The Fabia plays an absolutely pivotal role in Škoda's successful motorsport history. Over the course of four generations, the team from Mladá Boleslav gradually developed it into the most successful competition car in its class. Join us for the unique story of the journey to victory, which lasted 20 years and had many dramatic moments.
Škoda Fabia WRC
After four years in the World Rally Championship with the Octavia WRC, a new chapter in Škoda motorsport is coming – the Fabia WRC. The car was first unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show during the spring of 2003. It was based on the popular serial model Fabia RS, which had to be produced, due to homologation conditions of the competition special, in the number of 2500 pieces. Unlike the relatively robust Octavia WRC, the Fabia WRC was a significantly more compact and therefore more suitable car for winding tracks of special stages. And this was one of the reasons why the great sporting hopes of a team that was hungry for success after a lacklustre period with the Octavia WRC were held for it right from the start. In addition, Škoda Motorsport team cooperated with a number of experienced drivers during development, led by Didier Auriol, which only increased expectations.The Fabia WRC was homologated in the summer of 2003, but from the start of its racing career it was plagued by minor technical complications, often stemming from the rush of development. The Fabia WRC looked beautiful, but it never achieved any significant success during its time in the factory team. However, the team continued to improve the car.
In 2005, the Fabia WRC evo II came with a different front bumper and wing, a redesigned turbocharger, a new exhaust system and better weight distribution. With this specification, the legendary Colin McRae had an excellent run in Wales and Australia, where he had to withdraw from third place after an unlucky clutch change. At the end of the 2005 season, Škoda Motorsport team ended its participation in the World Rally Championship and the Fabia WRC was now operated only by private teams, which continued to develop the Fabia WRC with the support of the factory. In 2006 and 2007, Jan Kopecký finished fifth twice in the World Rally Championship, on asphalt stages in Spain and Germany.
A total of 24 Škoda Fabia WRCs were produced. In terms of results, the car did not confirm its initial sporting ambitions, but the Fabia WRC has provided the team with valuable experience that has helped to clearly define the way and methodology for the development of the next generation of rally cars. This was reflected very early on in the second generation of the Fabia, the S2000.
Škoda Fabia S2000
The Fabia S2000 competition car concept was first presented in 2008 and Škoda Motorsport really cared about its development. The car's specification differed significantly from the WRC. The Fabia S2000 was also equipped with all-wheel drive and a six-speed sequential gearbox, but the engine was not turbocharged, but an atmospherically filled four-cylinder engine with a capacity of 2 litres and a beautiful sound at high revs. It was the torque engine and relatively low weight that gave the second generation the character of a pure racer, which won hearts of many drivers in the Fabia S2000.
In January 2009, the ŠKODA Fabia S2000 made its debut in the IRC (Intercontinental Rally Challenge) championship. At the start of its first event, the Rallye Monte-Carlo, there were two factory crews – Jan Kopecký navigated by Petr Stary and Juho Hänninen with Mikko Markkula. From the start of the car's rally career, it was clear that this would be a completely different story to that of the Fabia WRC. Successes followed in a quick succession. As early as 2010, ŠKODA won the entire IRC championship and factory driver Juho Hänninen won the drivers' championship. ŠKODA continued to win among the brands in the next two years, but instead of Hänninen, the talented youngster Andreas Mikkelsen rejoiced from the drivers' title. He didn't know it at the time, but his sporting career will be close-knit to the success of the next two generations of Fabia rally cars.
In 2010, the Fabia S2000 underwent an evolution where the front end was changed to better reflect the design modifications of the passenger edition of the car after the facelift. Changes to the radiator grille, bumper and headlights optically expanded the car. However, it did not stop at optical expansion. The new rules made it possible to increase the width of the car to 1820 mm. The intake and exhaust manifold were also modified. Two years later, new dark headlights appeared on the car, and in 2014 several more cosmetic modifications appeared. By then, however, Škoda Motorsport's attention had already begun to focus on the development of the new R5 rally car. For this class, the team had to develop a completely new engine, which was first tested in the body of the Fabia S2000.
The Fabia S2000 ended its career with 63 units produced, which stood out not only for their speed and reliability, but also for their extraordinary popularity among drivers. The Fabia S2000 thus laid the foundations for the extremely successful Škoda Motorsport customer programme as we know it today. With the Fabia S2000, customer crews managed to win a total of 50 titles.
Škoda Fabia R5/Rally2
The third generation of the Fabia premiered in 2015 and was developed according to the completely new regulations of the R5 class (later renamed Rally2). The two-litre atmospheric engine was replaced by a turbocharged four-cylinder engine with a capacity reduced to 1.6 litres, for which the power reached 206 kW. The new rules also allowed only a five-speed sequential gearbox to be used. Importantly, despite the significantly altered regulations, the team was able to imprint the traditional reliability and speed of the S2000 on the new car during development. This was achieved mainly due to a very comprehensive and extensive testing program, which was unprecedented in the history of the team.
The Fabia R5/Rally2 was thus able not only to build up on the success of its predecessor, but even to surpass it significantly. It is the most successful rally car today, not only in the history of Škoda Motorsport, but in the entire history of rallying. The factory drivers have won the World Championship title in their category four times in a row – Esapekka Lappi (2016), Pontus Tidemand (2017), Jan Kopecký (2018) and Kalle Rovanperä (2019 with upgraded Fabia Rally2 evo). 2019 was also the last year of the ŠKODA Motorsport factory team´s presence in the World Rally Championship. After the rapidly growing number of Fabia R5/Rally2 cars sold, it was clear that it would be more beneficial for the overall success of the project for the team to focus primarily on further development of the car and support for customer starts.
2019 also saw the launch of the first major modernization of the Fabia R5 evo (later renamed Rally2 evo). It is easily recognizable mainly by the different shape of the headlights, taken from the then modernized serial Fabia. The engine, whose power increased to 212 kW, was newly equipped with an electric water pump, a more efficient cooling system or a turbo with an electronically controlled bypass valve. The body structure has also been strengthened with a new protective frame. Another more significant improvement came in early 2021. A number of famous rally names such as Kris Meeke, Pontus Tidemand and again Andreas Mikkelsen were involved in its preparations. It was the latter Norwegian who became the WRC2 World Champion in 2021 with the Škoda Fabia Rally2 evo in the colours of the Toksport WRT team. And the success of this car was underlined the following year by the title in the same category by the Finn Emil Lindholm, also competing in the Toksport WRT team.
The Fabia R5 (Rally2) and R5 evo (Rally2 evo) represent truly extremely successful projects in the history of Škoda Motorsport. The team did not underestimate a single detail during their development and made full use of all the experience gained so far with previous generations of the Fabia rally car. Another important success factor was the continuous development of the car and the continuous improvement of all key areas. It is thanks to this thorough development work that customers have always received a top-quality vehicle that works optimally on every conceivable stage surface around the world. In the end, over 470 Fabia R5 (Rally2) and R5 evo (Rally2 evo) cars were sold, which overall scored more than 2,000 victories and 5,000 podiums (1st-3rd place) in the hands of private team drivers. Since the summer of 2021, however, Škoda Motorsport was fully focused on the next challenge, which was the testing program of a new rally car based on the fourth generation of the Fabia.
Škoda Fabia RS Rally2
The development team faced a really huge challenge, because the current Škoda Fabia RS Rally2 is a new car built from scratch. It is based on the MQB A0 platform and takes advantage of many of the qualities of the production Fabia, such as the highly efficient aerodynamics with Air Curtains in the front apron. Another significant improvement is the more efficient rear wing, providing almost double the down force value of the previous model. The Fabia RS Rally2 also has a brand newly developed engine, based on the EA888 petrol engine family, and is equipped with variable intake and exhaust valve timing. Compared to the previous model, the Fabia RS Rally2 also has significantly better driving characteristics. The race car benefits from better weight distribution and balance, thanks to a wider body and a longer wheelbase of the production car. The chassis and other components have been strengthened to increase durability and further enhance the already excellent reliability.
Long before the car's June 2022 presentation, Škoda Motorsport underwent an extensive and demanding test programme. For almost a year, the Fabia RS Rally2 was being thoroughly prepared on various surfaces and in all possible weather conditions. The testing program took place in the Czech Republic, France, Italy, Croatia, Germany, Belgium, Spain and also in extreme winter conditions in the north of Finland. Its improved handling characteristics were also praised by the test drivers who actively participated in the development. They particularly appreciated the power of the new engine, the stability of the car at higher speeds and the overall pleasant and easily predictable handling. Its speed and handling were also praised during the 2023 Rally Azores by such an experienced driver as Sébastien Loeb.
And the aforementioned speed already showed during the first starts. The Fabia RS Rally2 won its very first rally (Rallye Lausitz) at the end of last year and was also fastest at two rounds of the 2023 World Rally Championship – Sweden and Mexico. At the Rallye Monte-Carlo, victory narrowly escaped due to a penalty for shortening the track at one of the cuts. This year, a number of very fast and experienced drivers, such as Emil Lindholm, Gus Greensmith and Oliver Solberg, are starting with the new car, and we wish both the car and drivers more trophies and a great experience behind the wheel. We hope that in his quest for victory, he will proudly build on the success of previous Fabia rally cars.