Fabian Kreim begins German Championship defence with victory at the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye

Fabian Kreim and his co-driver Frank Christian made the perfect start to the defence of their German Rally Championship title with victory at the opening round of the 2017 season, the Saarland-Pfalz Rallye, leading home four FABIA R5s in the top six places.

Kreim, driving a FABIA R5 (title photo above) prepared by the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) team for the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland team, had won this event for the previous two years and was keen to make it a hat-trick this year.

 

Fabian Kreim / Frank Christian, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland. Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017

He won the opening stage, but then a wobble on the second stage saw him drop back temporarily, before a run of six fastest times in eight stages soon saw him back to the top of the leaderboard. And despite dropping time on the penultimate special stage, he still had enough to win by a margin of 15.7 seconds.

 

Sandro Wallenwein / Markus Poschner, ŠKODA FABIA R5, racepro motorsport. Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017

The next FABIA R5 home was the race:pro motorsport car of Sandro Wallenwein / Markus Poschner. Wallenwein is and returning to the Championship after a two-year absence. He plans to drive seven of the eight rounds this season and came into this event hoping for a top 5 finish.

A former German Rally Champion was fastest in both runs of the special stage in St. Wendel and fought hard at the top of the field in what was just his second competitive drive in a FABIA R5 and his first since 2015. Ultimately, he ended up just 1.1 seconds off a podium in fourth place with a performance which bodes very well for the rest of the season.

 

Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Brose Motorsport. Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017

Also playing a part in the drama were Dominik Dinkel / Christina Kohl, who ended up just 1.6 seconds behind Wallenwein in their FABIA R5 of the Brose Motorsport team. They drove a hugely consistent rally, winning one stage and looking all set for a podium place until slower times in the final two stages - caused by driving on slicks as the rain began to fall - saw them fall back.

 

Albert von Thurn und Taxis / Bjorn Degandt, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Saarland-Pfalz Rallye 2017

And that wasn’t the end of the ŠKODA charge as Albert von Thurn und Taxis / Bjorn Degandt brought home their FABIA R5 in sixth place after edging out Christoph Brugger by just 0.5 seconds. They were using this event as preparation for their upcoming FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) challenge and will have been pleased with their performance in a car prepared by the Wevers Sport team. 

The next round of the German Rally Championship will be the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg which takes place on 7th and 8th April.

Miky Zaldivar overcomes the rain to win the Rally del Guairá in Paraguay

The Rally del Guairá was the opening round of the Paraguayan Rally Championship and had no fewer than five ŠKODA FABIA R5s amongst the starting line-up. But bad weather meant that for a time it looked as if none of them would get the chance to drive. Torrential rain early on the Saturday almost led to a postponement and even when the clouds did eventually lift, it still resulted in schedule changes and wet, muddy and slippy roads for drivers to content with.

 

Miguel "Miky" Zaldivar / Ruben Garcia, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Rally del Guairá 2017

In the early stages, it was FABIA R5 driver Didier Arias and his co-driver Hector Nunes who coped best with the conditions and they led proceedings at the end of the first leg, with reigning champion and fellow FABIA R5 driver Gustavo Saba and his co-driver Fernando Mussano running close behind in third place.

 

Gustavo Saba / Fernando Mussano, ŠKODA FABIA R5. Rally del Guairá 2017

But the second leg saw everything turn on its head. In the opening stage of the leg, Arias was forced to retire and one stage later, Saba followed him out of the rally.

That left the road clear for another FABIA R5 driver, Miguel "Miky" Zaldivar, to make the headlines along with co-driver Ruben Garcia, as he climbed from 4th place to claim victory by a margin of 52 seconds.

After such a challenging race, Zaldivar was understandably elated to take the victory.

"We were always on the verge of retirement,” said a relieved Miky Zaldivar afterwards. “It was difficult, but victories like this revitalize you. Today we just wanted to win, and we did it.”

NEWS IN BRIEF

Marijan Griebel / Pirmin Winklhofer, ŠKODA FABIA R5, Marijan Griebel. CNP Asfalistiki Cyprus Rally 2016
  • Reigning ERC Junior Champion Marijan Griebel has announced that he will be competing in the full ERC this season, with a focus on finding success in the inaugural ERC Junior Under 28 Championship. Griebel has joined up with the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) team and with his mentor Armin Kremer, who as well as support and advice, is also helping to fund his campaign. Griebel will join fellow Junior ERC alumni Nikolay Gryazin and Ralfs Sirmacis in a ŠKODA FABIA R5 in the ERC this year.
  • Italian driver Andrea Nucita has confirmed his return to the Italian Rally Championship (CIR) this season. Nucita has not competed in the CIR since 2014 and will drive a ŠKODA FABIA R5 run by the DP Autosport team. The 27-year-old Sicilian will have experienced co-driver Marco Vozzo beside him as he makes his debut drive in a FABIA R5.
  • Dutch driver Hermen Kobus has confirmed his return to the Dutch Rally Championship in 2017. Kobus, who along with longstanding co-driver Eric de Wild will be competing for his own Kobus Tuning team, have focused on other championships for the past five years, but this year plan to compete in five Dutch events as well as the Rally Ypres and East Belgian Rally in their FABIA R5.
  • French driver Quentin Giordano has confirmed that he will be driving a FABIA R5 in the French Rally Championship this season. Giordano, who will be driving for the Sébastien Loeb Racing team has good pedigree. He finished 4th overall in the WRC Junior Championship 2014 and also finished 3rd in the WRC2 class at the 2015 Rallye Deutschland and 4th in the WRC2 class at the 2016 Rallye Monte Carlo. And he set down a marker at the Rallye Régional de Printemps, where he and co-driver Vincent Landais won on their FABIA R5 debut drive by a margin of 40 seconds.
  • At the Rallye National di u Paese Aiaccinu in the French Rally Cup, which took place in Corsica, Italians Umberto Scandola / Andrea Gaspari (ŠKODA FABIA R5) finished in 3rd place. Meanwhile, the French pairing of the Jean-Matthieu Leandri / Anthony Gorguilo (ŠKODA FABIA R5) finished just behind them in 4th spot.
  • Elsewhere in France the Rallye Régional du Pays Avallonnais was another event in the French Rally Cup and saw a victory for Laurent Lecki / Jérémy Lamur in their FABIA R5.
  • And there was more ŠKODA success in a French Rally Cup event at the Rallye Régional Baldomérien where David Salanon / Hervé Reocreux took victory by an impressive margin of 46 seconds. Dominique Subert / Jérôme Bard brought their FABIA R5 home in 4th spot.

COMING UP THIS WEEKEND

Date Rally Surface
09-12 Mar RALLY MEXICO World Rally Championship Round 3 Gravel
10-11 Mar TAHKO RALLI Finnish Rally Championship Round 3 Snow/Ice
11-12 Mar RALI DE CASTELO BRANCO Portuguese Rally Championship Round 2 Asphalt
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