GRR

Skoda celebrates 25 years in rallying

29th January 2024
Russell Campbell

As Swede Oliver Solberg and British co-driver Elliott Edmondson led team Skoda in the Fabia RS Rally2 at this year's Monte Carlo Rally, the company celebrated a quarter of a century in the sport, giving us an excellent opportunity to look at Skoda rally cars past and present.

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The Octavia WRC started the ball rolling back in 1999's Monte Carlo Rally. With a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, the Octavia produced 300PS (221kW) and up to 600Nm (443lb ft), was four-wheel drive and weighed an as-regulated 1,230kg.

The car would run for a further three-and-a-half years, its most significant success being third place in the hands of German Armin Schwarz in the Safari Rally in 2001. More importantly for Skoda, the rally car drew car buyers' attention to the new Octavia, which offered VW engineering at a knockdown price, which remains central to Skoda's appeal today.

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‚ÄčIn 2003, the Octavia made way for the Fabia WRC. It combined the same power and torque as the larger Octavia but in a smaller body, better suited to the twists and turns of a rally stage. Road-going vRS Fabias got a revised front bumper that stretched the car to more than four metres long, allowing for homologation to WRC.

The Fabia WRC's most notable success was in the hands of the late great Colin McRae, who was in second place of Wales Rally GB in 2005 before a clutch problem scuppered his chances of a podium finish.

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Skoda withdrew from rallying in 2005 and didn't return until 2009 with this – the 2.0-litre naturally aspirated Fabia S2000, which was factory-backed but also offered as part of a customer programme. Skoda built 63 customer cars, winning 50 national and international titles.

Meanwhile, the factory-prepared machine carried Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen to victory in 2011's Intercontinental Rally Challenge Drivers' Championship.

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But it's the 2015 Fabia R5 that's the company's most successful rally car to date. Competing in the  WRC2 Championship, It swapped the S2000's naturally aspirated 2.0-litre for a turbocharged 1.6 producing 282PS (207kW) and 420Nm (309lb ft). 

The car would finish second place on its maiden voyage at the Portugal rally and take the WRC2 Teams' titles in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, plus Drivers' titles in those years as well as 2019 and 2021. Over that time, the Fabia R5 evolved into the R5 Evo and later the Fabia Rally2 Evo. Skoda built 450 examples of this Fabia, making it the most successful in sales and titles.

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The Fabia RS Rally2 is the company's current rally car, powered by a 289PS (213kW) 1.6-litre turbocharged engine. While power remains roughly the same, the Rally2 takes great strides in safety, using six layers of carbon-fibre and kevlar to protect the driver and codriver from side impacts. 

Norwegian Andreas Mikkelsen drove the Fabia RS Rally2 four wins and one third place on his way to the Drivers' title, 33 points clear of second place in 2023. Away from WRC, Frenchman Sebastian Loeb won the Azores Rallye, the third round of the 2023 Tour European Rally, by more than 19 seconds.

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Sadly, 2024 has yet to bear fruit for the car, with Solberg finishing well off the pace at the Monte Carlo Rally.

  • News

  • Skoda Octavia WRC

  • Skoda Fabia WRC

  • Skoda Fabia S2000

  • Skoda Fabia R5

  • Skoda Fabia RS Rally2

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