Following up on your best season ever is never an easy task. Last year, the ŠKODA Motorsport factory team claimed a 1-2-3 victory in WRC 2, Jan Kopecký scored another Czech Rally Championship title and the customer teams won more than 20 national and regional titles. Is it even possible to achieve much more in 2019?
For the new season, ŠKODA Motorsport prepared a revamped strategy, which is now even more focused on customer teams than ever before. With more than 250 cars sold to almost 100 teams since its introduction in 2015, ŠKODA FABIA R5 is a dominant force in the R5 rallying around the world. The customer teams represent the brand in more than 60 countries around the world and all major championships, from the continental ones like ERC, APRC, ARC, MERC or CODASUR, to WRC 2 itself.
With the introduction of WRC 2 Pro series for factory teams, the customer teams will have a free reign over the WRC 2 series and will be able to battle for the podium finishes and victories, which were, up to this point, usually reserved for the factory teams. As the FABIA R5 is currently the most popular car in the R5 category, this promises a chance for many successes in the coming season.
“In 2019, our focus is even more on our customers. I am happy and proud to see, that with 13 crews more than one third of the crews competing with a R5 Rally car at rally Monte Carlo trusts our ŠKODA FABIA R5,” emphasizes ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek.
Of course, ŠKODA Motorsport doesn’t leave everything on the shoulders of customer teams. Kalle Rovanperä si registered to compete in WRC 2 Pro this year and the rules allow ŠKODA to enter one more driver into each rally. In Sweden, the second FABIA R5 will be driven by local young talent Eerik Pietarinen and, of course, the reigning WRC 2 Champion Jan Kopecký is may appear in selected WRC 2 Pro events, as well as doing another season in Czech Rally Championship.
Customer vs. Factory teams
For someone who is new to the world of rallying, the difference between the factory (or “works”) team and customer (or “privateer”) teams can be a bit confusing. In fact, though, it is quite simple. Most manufacturers who produce rally cars also have their own team, which represents the brand in rallying and is owned and financed by the company. This is the factory, or works, team. At the same time, the manufacturers sell cars to private, or customer, teams, who race in their own colours, with their own sponsors.
WRC 2 Pro
The biggest change in the 2019 WRC 2 season will make the difference between customer and factory teams more distinct and easy to comprehend – and will give the customer teams a better chance to appear on the podium. It is the introduction of the WRC 2 Pro category, which is reserved for factory team and requires drives and teams to register for the whole season. The current WRC 2 category will continue unchanged, allowing the private drivers to fight for the title without the competition of big factory teams.