First place finishes in Finland and Paraguay as the ŠKODA Fabia R5 continues to set the scene for a successful season!
Ole Christian Veiby steers the ŠKODA Fabia R5 to finish first in Finland
Norwegian driver Ole Christian Veiby (title photo above) has continued his stunning start to 2016 in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 with a victory in the Finnish Rally Championship at the Tahko SM Ralli. Following his second place finish a fortnight ago in the Vaakuna Ralli, and with regular co-driver Stig Rune Skjaermoen back by his side, Veiby’s second start of this season in Finland saw him winning by more than 30 seconds to chalk up the first overall victory of his young rally career.
The 19-year-old, who was using the two Finnish events to familiarize himself with four-wheel drive machinery, had to overcome heavy snow and warm weather which led to smooth snow and treacherous conditions in central Finland. But driving carefully and consistently he kept his cool, as all his rivals made errors, and made full use of the four-wheel drive Fabia R5, in the colours of the PrintSport team, to take the win.
Speaking afterwards, Ole Christian Veiby assessed the conditions of the event: “It has been the hardest rally I’ve had on snow ever. I’ve not rallied many, but it will be a long time before I get to drive in such difficult winter conditions again. It was almost worse than aquaplaning when you went off the line, and there was a real risk of being stuck in the snow. In rally it’s about avoiding mistakes and reaching the finish, and fortunately we managed to do that.”
Mikko Lehessaari back in top 10 at Tahko SM Ralli
Also behind the wheel of a ŠKODA Fabia R5 at the Tahko SM Ralli was Mikko Lehessaari, who alongside co-driver Mikko Lukka, finished in a very credible 8th place for his father’s Hannu’s Rally Team. Mikko Lehessaari is just returning from a two and a half year break from driving rally cars, and is having to reacquaint himself not just with driving the car, but making and using pacenotes too.
“The most difficult after a long break from rallying is to get confidence in pacenotes again. Before the gravel rally season, I really need to practice intensively making the notes and driving according to them,” said Mikko Lehessaari about his return.
The team has been assisted in developing their car before this event by ŠKODA Motorsport works team driver Esapekka Lappi and it seems with this result in very challenging conditions, Mikko Lehessaari is being to get a feel for things again.
“In this event, on Saturday’s first special stage there were lots of action,” said Mikko. “The car, which started in front of us, went off and we had to stop for approximately 20 seconds, because passing them was not possible. Then we had a spin and turning back to the right direction on narrow road took some 35-40 seconds.”
“But after getting even a bit used to the ŠKODA Fabia R5, it has been quite easy and very enjoyable to drive. The car is better than I ever expected a rally car can be and its’ limits are clearly above the speed which I can yet drive.”
János Puskádi secures top 10 finish in Rally Islas Canarias
The European Rally Championship (ERC) got underway last weekend with the Rally Islas Canarias and there was a positive result for Hungarian driver János Puskádi, who was competing alongside co-driver Barnabás Gódor with ŠKODA Fabia R5 of Eurosol Racing Team Hungary.
In his first ERC start since the Rally Corsica in 2014, Puskádi managed to bring his car home 8th in the ERC standings.
“This weekend was absolutely fantastic with the awesome ŠKODA Fabia R5,” said János Puskádi at the finish of the rally. “We have received the car only few days before the rally so we were able to run only 30 km during the test with it. Nevertheless, our target was a top 10 finish and we achieved that. This is why I do rallying: great car, great team, great stages and lovely spectators!”
Didier Arias wins Rally de Misiones in Paraguay
There was a fantastic start to the Paraguayan Rally Championship for Didier Arias and his co-driver Hector Nunes, who stormed to victory in the opening round of the championship, the Rally de Misiones.
Driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5, they hit the front in the first leg and never looked back as they cruised to victory by more than 38 seconds. With a first and second place to their name in their only two outings in the Fabia R5 to date, Arias will be looking to make a serious push for the championship crown this season.
Freddy Loix heads to Spa as the provisional championship leader
Round two of the Belgian Rally Championship sees the teams taking part in the Spa Rally in the countryside around the picturesque town of the same name.
This asphalt event, which is run over 21 stages with a total competitive distance of around 190 km, will see the ŠKODA Fabia R5 of reigning BRC champion Freddy Loix look to extend his lead at the top of the 2016 standings following his victory at the opening event, the Rally van Haspengouw.
Loix won this event last year to start a run of five wins from six rallies, and he will be hoping to find such a rich vein of form again this year. Meanwhile fellow Belgian Vincent Verschueren will also be on the start line with a Fabia R5 and looking to build on his positive start to the season, when despite illness taking its toll, he still managed to finish fourth in the season opener.
Raimund Baumschlager ready for great battle in Austrian Rally Championship
On the 18th and 19th March the Rebenland Rallye will mark the beginning of the Austrian Rally Championship. The only ŠKODA Fabia R5 on the start line will be driven by Raimund Baumschlager of the BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team. A 13-times national champion, Raimund Baumschlager has been imperious in recent times in the ŠKODA Fabia S2000, and has won all five of his events in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 so far too.
But this year the Austrian Championship is allowing World Rally Cars to participate, and as these are faster than R5s, retaining his title will be a lot harder this year, something he readily admits himself. “In order to survive, I must certainly take more risks and push closer to the limits of the car,” said Raimund Baumschlager. “But we have with our experience and a perfect setup to compensate. For us it is a very big challenge and for the public it will be an unforgettable spectacle!”
The Rebenland Rallye takes place on tarmac over a competitive distance of around 170 km and 16 stages. All of the action will be taking place around the Austrian town of Leutschach.
Umberto Scandola pushing for title as Italian Rally Championship gets underway
On the 18th March the Italian Rally Championship gets underway with the Rally del Ciocco e Valle del Serchio. Starting in the north-western town of Viareggio, the rally is run on tarmac over a competitive distance of 155 km and 17 stages.
This year’s event sees two ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars on the start line. The Italian crew Umberto Scandola/Guido D’Amore will be driving for the ŠKODA Italia Motorsport team and looking to build on the huge success they enjoyed in the Fabia R5 last year, and before that in the Fabia S2000, including taking the championship title in 2013.
The other ŠKODA Fabia R5 competing will be driver by Luca Artino for the Race Art Technology team.
Sylvain Michel aiming for fast start in French Tarmac Rally Championship
The French Tarmac Rally Championship gets underway this week with the Rallye Le Touquet – Pas-de-Calais. The tarmac event, which is run over 209 km and 18 stages, will see Sylvain Michel and Lara Vanneste on the start line in a ŠKODA Fabia R5 for Team 2C YACCO.
“It’s a very satisfying for me to be able to develop this season in the Team 2C YACCO and at the wheel of the ŠKODA Fabia R5,” said Sylvain Michel before his first rally of this season. “We have worked very well this winter in preparation for this championship and to optimize the potential of this car. Our first aim is driving at a fast and consistent pace, but the Touquet’s conditions mean, we will need to make the right choice of tyres to be successful.“
Dan Gîrtofan gets ready for Romanian Rally Championship
With the Romanian Rally Championship starting in just two weeks’ time, Dan Gîrtofan, who will be competing for ŠKODA Romania Motorsport, has been getting to grips with the tarmac configuration of his ŠKODA Fabia R5. During testing in Sugas Bai Resort, Gîrtofan put in more than 100 km of testing on a single 4km stretch of road, and was pleased with the result of his efforts.
“It was a very successful test session. We only had experience on gravel with the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 before and I can say that we got along with the car on tarmac right from the start. I like the new ŠKODA Fabia R5 very much. It has a lot of power, even though we were just using regular fuel. We’ve made 100 useful kilometers here that will help us in our quest for winning a championship title,” said Dan Gîrtofan.
The Championship gets underway with the Brașov Rally, Gîrtofan home event, and the oldest and most challenging race on the calendar, on 25th March.