Can Škoda Fabia R5 surpass the older sister's success?
Škoda Fabia R5 is the latest rally car of the Czech manufacturer and the successor of the ultra successful Fabia S2000 rally car. Fabia R5 was presented in 2015 and the factory team was using this car in three different championships (WRC 2, Asia-Pacific Rally Championship and Czech Rally Championship). Numerous different customer teams and privateers in also used this fantastic vehicle in various other competitions.
Fabia R5 has won seven championship titles in its debuting season and gave us an answer to the first question after its launch – is it possible to outreach the results of Fabia S2000, a rally monster that scored nearly 50 national and international rally titles between 2009 and 2014? According to 2015 results, the answer is – yes, it is possible.
280 wild horses under the bonnet
Same as the rival cars in R5 class and in compliance with FIA regulations, Škoda Fabia R5 comes with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbo engine. The maximum power output is 205 kW (280 hp), with 420 Nm of maximum torque.
The power is transferred to all four wheels through a five-speed sequential transmission. The 399-cm long car, based on the latest hatchback version of Fabia, weighs in a minimum of 1,230 kilograms as required by regulations.
Well, that’s the technical side of the story. For success you need something more than just a car, you need a victorious crew and victorious team.
Kopecky and Dresler triumphant at home
Škoda Motorsport entered their home Czech Rally Championship with proven crew, driver Jan Kopecky and his navigator Pavel Dresler, the 2014 Asia-Pacific champions and 2013 European champions. They competed in five events of the 2015 Czech Rally Championship and dominantly won the title, with five victories.
Kopecky also participated in three events of the 2015 World Rally Championship, taking the victory in the WRC 2 category at ADAC Rallye Deutschland and two more podiums at Sardinia and Catalunya.
Nasser Al-Attiyah switched from Ford to Škoda and won the WRC 2 title
The 2015 WRC 2 champion became Nasser Al-Attiyah, who combined two cars during his victorious season. He participated in five events with Ford Fiesta RRC, switching to Škoda Fabia R5 in Germany and Spain. He was using Fabia R5 at one event of the 2015 Middle East Rally Championship, but he crashed at that rally and missed to add one more title to Fabia’s account. For 2016 season, Al-Attiyah completely switched to Fabia R5, both in WRC 2 and MERC.
Third championship title in 2015 was achieved in the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship, maybe the most important for Škoda, because the Czech manufacturer is focusing a lot on Asian markets, especially China. Škoda previously dominated in the APRC with Fabia S2000, taking three consecutive titles from 2012 to 2014, with Chris Atkinson, Gaurav Gil and Jan Kopecky as drivers.
Pontus Tidemand was a good choice for Škoda Motorsport
The young Swedish driver Pontus Tidemand, a former Junior WRC champion, was chosen for 2015 and the choice seemed to be good. Combining the old Fabia S2000 and new Fabia R5, he scored five wins in six races and dominantly took one more title for Škoda.
Tidemand also participated in five events of the 2015 WRC 2 championship with Fabia R5, winning the category at Catalunya and taking three more podiums to finish 4th in the final classification. Tidemand started the 2016 WRC 2 season with the podium at his home event, Rally Sweden, to announce one more good season for Škoda in the world rallying.
Four wins in the 2015 WRC 2 Championship
Finnish driver Esapekka Lappi, who won the 2014 European Rally title with Škoda, was driving full WRC 2 season in 2015, scoring two wins and two more podiums in seven races. He finished 4th in the championship standings. So, in total, three different drivers scored four victories with Fabia R5 in the WRC 2 season and the fourth driver (Al-Attiyah) took the title driving the same car.
Privateers in the European Rally Championship
Škoda Motorsport was a dominant team in the European Rally Championship from 2012 to 2014, taking the drivers’ titles with Juho Hanninen, Jan Kopecky and Esapekka Lappi. After the Fabia S2000 was replaced by Fabia R5, Škoda didn’t enter the new car into the 2015 European Rally Championship, but the brand was still represented by a dozen of private teams. Some of them switched to Fabia R5 in the second part of the season and the new car immediately became a winner.
National titles in Belgium, Austria, Hungary and Paraquay
The former WRC star Freddy Loix has won in his first event with Fabia R5, at Ypres Rally in June. He was later using the Fabia R5 in the Belgian Rally Championship, winning the title and adding one more triumph to the CV of the new car.
In the 2015 European Rally Championship, Fabia R5 was the victorious car one more time at Barum Czech Rally Zlin, with Jan Kopecky as a driver. In October, the Greek driver Lambros Athanassoulas added third place at Acropolis Rally to the list of good results for Fabia R5 in its debuting season.
Next on the list is Austrian Raimund Baumschlager, long standing partner of Škoda and multiple Austrian champion, who switched from Fabia S2000 to Fabia R5 during the 2015 Austrian Rally Championship. He won five rallies with a new car and dominantly took one more national championship title.
Fabia R5 earned one more national championship in Hungary. Norbert Herczig started the season with Fabia S2000 and switched to Fabia R5 in two events, winning the Veszprem Rallye.
R5’s popularity spread outside of Europe, and the seventh championship title in 2015 was clinched in Paraguay. Gustavo Saba scored two wins with Fabia R5 and with a total of four wins he became the most successful Paraguayan driver.
Successful debuts in Germany and Italy
Except for the seven championship titles in 2015, Fabia R5 earned a few more near-to-top positions in national championships. In the 2015 German Rally Championship (DRM) Fabian Kreim finished second overall, driving the Fabia R5. He scored four victories and lost the title with few points gap behind Ruber Zeltner. Third-placed Mark Wallenwein was also driving Fabia R5.
Italian Umberto Scandola won two events of the 2015 Italian Rally Championship, after he made a switch from Fabia S2000 to Fabia R5, and this rally monster helped him reach the third spot overll.
So, after one year of exhistance, we can safely conclude that Škoda Fabia R5 successfully started its voyage to became the most successful Czech rally car in the history. The older sister is still carrying that title, but after few more years, who knows…