A one-two in Austria, more success in Belgium, and vital points won in Ireland and Italy, as the ŠKODA Fabia R5 teams defy the rain right across Europe.
ŠKODA ‘one-two’ as Raimund Baumschlager continues Austrian dominance in Lavanttal Rallye
Raimund Baumschlager continued his fine form at the start of the Austrian Rally Championship by claiming victory in the Lavanttal Rallye, an asphalt event with competitive distance of 191 km divided into 12 special stages.
Along with his co-driver Thomas Zeltner, Baumschlager, who was driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 in the colors of the BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team, controlled the event finishing in the top two on ten out of the twelve stages to finish 1 minute and 20 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger.
It was a commanding victory which saw the veteran Austrian cope with rain, some gravel surfaces, and the challenge of a number of WRC cars, which have been allowed into the Austrian championship this year.
“We will enjoy this victory to the fullest because this rally was more difficult than ever before and from the first kilometer to the last things were on a knife-edge,” said excited Raimund Baumschlager. “The rain made roads very slippery. It was only with a lot of skill and luck, we managed the almost flawless drive needed to win.”
Raimund Baumschlager’s victory was made all the sweeter by the result of Fabian Kreim who finished in second place in the rally. Kreim, along with co-driver Frank Christian, was driving for the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland team and his car was actually prepared by BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team.
Fabian Kreim’s result was all the more remarkable given his hectic program of events, with his schedule including the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg just this weekend, while at the end of April he is off to compete for ŠKODA in the first round of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) in New Zealand.
Speaking afterwards, Fabian Kreim was pleased with the outcome in challenging conditions: “Pouring rain, smooth and challenging slopes, and the switch between asphalt and gravel sections – the Lavanttal Rallye was a real test of both driving and concentration. Second place is an outstanding result for us and I feel prepared for our home rally next weekend.”
Meanwhile, the Austrian Rally Championship will continue on 29th April with the Wechselland Rallye.
Freddy Loix wins again in TAC Rally, while Vincent Verschueren finishes fourth in home rally
Freddy Loix continued his perfect start to the Belgian Rally Championship with victory at the TAC Rally in Tielt, an asphalt event which included 191 km of competitive distance divided into 12 special stages. In slippery conditions, every centimeter and second can be crucial, and so it proved as Loix and co-driver Johan Gitsels, driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 run by 2C Competition team, finished just 6.4 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
In such a rally every decision is vital and Freddy Loix admitted afterwards that the first day in particular has been a challenge: “I am extremely happy with this result. The first loop of four stages was a bit complicated and difficult following a careful choice of tyres. During the second loop, I attacked strongly. It was a very tense battle, and the result remained tight until the last meter, but we were able to win and I am delighted.”
Meanwhile the ŠKODA Fabia R5 of Vincent Verschueren was unfortunate to finish just outside the podium places in fourth, just 3.7 seconds behind the third placed car. Speaking afterwards, a disappointed Verschueren made it clear how every single setting and decision is important in what is his home rally.
“We started with Michelin’s compound ‘0’. These are the super soft tyres, but these tyres were obviously too soft for these conditions. It was a mistake. I went head-to-tail twice. The set-up was not ideal. The car was too soft at the back and it was unbalanced when I was braking,” explained Vincent Verschueren. “The adjustments were really not good for soaking wet. It was a disappointing outcome.”
The next round of the Belgian Rally Championship takes place in just three weeks’ time with the Rally de Wallonie taking place from 29th April to 1st May.
Accident curtails Umberto Scandola’s excellent form in Rally Sanremo
There were mixed fortunes for the ŠKODA Fabia R5 of Umberto Scandola in the second round of the Italian Rally Championship, the Rally Sanremo. The event itself is a two day rally consisting of 11 special stages and almost 160 km of competitive distance. The championship format sees the event broken into two individual stages with points awarded for each of them.
And all was going swimmingly on Day 1 for Scandola and his co-driver Guido D’Amore, as they claimed victory over the opening six stages to earn valuable championship points. And Scandola was buoyant after his early success.
“It was a fantastic victory in a rally that I particularly like. We knew that it wouldn’t be easy against very tough opponents, but we had the perfect car, tyres, and whole team especially my co-driver. We gave 100% and got the result we wanted,” said Umberto Scandola after the first leg.
Unfortunately, an accident in tricky conditions on Day 2 brought their event to a premature end, and dashed any hopes of winning further points or claiming a competitive overall result.
The next round of the Italian Rally Championship will be the famous Targa Florio from 6th to 8th May.
Mixed fortunes for ŠKODA teams at weather-hit Rally Circuit of Ireland
The Rally Circuit of Ireland is one of the classic British events and marked both the second round of the European Rally Championship (ERC) and the second round of the British Rally Championship (BRC). The rally, which consisted of 14 special stages and 210 km of competitive distance, proved to be an event of mixed results for the ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars as rainfall led to wet and slippery conditions.
But for experienced British driver David Bogie and his co-driver Kevin Rae, driving for the CA1 Sport team, there was a strong result after being hampered by a crash at the shakedown which ruled them out of qualifying stage.
Despite a disadvantageous starting position, and this being his debut drive in this event, Bogie and his ŠKODA Fabia R5 handled the changeable conditions expertly to secure a sixth place finish overall and third in the BRC standings.
“I’m really pleased to have scored a podium in the BRC on my first Circuit of Ireland. Despite having to run further back than we’d hoped, we focused on the job in hand,” said David Bogie after the rally. “We couldn’t push as much as we’d have liked to on day two, because conditions meant you often found yourself from time to time on completely the wrong tires for the conditions. We wanted to reach the finish, get some solid BRC points on board and continue to learn about the ŠKODA Fabia R5 and the Pirelli tyres – and we certainly achieved all of those things.”
For Neil Simpson and his co-driver Elliott Edmondson, driving in the colors of Simpsons ŠKODA Motorsport, there was less good news, as they succumbed to one of the most spectacular accidents of the rally. Pushing hard in 5th gear and travelling at around 170 km an hour when a bump in the road caused the car to spin and roll. The vehicle ended up in a bog which fortunately helped to ensure there was no lasting damage to either driver or car.
“I’ve never been so fast backwards in all my life!” asserted Neil Simpson. “It’s been a very challenging start to our British Rally Championship campaign, with retirement in Ireland and on the opening Mid Wales Stages. Our luck has to change soon, and we’re already looking forward to the next round of the series.”
It also proved to be a frustrating event for Jaromír Tarabus and co-driver Daniel Trunkát driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 for the T&T Czech National Team. Again they proved competitive until the very last stage of the rally only to be undone by a combination of the treacherous conditions and an aggressive tyre selection as they pushed to make up time on their rivals.
“It was only our second rally with the Fabia R5 and initially we managed to maintain a competitive pace, at one stage matching the time of the leaders. The car was set up extremely well but as we pushed to maintain our fifth place we took a risk with a harder compound tyre,” said Jaromír Tarabus after the accident.
His co-driver Daniel Trunkát takes up the story: “Before the last stage we lost out on 4th place by just five seconds and we wanted to try to attack, so we gave it our best. In the following stage there was a difficult passage and in a series of corners ‘left three’ to ‘right six’ we unfortunately ended up in a hedge. That mistake cost us the event and I’m sorry for my whole team. But we did learn in this event that the ŠKODA Fabia R5 can compete with the best.”
The next round of the ERC is the Acropolis Rally in Greece from the 6th to 8th May, while the BRC continues with the Pirelli Rally from 29th April to 1st May.
Fabian Kreim looking to push on at the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg
The German Rally Championship resumes on the 15th April with second round at the Hessen Rallye Vogelsberg. Taking place in the Vogelsberg mountains, in the German state of Hessen, this asphalt rally is held over around 150 km competitive distance and 12 special stages.
This year the ŠKODA charge will be led by Fabian Kreim, driving for the ŠKODA AUTO Deutschland team, who finished second here last year in the ŠKODA Fabia S2000. He will be looking to build on a fantastic second place finish at the Lavanttal Rallye in the Austrian Rally Championship and his victory in the opening round of German championship, to cement his lead at the top of the championship standings.
Dan Gîrtofan optimistic for new-look Sibiu Rally
On 15th April, the Romanian Rally Championship continues with the Sibiu Rally. This asphalt event, which will this year be held over 12 special stages, with 2 on Friday and 10 on Saturday, has been 60% reconfigured from previous years meaning that much of the event will be new to even the most experienced of Romanian Rally drivers.
For ŠKODA, the Sibiu Rally will see Dan Gîrtofan and co-driver Tudor Mârza look to improve on their second place in the championship’s opening rally.
“It’s a rally that I always liked and I am very happy to compete in it again. We are very confident we can secure a good result despite the fact that the rally’s configuration has changed,” said Dan Gîrtofan before the rally.