A great win in Germany, podiums in Portugal, and a bright start in Britain. The ŠKODA Fabia R5 kicks of the European Rallying season with a bang!
Kreim wins as ŠKODA dominates at Saarland-Pfalz Rallye
Fabian Kreim (title photo above) and co-driver Frank Christian overcame slush, mud, and slippery roads to claim victory at the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye in the opening round of the German Rally Championship for ŠKODA Auto Deutschland.
With the wintery conditions causing the cancellation of two special stages, Kreim won a remarkable 8 out of 12 special stages that were run, and finished the rally almost a minute and a half faster than his nearest rival.
“We could not have started 2016 any better,” said Fabian Kreim after the event. “There were really extreme snowy conditions, but we have remained cool and shown a good mix of controlled risk and attack, and our ŠKODA Fabia R5 was always reliable.”
There was also an impressive third place finish for Dominik Dinkel and co-driver Christina Kohl, in the Brose Motorsport colours, who were driving a Fabia S2000, while the young Belgian Yannick Neuville, along with co-driver Jürgen Heigl, also in a Fabia S2000, won the Power Stage and finished 15th overall.
Three Fabia R5 cars make the Top 5 in the opening round of the Portuguese Rally Championship
There was a hugely impressive performance by all the Fabia R5 drivers in the Rali Serras de Fafe. Pedro Meireles together with co-driver Mário Castro drove with speed and consistency throughout the event to finish second overall, less than 10 seconds behind the winners.
Meanwhile Miguel Campos and co-driver Carlos Magalhães also achieved a podium finish in third place, just over a minute further back.
Miguel Barbosa, making his competitive rallying debut for the BP Ultimate ŠKODA Team, was alongside experienced co-driver Miguel Ramalho in a Fabia R5 and finished in an extremely creditable fifth place.
“I am very satisfied with this first experience in rallying. I have progressed a lot since December, but this is understandable still a learning phase. I want to highlight the excellent choice of the ŠKODA Fabia R5 too. It behaved very well throughout the event and it greatly assisting me in my development,” said Miguel Barbosa after the rally.
Manuel Castro and Luís Costa, driving a Fabia S2000, also managed to finish in a very impressive eighth place in what was a strong weekend for all the ŠKODA drivers.
Bogie finishes fourth at Mid Wales Stages
In the opening round of the British Rally Championship, David Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae kept their composure amid some unusually treacherous conditions at the Mid Wales Stages, to bring their Fabia R5 home in a very creditable fourth place.
Faced with snow and ice during demanding night stages in the forests of Wales, and Welsh weather which seemingly changed for every stage, the pair kept their heads after a couple of incidents to bring the car home and take plenty of positives away from their first rally back in the BRC.
“If I can sum the Mid Wales Stages up in one word it would be challenging,” said David Bogie after the rally. “Fourth wasn’t the podium result that we were hoping for – but we still take away a lot of positives. We’ve learnt a lot about the Fabia R5 and we were able to increase our pace as the rally progressed, even in the tricky conditions. We know that next time we’ll be able to push the guys in front an awful lot more.”
“David drove well and put up a good fight in his first major rally in a new car and with a new team. The changeable conditions, and the two stages in the dark, didn’t make learning a new car any easier, but his pace increased throughout and there are valuable points in the bag,” said Martin Wilkinson, Head of CA1 Sport.
British driver Desi Henry, ably assisted by Irish co-driver Liam Moynihan, also managed to bring his vehicle home in tenth place overall in his first gravel event in the Fabia R5.
European Rally Championship finally gets underway at Rally Islas Canarias
After the postponement of the Rally Liepāja due to lack of snow, the European Rally Championship finally gets underway on the 10th March with the Rally Islas Canarias.
The asphalt classic, which takes place between the 10th and 12th of March, is run over 12 stages and 213 km of competitive distance. Antonín Tlusťák, Hermen Kobus, János Puskádi are the drivers who will be on the start line in a Fabia R5 this year, and we will report back next week on their performances.
Finnish Rally Championship continues with Tahko SM Ralli
Meanwhile, up in Finland, the snow is still on the ground and the scene is set for the third round of the Finnish Rally Championship. The Tahko SM Ralli takes place in and around the city of Kuopio, primarily on snow, and ice, and sees drivers and teams competing over a competitive distance of around 260 km.
For ŠKODA, the race will mark a second appearance in the Finnish Rally Championship this season for Ole Christian Veiby, who is using the Finnish events to gain experience behind the wheel of his Fabia R5.
His regular co-driver Stig Rune Skjærmoen will be back by his side and Veiby is positive of a good result. “I’m super excited to start another rally with the ŠKODA Fabia R5, and to get more important mileage behind the wheel. We were only seconds from winning in Vaakuna, and maybe this time we will manage to claim the victory. The R5 is such a great car to drive, I’ve had a lot of fun with it already and can’t wait to have another go in it,” said Ole Christian Veiby.
Also taking part will be Mikko Lehessaari, who will be driving a Fabia R5 for Hannu’s Rally Team.
Desi Henry takes on the West Cork Rally
The Ireland Tarmac season continues on the 12th and 13th March with the West Cork Rally, an asphalt event usually run over a competitive distance of around 200 km. this This years’ rally will see Desi Henry following up on his appearance at the Mid Wales Stages alongside Irish co-driver Liam Moynihan.
Having failed to finish in the last round in Ireland, Henry will be keen to build on a strong performance in Wales and be pushing at the top of the leaderboard. He will line up in a Fabia R5, while Irish drivers Owen Murphy, Joseph McGonigle, and John Mulholland will also be competing in a Fabia S2000.
Gustavo Saba starts championship title defense at Rally de San Juan
In South America, the first round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship will take place with the Rally de San Juan between 11th and 13th of March.
The gravel event will see reigning champion Gustavo Saba looking to retain his crown after switching to the Fabia R5 last season. Speaking after a recent successful trial event, Gustavo Saba said: “Today we were able to drive so fast and didn’t have any problems. Our goal this year is to defend the “1” at the National and [this] results confirm that we made a good decision.”