Václav Trkola, Head of Customer Technical Support at ŠKODA Motorsport, speaks about the services offered by his department, the importance of customer feedback and the season ahead.
What is the scope of your work and what exactly are you in charge of?
I am responsible for Customer Technical Support within Customer Program of ŠKODA Motorsport. My job, together with my colleagues, is to provide overall technical support to all our customers around the world. We help them run their cars and increase their performance and it is very much appreciated from their side.
Which technical support or services do you currently offer to customer teams?
In cooperation with engineers, technicians and mechanics, we provide remote as well as event support. We also offer revisions and repairs of main parts directly in ŠKODA Motorsport premises or in cooperation with our service partners. Moreover, we also inform customers about all technical news via technical bulletins, release recommended set-ups for selected rallies or deal with eventual technical problems.
Has there been any news in the field of technical support this year?
One of the biggest innovations was the successful provision of a truck with spare parts, which was first time sent to Croatia Rally in April 2021. This truck is currently available to customers primarily at selected WRC or ERC events and thanks to it they can buy spare parts on the spot. Customers might not always be equipped with all the spare parts, so if they need to buy any, they can find them in this truck and it could help them continue in the rally.
What can teams find in the mentioned spare parts truck?
Based on our experience, the truck is mainly equipped with the parts that wear out the easiest depending on the conditions of the event. These parts include for example bumpers, fenders, chassis parts, engine compartment parts or transmissions. The truck contains 70 to 80 per cent of the car parts. Obviously, we don’t carry bodyshells, because it’s not allowed to be changed during a rally.
How does remote technical support work?
Customers communicate with us mostly via standard channels like email or phone, but even through messengers like Whatsapp. Besides day to day communication on topics related to car handling or maintenance, we offer a remote technical support to a given event based on prior request. Then a dedicated technician is ready to remotely help the team with data analysis, car setup, answer technical questions or advice car treatment. In other cases, we try to help customers with issues during rallies. They contact us and when we are not able to help directly, we try to locate the nearest technician to solve the problem in person.
Which services can customers use directly at ŠKODA Motorsport?
We offer engine, transmission and dampers revisions and repairs. Teams can book a slot in our workshop based on our capacities and their racing schedule. Then they send us only an engine, transmission or set of dampers and we immediately start working. If there is clash with customer’s event, we are able to lease engine or gearbox for the rebuild period. For the gearbox we also offer a paid training for the teams, where we teach them how to maintain gearbox on their own, but it was mostly popular at the beginning of our customer program. Nowadays most of the customers know our car and procedures well.
What do engineers help customers with during a rally?
We provide two levels of support on events. The first level of support, which is free of charge, contains general area support by our staff at WRC and ERC competitions. This service is also available at selected rounds of national championships. The second form of support is individual for a given team, which must be ordered in advance, because our capacities are limited and demand is very high. For the event support we can provide even four types of experienced professionals: car engineer, engine engineer, technician or mechanic, each with different expertise and responsibilities to get the best possible performance.
Is the individual technical support available worldwide?
Yes, we are able to provide our staff almost anywhere in the world. The technicians were also sent, for example, to Paraguay, Chile or the Middle East, where some of our customer teams are located. Everything depends on communication, requirements and our staff availability.
During which rallies are the engineers busiest?
It usually depends on the difficulty of the competition and the conditions. One of the toughest events is Safari Rally Kenya, where we did not take part this season. However, generally it is possible to say, that the WRC rounds are probably the most demanding. Engineers usually spend up to seven days on the event. They start with the pre-event tests, then the team prepares for the scrutineering and then the engineer is available during the rally itself.
Is customer feedback considered in the development of the car?
Yes, in case of receiving a feedback or input from a customer team, this comment is forwarded to the technical group and then evaluated. This incentive is incorporated when a potential performance or durability benefit is identified. We have already received several such comments, which have proved to be beneficial.
What was the level of demand for technical support services during 2021 compared to previous years?
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we were so overwhelmed by customer requirements that we were unfortunately unable to meet all of these requirements. At the same time, we have utilized all our car engineers, engine engineers and technician to the fullest.
Are you planning any news for 2022?
An increase in capacity of car engineers is planned for 2022. As I mentioned, during the 2021 season we worked at full swing, and reached the limit of our capacities. Therefore, next year the team of car engineers will grow by another three members.
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