The ŠKODA FABIA R5 drivers took 23 national titles this year and completely dominated their categories in the World Rally Championship, as well as in the European Rally Championship and other continental rally series. ŠKODA Motorsport invited them all to a unique race in Prague, to compete with each other as well.
Being the fastest on go-karts among your group of friends is a matter of honour for every fan of rallying and fast cars in general. Winning December’s electric kart race, though, held by ŠKODA Motorsport, was an almost impossible challenge. Dozens of drivers and co-drivers from all around the world gathered in one place – all of them national title holders in countries ranging from Portugal to China. Many of them had just finished a dramatic season, fighting to the very last kilometre.
“Rally was born in Italy! I think we have the most difficult national rally championship in the world, with the Citroën and Ford works drivers taking part. It’s a real challenge. The key to our success was being consistently fast throughout the year. The others always made some kind of mistake, but we kept on top steadily, avoiding any errors. In the last round, however, we were running right on the edge. Until the last stage, nothing was decided and three drivers were in the running. The stage was 27 kilometres long and we won it by 15 seconds,” explains Italian champion Giandomenico Basso.
He's not the only one who couldn’t afford a single mistake throughout the season. “The fight for the title was all or nothing from our point of view. We needed to score four times and we entered four rounds. There was no room for technical problems or driving mistakes. Fortunately, we succeeded and we are really grateful for our title,” says junior European champion Filip Mareš, from Czech Republic, who managed to beat Chris Ingram, also in a ŠKODA FABIA R5, by just 0.3 seconds. The young Brit, however, soon managed to go one better, winning the overall ERC title.
A car that never fails
Without a single exception, all of the national champions agree that the ŠKODA FABIA R5 was key to their success. The car is a common thread in all of their stories. “It’s a very fast, very sturdy car. In the last round of the season, we had to finish second to become champions. In one stage, I slid into a ditch. At that moment, I thought I’d lost the title. However, the car started right up, with just some damage to the front end, and we could continue. That was a really powerful moment,” Danish champion Ib Kraigh recalls.
“A good car is the most important thing. And the FABIA R5 is unbelievable. There was never a problem with it. With it, I won every rally in the Spanish national championship and I’m really happy about that,” said Xavier Pons, heaping praise on the car. As it turns out, it’s also a reliable car for tough conditions. “It was, first and foremost, our FABIA R5 that helped us achieve the victory. In my opinion, it’s the best car for rainy conditions, and this year, there was only one round of our national championship that didn’t have any rain,” Adrian Fernémont, the champion from Belgium, stated.
So, how did the Prague clash of the champions end? The junior ERC champion Filip Mareš finished third, with Italian gravel champion Stéphane Consani in the second place - and multiple German champion Fabian Kreim became the champion among the champions. They were personally presented their laurels by Kalle Rovanperä, this year’s WRC 2 Pro champion, and Jan Kopecký, last year’s WRC 2 champion and multiple Czech rally champion.