, whilst Loix is undoubtedly a loss for the ŠKODA rally family, there are plenty more ŠKODA drivers ready to take up his mantle.

And so it proved in the opening event of the season, the Rally van Haspengouw, an asphalt rally consisting of 12 special stages and just over 140km of competitive distance.

This time it was Kris Princen (title photo above; photo: BRC Media), an experienced driver making his debut in a FABIA R5 prepared and run by the Bernard Munster Autosport (BMA) team, who emerged victorious after a dominant display at his home rally.


Kris Princen / Peter Kaspers, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Bernard Munster Autosport. Rally van Haspengouw 2017 (Foto: BRC Media)

Princen and his co-driver Peter Kaspers won six of the opening eight stages to open up a commanding lead. And despite easing off a little over the final four stages and ending up a bit closer to the runner-up car than they might have hoped, they still secured overall victory and a perfect start to the season with a record of having led from start to finish.


Vincent Verschueren / Veronique Hostens, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Duindistel. Rally van Haspengouw 2017 (Foto: BRC Media)

There was another FABIA R5 in 2nd place as Vincent Verschueren and his co-driver Veronique Hostens put in an impressive performance for the GoDrive team. They won two of the final three stages as they sensed an opportunity to reel Princen and really put their foot down. They ended up just 4.8 behind the eventual winners and will take heart from their performance for the rest of the season.


Melissa Debackere / Didier Bostoen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Duindistel. Rally van Haspengouw 2017 (Foto: BRC Media)

The other FABIA R5 in the rally, prepared and run by the Autosport Debackere (ASD) team, saw Melissa Debackere and her co-driver Didier Bostoen finish in 6th place overall. They recovered well after losing three minutes in the third stage of the rally after sliding off the track and becoming stuck on a slope.

Debackere also has high hopes for this season and will be hoping for a bit more luck in the next round of the Belgian Rally Championship which will be the Spa Rally on 17th and 18th March.

Ole Christian Veiby defies conditions and claims victory at the Numedalsrally in Norway

The Numedalsrally in Norway proved to be hugely significant for 20-year old Norwegian driver Ole Christian Veiby, as he claimed his first ever victory in his home championship. It was also a first rally win in the Norwegian Rally Championship for the FABIA R5.


Ole Christian Veiby / Stig Rune Skjærmoen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Printsport Oy. Numedalsrally 2017 (Foto: Simen Næss Hagen / Even Management)

This was Veiby’s third time competing in this event, but his first in a 4WD car. And it was no ordinary victory either, as the youngster, ably supported by co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen in a FABIA R5 of the Printsport Oy team, defied the odds to come from behind and win the event in blizzard conditions on the final stage.

The rally became something of a sprint after the cancellation of two stages made it just six stages long and around 87km of competitive distance. His rival, Eyvind Brynildsen, had opened up a 15 second lead after the opening stage and - although Veiby had chipped away at this - he went into the final stage still 6.7 seconds behind.


Ole Christian Veiby / Stig Rune Skjærmoen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Printsport Oy. Numedalsrally 2017 (Foto: Simen Næss Hagen / Even Management)

It was now snowing violently and Veiby claimed afterwards to have never driven a stage with so much snow on the ground before. Brynildsen had the disadvantage of going first, and Veiby drove as well as he could and rode his luck a little at times, to eventually prevail by a margin of 14.9 seconds.

It was a fitting end to the winter season for Veiby, who has already finished 2nd at the Rally Finnskog (just 5 seconds behind experienced WRC driver Mads Østberg) in Norway and 3rd in the WRC2 standings at the Rally Sweden; results that will give him confidence for the rest of the season.

The Norwegian Rally Championship meanwhile continues with the Rally Sørland on 6th May.

Fabian Kreim and Dominik Dinkel leading the challenge as German Rally Championship returns

This weekend (3rd to 4th March) sees the opening round of the German Rally Championship (DRM), the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye taking place and it promises to be a fascinating and high-quality season.


Fabian Kreim / Frank Christian, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland. Pre Event Test, Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017 (Foto: Harald Illmer)

Reigning champions Fabian Kreim and his co-driver Frank Christian will be back in their FABIA R5 looking to defend their title for the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland team with the car prepared and run by the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) team. Kreim claimed the 2016 title in style winning six events along the way, and this was despite also competing in the FIA Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC), which involved a lot of travelling and also required him to miss one round. But this year the German Championship will have his full attention.


Fabian Kreim / Frank Christian, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland. Pre Event Test, Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017 (Foto: Harald Illmer)

Kreim will be looking for a third successive victory at the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye, an event he has won comfortably in each of the last two seasons. But as he rightly says, it will be a challenging season, and amongst those looking to challenge Kreim will be the Brose Motorsport pairing of Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl.


Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Brose Motorsport. Pre Event Test, Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017 (Foto: Harald Illmer)

Driving a FABIA S2000, they had a fantastic season last year, securing 6 podium finishes on the way to third place in the overall championship standings. A single outing in the FABIA R5 at the final event of the year, the 3-Städte-Rallye, in which they finished second overall, will have whet their appetite for a full season in the car. Their vehicle too will be prepared by the BRR team, and testing has so far been positive, suggesting they are capable of mounting a serious championship challenge this season.

With as many as 9 drivers reckoned to be potential championship contenders, it promises to be a fascinating season in Germany. The action will kick off this weekend at the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye.


Fredrik Åhlin / Torstein Eriksen, ŠKODA FABIA R5, CA1 Sport.
  • Swedish driver Fredrik Åhlin has joined forces with ŠKODA Sweden and the CA1 Sport to compete in a FABIA R5 in this year’s British Rally Championship (BRC). Åhlin finished fourth in the BRC last season and claimed victory at the Pirelli Rally along the way. As well as a new car, Åhlin will also have a new co-driver in Norwegian Torstein Eriksen and he will be using DMACK tyres for the first time. “It’s great to drive a completely new ŠKODA FABIA R5,” said an enthusiastic Fredrik Åhlin. “The BRC was an obvious choice and we want to fight for the title. We are also looking at doing selected events in the European Rally Championship and Swedish Championship.”
  • At the Östersund Winter Rally, the second round of the Swedish Rally Championship, Jörgen Jonasson / Nicklas Jonasson brought their FABIA R5 home in 2nd place, just 13.8 seconds behind the overall winner with a spin on stage 5 costing them valuable time. The other FABIA R5 of Lars Stugeno / Karl-Olof Lexe finished in 8th place, while Johan Rudengren / Christer Johansson claimed 5th spot in their FABIA WRC.
  • Pierre Ragues / Julien Pesenti steered their FABIA R5 to 2nd place overall and 1st in the R5 class at the Rallye National de la Côte Fleurie in the Coupe de France des Rallyes. The result matched Pierre’s pre-event expectations and he was especially happy to win stage 8 of the event outright. “We have enjoyed two pretty perfect days,” said Pierre Ragues. “The ŠKODA FABIA R5 performed excellently and we were able to get the best out of the technical package and out of ourselves as a crew.” Mickaël Reydellet / Thomas Chauffray brought their FABIA R5 home just one place further back in 3rd overall and 2nd in the R5 standings.
  • The Ronde del Canavese, asphalt event in Italy, saw San Marino’s Denis Colombini and his Italian co-driver Michele Ferrara finish in 2nd place overall and first in R5 class in their FABIA R5.


03-04 Mar SAARLAND-PFALZ RALLYE German Rally Championship Round 1 Asphalt
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