A first win in Russia, more success in France and Portugal, as Nicolás Fuchs secures back-to-back WRC2 wins for ŠKODA in Argentina.
Nikolay Gryazin pilots ŠKODA Fabia R5 to maiden win in Russia
Last weekend, the Russian capital Moscow played host to the Rally Masters Show, a two-day tarmac event in which 29 invited teams from across Europe, Russia and Asia competed. And the winners of this annual event were Nikolay Gryazin/Yaroslav Fedorov (title photo above), driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 of Latvian team Sports Racing Technologies (SRT). They drove with composure, as most of their competitors encountered mechanical issues of one kind or another. The victory marked a first win on Russian soil for ŠKODA Fabia R5.
“After the first section we were in front by 30 seconds,” said Nikolay Gryazin after the event, “and in the second section we drove faster. In the end we finished with a very good time and won by a big margin. We dominated partly because our competitors had mechanical problems, but our car was in perfect condition.”
Sylvain Michel retains the lead in the French Rally Championship
The 22nd and 23rd April saw the second round of the French Tarmac Rally Championship taking place with the Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières – Rhône. The event, held in and around the pretty town of Charbonnières-les-Bains and the nearby city of Lyon, consisted of 14 special stages and more than 200 km of competitive distance, although the 1.1 km long SS6 was cancelled this year.
Flying the flag for ŠKODA were Sylvain Michel and his Belgian co-driver Lara Vanneste, driving a Fabia R5 for Team 2C Yacco. They now lead the championship standings after building on their third place finish in the opening round, Rallye Le Touquet – Pas-de-Calais, to clinch runners up spot overall here, win the R5 category in the process.
Their conscientious approach to the event paid off as they pipped their closest rivals in the final stage when a more gung-ho approach of their competitors led to a costly late puncture.
“The result is more than positive,” said Sylvain Michel at the finish. “The puncture meant we squeezed into second place much to the delight of our team and our partners. We spent much of the first day looking for the right set-up, but today we found it and were able to drive on the pace, and fortunately it paid off.”
And there was a one-two finish for ŠKODA to celebrate in the R5 category as Pierre Roché and his co-driver Martine Roché, driving for Team FJ Elf, secured fourth place overall with a hugely impressive and mature drive, which they were rightly proud of.
“The ŠKODA Fabia R5 is a good car and I took enormous pleasure in the driving it here, which was an important factor in our result,” said Pierre Roché afterwards.
The next round of the French Tarmac Championship is the Rallye d’Antibes – Côte d’Azur which takes place from 19th to 22nd May.
Miguel Campos cruises on to the podium at the Rali de Castelo Branco
The Rali de Castelo Branco, which took place on 23rd and 24th April in and around the eastern Portuguese town of Castelo Branco, was the second round of the Portuguese Rally Championship.
The event consisted of 9 special stages and just under 120 km of competitive distance, and saw Miguel Campos and co-driver Carlos Magalhães, driving for the AR Vidal Racing team, secure a deserved podium finish for the ŠKODA Fabia R5, as they finished third overall.
The result matched their finish in the opening round, the Rali Serras de Fafe, and left them in second place in the championship standings. They didn’t finish outside the top 3 in any of the special stages, and even claimed victory in the final stage of the first day.
“I am pleased with our performance,” said Miguel Campos after the event. “We worked throughout the rally to improve and continue to learn the car. We made several changes to set-up and gather more important information which should make us even more competitive in the coming rounds.”
Just behind Campos in fourth place were Pedro Meireles/Mário Castro. Driving independently, they fell a little short of their performance in the opening round of the championship, when they secured an impressive second place finish.
This time out they had a poor start, and while they recovered well as the event went on, including claiming an impressive win in special stage six, they just missed out on a podium place this time round.
The other ŠKODA Fabia R5 competing was the BP Ultimate ŠKODA Team pairing of Miguel Barbosa and co-driver Miguel Ramalho. This was just their second outing in the Fabia R5 and a first on tarmac, so they are using these events to develop an understanding of the car too.
“This will be a rally, as in Fafe, where we are looking to evolve from section to section so as to be competitive and ambitious throughout the event,” said Miguel Barbosa beforehand. “We will be making many changes to the settings and tunings as we go though.”
Like Meireles and Castro, they had a difficult start to the rally but showed real consistency on the second day to seal a sixth place finish. The event gave them more valuable information about the car as they aim towards podium finishes in the upcoming events.
The next round of the Portuguese Rally Championship is the Azores Airlines Rallye which takes place from 2nd to 4th June.
Second consecutive ŠKODA Fabia R5 WRC2 win at the Rally Argentina
The World Rally Championship continued last weekend with its fourth round in Argentina. And there was more great news for the ŠKODA participants as Peruvian driver Nicholas Fuchs and Argentinian co-driver Fernando Mussano secured victory in the WRC2 category, overcoming tough conditions and some considerable challenges along the way.
You can read our full Rally Argentina review HERE
Scott Pedder confirms his 2016 WRC2 programme
Australian Rally Driver Scott Pedder has confirmed details of his return to the World Rally Championship this year. Pedder, who will be accompanied by his experienced, long-time co-driver Dale Moscatt, will be behind the wheel of a ŠKODA Fabia R5 run by the AutoTek Motorsport team.
They have confirmed participation in five rounds of this years’ championship, starting with the next event, the Rally de Portugal. They will also be on the start line in Poland and Finland, as well as the Rally China, before concluding their campaign on home soil with the final event of the season, the Rally Australia.
But Pedder also revealed that they retain the option of running in another two European events if things are going well.
“We’ll assess our progress and championship position after the European rounds and if all is going well we have options for a further two European events,” said Scott Pedder. “I will be doing two days testing before Portugal this year, which should really help me find that feeling again and be in the best shape to tackle the event.”
“I’m also going to employ a smarter strategy this year because there were times last year where that probably let me down,” he added. “There will be times this year on these long and tough events where that is what you have to do, balance the speed with caution.”
New co-driver helps Mikko Lehessaari’s development in Finland
Finnish rally driver Mikko Lehessaari continued his development in the ŠKODA Fabia R5 last weekend at the Defa Rally in Finland. It was his first drive alongside new co-driver Reeta Hämäläinen and also his first gravel event since 2013.
Whilst the rally itself comprised of just four stages, there was plenty of competition as it is one of the few events before the next round of the Finnish Rally Championship in June. And it was quite a big challenge for all teams, because the weather conditions were quite nasty: temperatures from 0 to 6 degrees, sun shining, raining, snowing, thundering… All kinds of weather during just one day!
And Lehessaari drove an excellent rally to finish just 3.9 seconds behind the reigning Finnish Rally Champion. He also forged a good working relationship with his new co-driver and hopes are high that this could be the start of long and prosperous working relationship together.
The British Rally Championship hits the gravel at the Pirelli Rally
Next weekend sees the third round of the British Rally Championship (BRC) taking place with the Pirelli Rally being held around the north-western city of Carlisle. This gravel event takes place on 30th April and 1st May and comprises of seven special stages and just over 120 km of competitive rallying.
There will be a number of ŠKODA Fabia R5s participating with David Bogie and co-driver Kevin Rae liking to be pushing at the front of the field for the CA1 Sport team. Bogie was the highest placed ŠKODA in the previous round at the Circuit of Ireland and currently sits joint fourth in the championship’s standings. Having previously won this event in 2011, he will keen to seek to repeat that performance five years on.
“After two solid runs in the new ŠKODA Fabia R5, it’s time to push a little bit harder on the Pirelli Rally and try to go for a win,” commented an ambitious David Bogie. “I have a good feel for the event. The Pirelli is a difficult rally, because there are a lot of miles between service and you have to try and stay out of trouble. Along with the Scottish, the Pirelli is one of my favourite events in the BRC, so we’ll be going there looking for a good result, that’s for sure.”
The other CA1 Sport-run ŠKODA Fabia R5 will be driven by Thomas Preston and co-driver Jack Morton. It will be their first event in the BRC championship this year, but they had a positive first drive of their vehicle at the Somerset Stages where they finished seventh overall, and will be hopeful of making some inroads here too.
“Whilst I’ve never done the Pirelli Rally before, I’ve done a number of the stages which have been run on other events, so I know what to expect,” said a positive Thomas Preston. “It’s going to be a big challenge for me in a brand new car, but it’s a challenge I’m very much looking forward to. This year’s BRC is all about gaining experience, so I’ve no great expectations in terms of a result. It’s important to get mileage under my belt and bring the Fabia R5 home to the finish.”
Also taking part will be Desi Henry and his Irish co-driver Liam Moynihan. They have not enjoyed the best of luck in the opening two rounds of the BRC, but will be hoping that their recent victory at the Moonraker Forestry Rally in Ireland will be a catalyst for a change of fortune.
Also taking part will be Neil Simpson and co-driver Elliott Edmondson for the Simpsons ŠKODA Motorsport team. Simpson has driven the rally of five previous occasions, but his last outing was back in the year 2000. He has never failed to finish, a record which he is planning to extend this time out.
“After the start we’ve had to this year’s BRC, we need to finish,” Neil Simpson told the Pirelli Rally official website. “Whilst reaching the finish is a must and is something the entire team is focused on achieving, I would like to finish in the top ten. The competition is tough but I think that is a realistic aim, we just need to turn our luck around and have a trouble free run.”
There will also be a welcome run out for Martin McCormack and co-driver David Moynihan who will be driving a ŠKODA Fabia S2000 for the Tiger Risk Rally Team. Although they are in an older car, they have proved to be competitive in recent events and will no doubt be looking to push hard again here.
Raimund Baumschlager looks to carry momentum into Wechselland Rallye
Next weekend will also see the return of the Austrian Rally Championship with its third round, the Wechselland Rallye. This tarmac event, which takes place over 12 special stages and around 150 km of competitive distance, will take place around the town of Pinggau in south-eastern Austria.
For the BRR team, reigning champion and the winner of this event by a margin of more than two minutes last year, Raimund Baumschlager will be taking part again alongside his regular co-driver Thomas Zeltner. They have enjoyed another flying start to the season with a second and first place in the opening two rounds of the championship, despite the addition of WRC cars to the competition this season, and Raimund will no doubt be hoping to add to his eight career victories at this event thus far.
Also taking part will be Wolfgang Scherleithner and Alexander Kamper who will also be driving for the BRR team. Scherleithner finished 12th overall here last season and will be hoping to make an impact in his debut drive in a ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Norbert Herczig looks to extend championship lead at Miskolc Rallye
On 29th and 30th April the Hungarian Rally Championship resumes with its second round at the Miskolc Rallye. This tarmac rally which takes place over around 150 competitive kilometers will see Norbert Herczig and co-driver Igor Bacigál, driving the Fabia R5 for the ŠKODA Rally Team Hungaria, looking to extend their lead at the top of the championship.
The Hungarian duo won the opening round of the championship at the Eger Rally and having claimed the spoils in Miskolc last year in a Fabia S2000, they will be keen to repeat that performance and extend their dominance of the championship into the new season.
Freddy Loix looking to continue dominance of Belgian Rally Championship
Whilst many championships around Europe are still getting underway, the Belgian Rally Championship is flying along. This weekend will see the fourth round of the championship taking place with the Rallye de Wallonie.
And it’s an epic rally, with no fewer than 25 special stages taking place over three days and more than 230 km of competitive rallying in and around the pretty town of Namur near Charleroi.
In their ŠKODA Fabia R5, Freddy Loix and his Dutch co-driver Johan Gitsels will be looking to maintain their 100% record in the championship so far having secured victories in all three rounds so far, most recently at the TAC Rally. Driving 2C Competition-run car, Loix only has one win in this event to his name so far, back in 2013, and will be keen to improve his record here this year.
Meanwhile Belgian compatriots Vincent Verschueren and his co-driver Veronique Hostens, who have just one podium finish to their names so far, will be hoping to finally get their championship charge underway. They are currently third in the standings, but will be looking to push for the victory to close the gap on Loix at the top.
Also driving a ŠKODA Fabia R5 for the Ecurie Bayard team will be Xavier Bouche. Along with co-driver Kevin Fernandez, he made his debut in the car in the second round of the championship at the Spa Rally, where he finished fourth.
His pedigree showed through at the Rally des Ardennes where he won by almost 1 minute 20 seconds, and having finished on the podium at this event in the past two years, he will be looking to complete a personal hat-trick this time round.
Rallye Šumava Klatovy sees plenty of ŠKODA Fabia R5 entries
ŠKODA Motorsport’s home series, the Czech Rally Championship gets underway on 29th April with the Rallye Šumava Klatovy. Taking place in and around the picturesque town of Klatovy in the west of the country, the tarmac event consists of 12 special stages and 150 km of competitive rallying.
As our home event, it goes without saying that there will be a number of ŠKODA Fabia R5s taking part this year, in addition to the official ŠKODA Motorsport driving teams of reigning champions Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler, and the Swedish pairing of Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson.
Pavel Valoušek and co-driver Veronika Havelková, competing for the MM Rally team, have already had an impressive start to their challenge for the Slovak Rally Championship crown, with a third place finish at the Eger Rally. The pairing, who finished third in the Czech championship last year, and also came third in this event, will again be looking to challenge for a podium place this year.
Vojtěch Štajf and co-driver František Rajnoha will be in a Fabia R5 for the Klokočka ŠKODA Czech National Team. They finished second in ERC2 category of last years’ European Rally Championship and bring huge experience to the rally, but will also be learning too, as this marks their first drive with an R5 car, after many years at the wheel of production cars.
For the KL Racing Team, Jan Sýkora and co-driver Štěpán Palivec will be making their debut in a ŠKODA Fabia R5, but have driven R5 cars for the past three years, so have a good understanding of how the vehicles handle and perform.
Věroslav Cvrček and Michal Ernst will be starting in a Tlusťák Racing ŠKODA Fabia R5. This is also their debut in the car, after spending last year behind the wheel of a ŠKODA Octavia WRC Evo3.
There will be two more ŠKODA Fabia R5 drivers on the start line. The German duo of Matthias Kahle, along with co-driver Christian Doerr, will be starting their first rally in an R5 car since finishing second the Lausitz Rallye last year. And Karel Trojan and his co-driver Petr Chlup, who are driving the car of Korno Motorsport team, will also be making their debut with the Fabia R5.
Owen Murphy makes ŠKODA Fabia R5 debut at International Rally of the Lakes
The Irish Tarmac Championship also continues this week with the fourth round event at the International Rally of the Lakes. Desi Henry, who is competing in the championship, will not be there, as he is driving in the BRC at the Pirelli Rally, but there will nevertheless be a ŠKODA Fabia R5 at the start as Irish duo Owen Murphy/Anthony Nestor look to make an impression on their first drive in the car.