ŠKODA packs the podiums as Fabia R5 cars secure 1-2-3 results in Belgium and the Czech Republic, another wins in Hungary as well as in Italy and a strong second place in Austria.
1-2-3 finish for ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars, as Freddy Loix wins again at the Rallye de Wallonie
Freddy Loix (title photo above) continued his 100% start of the season with a fourth successive Belgian Rally Championship victory at the Rallye de Wallonie. And he led home a historic 1-2-3 as ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars took all three podium places in Belgium for the very first time.
Loix, along with co-driver Johan Gitsels, who drives Fabia run by 2C Competition team, was once again in control throughout the rally, eventually emerging victorious by a comfortable margin of 44.4 seconds.
“This victory makes me very happy,” said Freddy Loix after the rally. “We drove a very smart rally, where we needed to, and chose the right stages, in which to attack more. The strategy has borne fruit and I thank our team and ŠKODA Belgium for their great work in giving us a very reliable car.”
“The variable weather conditions really complicated things for us,” added co-driver Johan Gitsels. “We couldn’t just attack, but had to drive intelligently. After discussion with Vincent Struye, Marketing Manager of ŠKODA Belgium, we decided to think about the championship and not to take unnecessary risks. And it paid off for us.”
Behind them, the battle for second and third was between Xavier Bouche/Kevin Fernandez, driving for the Ecurie Bayard team, and Vincent Verschueren/Veronique Hostens. And it was Bouche, who snuck into second place by a margin of just 1.7 seconds.
Despite missing out on second spot, Verschueren was happy with the progress being made by his team which saw him secure his second podium place of the season, and cement his third position in the championship.
“Confidence has come back, the car today feels better and we are clearly on the right track,” Vincent Verschueren said. “I had said before that making progress was important. It is clear, that we have progressed and are now recording times comparable to Loix. Missing out on second place by such a small margin is of course disappointing, but we go home feeling positive. There are good times to come.”
If having three ŠKODA Fabia R5s on the podium was not a good enough result, there was also a ŠKODA in fourth spot as well, as Benoît Allart, alongside his co-driver Théo Surson, enjoyed a strong finish in their ŠKODA Fabia WRC, also in the colours of the Ecurie Bayard team.
The next round of the Belgian Rally Championship is the Sezoens Rally, which takes place on 20th and 21st May.
Pavel Valoušek joins the works team in another 1-2-3 at the Rallye Šumava Klatovy
The Czech Rally Championship got underway last weekend with the Rallye Šumava Klatovy and it was a dominant start to home series of ŠKODA car manufacturer, as another podium was filled with ŠKODA Fabia R5s.
The ŠKODA Motorsport pairing of Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler claimed victory by 26.1 seconds from their Swedish teammates Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson.
Behind them in third place came Pavel Valoušek/Veronika Havelková driving for the Energy Oil Motorsport, despite only entering the event at the last moment. This was just their second event in the ŠKODA Fabia R5, and they matched the third place finish, they secured last time out in the Eger Rallye. They also came third in this event last year driving a ŠKODA Fabia S2000.
“This decision was really made at the last moment, but we enjoyed a great result here last year, so it was great to come back,” said Pavel Valoušek afterwards. “Our new Fabia R5 is an incredible car, and driving in it is a joy. We drove a composed rally with no real incidents and kept a good pace throughout. The team did a great job, and the car was excellently prepared, so I thank all of them.”
Remarkably, this event was also the second of the weekend to see ŠKODA cars finishing in all of the top four places, as Jan Černý and Petr Černohorský Jr, driving for the Mogul Racing Team, managed to steer their Fabia S2000 to a remarkable fourth place overall.
Also finishing inside the top 10 were Jan Sýkora/Štěpán Palivec, driving for the KL Racing Team. They came home eight, in what was their debut drive in a ŠKODA Fabia R5.
“It is a new car which handles very differently from what I was driving before,” said Jan Sýkora afterwards. “But it has a great engine. It is now up to me and Štěpán to up the ante.”
There were several other notable performances by the crews with the ŠKODA Fabia R5 cars. The German pairing of Matthias Kahle/Christian Doerr finished fourteenth in their first start in the Fabia R5 since last year’s Lausitz Rallye. Meanwhile, Věroslav Cvrček/Michal Ernst, driving for the Tlusťák Racing, came home sixteenth in their first drive in a Fabia R5, and also their first rally of the season.
Karel Trojan and his co-driver Petr Chlup were driving the car of the team Korno Motorsport and finished eighteenth in what was also their debut in the Fabia R5. But Vojtěch Štajf/František Rajnoha, who were competing for the Klokočka ŠKODA Czech National Team, and also making their debut in an R5 car, unfortunately failed to finish.
The second round of the Czech Rally Championship, the Rallye Český Krumlov, takes place on the 29th and 30th May.
Norbert Herczig extends Hungarian championship lead with win at Miskolc Rallye
The Miskolc Rallye was the second round of the Hungarian Rally Championship and it proved to be yet another successful event for the ŠKODA Fabia R5 team.
Norbert Herczig/Igor Bacigál, driving for the ŠKODA Rally Team Hungaria in a car prepared by the BRR team, claimed victory by a margin of 16.8 seconds to consolidate their lead at the top of the championship standings.
It was their second win of the season in Hungarian championship, after finishing first amongst the Hungarian competitors at the Eger Rallye last month, and they also secured three bonus points for winning the Power Stage.
“We are very happy to win again in Miskolc,” said Norbert Herczig on the podium. “It was a difficult rally because we were not leading on the first day, and had to turn things around on day 2. We were using new Pirelli tyres, but we adapted to them quickly and of course it always helps, that the BRR team gave us a perfectly prepared ŠKODA Fabia R5 again. We have made a good start, but there is a long way to go in the championship, so now we must prepare for the upcoming rallies.”
The next event of the Hungarian Rally Championship will be the Szombathely Rallye, which takes place from the 20th to 22nd May.
Raimund Baumschlager battles against the odds to claim second place in Wechselland Rallye
The third round of the Austrian Rally Championship took place last weekend, and saw yet another impressive podium finish for Raimund Baumschlager. Baumschlager, who was driving for the BRR team along with co-driver Thomas Zeltner, finished in second place in the rally, to leave him second in the championship overall.
He has won this event eight times in the past, but his task this year has been made all the more difficult by the addition of WRC cars to the Austrian championship. And speaking after the rally, he was happy with his performance.
“I am more than satisfied with the result, because our whole team worked perfectly this weekend,” said Raimund Baumschlager. The track characteristics here, with the many uphill sections, give the WRC cars a real advantage, so to come second is better than we had expected.”
The other BRR team of Wolfgang Scherleithner/Alexander Kamper also completed the event in thirteenth place.
The next round of the Austrian Rally Championship is the Schneebergland Rallye, which takes place on the 24th and 25th May.
Solid ŠKODA drives at a wet and slippery Pirelli Rally
The Pirelli Carlisle Rally last weekend was the third round of the British Rally Championship and once again there were positive results for the ŠKODA Fabia R5 competitors in difficult conditions in Cumbria, as melting snow made the gravel tracks in the Kielder Forest area very wet and slippery.
The best Fabia R5 placing was Desi Henry, who along with co-driver Liam Moynihan, finished in seventh place, after overcoming various mishaps, including a number of punctures. Having not enjoyed the best of starts to the season, they were keen to build on victory one week ago in the Moonraker Rally in Ireland, and they were pleased with their result.
Speaking afterwards, Desi Henry was in a positive mood: “It was a difficult weekend, because we kept getting punctures and I still don’t know how. But I’m generally happy with our pace now on gravel. It was a big improvement and I’m looking forward to the next round.”
Just one place behind them in eighth position were Neil Simpson/Elliott Edmondson in the colours of the Simpsons ŠKODA team. It was 16 years since Simpson had last driven in this event, and he was delighted to secure his first point-scoring finish of the season.
“Our strategy for this Rally was to drive for a top ten finish, and that’s what we’ve achieved,” said Neil Simpson after the event. “After a lot of recent bad luck, it was important for us to get to the finish. We’re still learning about the ŠKODA Fabia R5, and we made a few changes to the suspension settings, which gave us a lot of good feedback. This is the first rally, I’ve finished in eighteen months, our BRC campaign has got some points on the board now and I couldn’t be happier.”
The two CA1 Sport-run ŠKODA Fabia R5s enjoyed mixed fortunes. David Bogie/Kevin Rae were lying in second place at the end of the first leg, but pushing hard to close the gap on the leaders at the start of the second leg, they span off the road, and were unable to get the car back onto the road, forcing a retirement.
Meanwhile, Thomas Preston and co-driver Jack Morton were aiming for a top fifteen finish in just their second event in the car. And they recovered from a slow start to achieve that, ending up thirteenth overall.
“We had no real issues and really enjoyed the event,” said Thomas Preston at the finish of the event. “On day two we moved up a gear on the fast and flowing stuff and were able to increase our pace, as we grew in confidence. Torrential rain halfway through the last stage made the roads extremely slippery, but by then we were well into our stride and got the car home safely.”
Finally, a hat-tip to Martin McCormack/David Moynihan, who were driving a ŠKODA Fabia S2000 car for the Tiger Risk Rally Team. They drove with great consistency and mastered the difficult conditions superbly to end up as the best placed ŠKODA drivers of the weekend in fifth place overall.
Luca Rossetti snatches win at the Rally Internazionale del Taro
There was another success for the ŠKODA Fabia R5 this weekend at the Rally Internazionale del Taro. Taking place in Bedonia in north-west Italy, this tarmac event consisted of 20 special stages and more than 140 km of competitive distance.
There were three ŠKODA Fabia R5s taking part, led by the Promo Sport Racing team car of Luca Rossetti /Elenora Mori. And in an epic battle at the head of the field, they clinched the victory by a margin of just 0.3 seconds.
COMING UP THIS WEEKEND
Rally Information: Lamia, Greece. 6th – 8th May. Round 3 of the European Rally Championship. 12 special stages, 231 km of competitive distance.
ŠKODA Fabia R5 Teams: Jaromír Tarabus/Daniel Trunkát (T&T Czech National Team); Raul Jeets/Andrus Toom (Sport Racing Technologies); Lambros Athanassoulas/Elias Panagiotounis (Laskaris Foundation Team Greece); Ralfs Sirmacis/Arturs Šimins (Sport Racing Technologies); Antonín Tlusťák/Ladislav Kučera (Tlusťák Racing).
Interesting Facts: Lambros Athanassoulas finished 3rd at this event last year in a ŠKODA Fabia R5, whilst Jaromír Tarabus came 4th in the ŠKODA Fabia S2000. This is Ralfs Sirmacis debut event in a ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Rally Information: Dead Sea Region, Jordan. 5th – 7th May. Round 3 of Middle East Rally Championship (MERC). 21 special stages, more than 250 km of competitive distance.
ŠKODA Fabia R5 Teams: Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari /Killian Duffy (Culture and Sport Qatar Rally Team); Nasser Al-Attiyah / Mattieu Baumel
Interesting Facts: Nasser Al-Attiyah has won this event nine times previously, making him the second most successful driver in the rally’s history.
Rally Information: Opatija, Croatia. 6th – 7th May. 3rd round of the Mitropa Cup. 8 special stages, 100 km of competitive distance.
ŠKODA Fabia R5 Team: János Puskádi/Barnabás Gódor (Eurosol Racing Team Hungary)
Interesting Facts: Puskádi is prioritizing both the Mitropa Cup and the European Rally Championship this year but has chosen this event over the Acropolis Rally. He finished second in the Mitropa Cup standings last season in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000. The Rally Opatija will be just his second event in the ŠKODA Fabia R5.
Rallye Rund um die Sulinger Bärenklaue
Rally Information: Sulingen, Germany. 6th – 7th May. 3rd round of the German Rally Championship. 11 special stages, 130 km of competitive distance.
ŠKODA Fabia R5 Teams: Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian (ŠKODA Auto Deutschland); Dmitriy Biryukov/Evgeniy Kalachev
Interesting Facts: Kreim won five events in the 2015 German Rally Championship as he finished second, but didn’t drive the Sulinger event last year.
Rally Information: Palermo, Sicily. 6th – 8th May. 3rd round of the Italian Rally Championship. 13 special stages, over 150 km of competitive distance.
ŠKODA Fabia R5 Team: Umberto Scandola/Guido D’Amore (Car Racing team)
Interesting Facts: Scandola and D’Amore finished second in this event last year in a ŠKODA Fabia S2000. They will be hoping to go one better this year.