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Skoda to field in Indian national events?.

Posted on: February 26, 2009

This year’s Monte Carlo Rally, the jewel in the international rally crown, got the Intercontinental Rally Challenge off to a flyer. The sport has been rocked with manufacturers leaving en masse, some of them due to the economic turmoil, many of them due to their failure to put on strong performances and some because they just couldn’t justify their presence in the sport after years of trying.

In such a scenario it was heartening to see Czech car maker Skoda, part of the VW Group, return to top flight rallying. Skoda had been involved in the WRC a couple of seasons ago with a full blown works effort but sadly this never got the results against the might of the Peugeot, Citroen, Ford, Mitsubishi and Subaru opposition.

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The all out technology overkill employed by many of the above mentioned car makers seemed to make it very much similar to F1 on gravel completely missing out on what rallying always stood for: endurance, stamina, reliability, speed, stealth and strategy allied to driver skill and reflexes.

Thankfully this is where the IRC comes in. It caters to just the new Super 2000 category where much of the modifications permitted are closer to the base car any Tom, Jerry or Michael can buy off a showroom floor and with the minimum of fuss go and attack the stages on the 12-event IRC championship.

This welcome brief to get back to basics and enable not just the factory teams but also privateers to race and rally the same cars was the spur for many forward looking OEMs to get back to top flight rallying. The IRC is not a Europe-only rally series but has rounds in Africa (Safari Rally), South America (Rally Internacional de Curtiba in Brazil) and Asia (Rally Japan) as well. Thanks to getting away from the WRC spec cars also means a great reduction in costs and this was not lost on Skoda.

The Czech car maker knew that it needed a light weight hatchback to spearhead its competition efforts and it had just the right number in the petite Fabia. Head of Skoda Motorsport, Michael Hrabanek was clear in his team’s assessment that a lightweight hatchback with a proper 2.0-litre naturally aspirated motor would do the business.

The Fabia S2000 programme officially got underway in February 2008 and the team got to perfecting the 16-valve 1998cc four-cylinder allaluminium engine. The IRC regs prohibit turbochargers and therefore the team built in more of a revvy power unit to allow the motor to be screaming all through the rev range.

Just as the IRC makes do without turbochargers, it also dispenses with the costly electronic central differentials. The Fabia Super 2000 does have four wheel drive courtesy the Xtrac system working via a 6-speed sequential shift gearbox. A 184mm dia AP Racing clutch is employed while electronics are by Magnetti Marelli.

The Fabia S2000 features a suspension layout which while staying faithful to the original configuration has purpose built Reiger Racing shock absorbers on all four corners. A heavily braced monocoque structure helps in this regard. This rally Fabia runs on OZ wheels shod with BF Goodrich rubber and the team has different sized tyres depending on whether the event is run on tarmac or gravel.
If it is tarmac, the car is shod with 18 inch wheels and if it is gravel the cars have to tackle then 15 inch wheels are fitted. Similar is the case with the brakes made by Brembo, 355mm diameter front discs and 300mm dia rear disc brakes are employed on tarmac while on all gravel events, 300mm dia discs are used on all four wheels.

Skoda was quietly confident of their effort with the Fabia Super 2000. More than 5000km of testing on actual rally stages was undertaken before the Monte with drivers such as the Czech racer Jan Kopecky, Austrian rally champion Raimund Baumschlager and the ex-Finnish national rally champion Sebastian Lindholm.

To cap the testing programme, former World rally Champion Carlos Sainz, already driving for the factory VW team in the Dakar was roped in for the final tests. The results from these tests validated the effectiveness of the new S2000 Fabia enabling Skoda to commit to a season in IRC where their rivals include the Peugeot 207 S2000, the Renault Clio, the Fiat Abarth Grande Punto plus also of course the Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9. Peugeot has a works team in the IRC as does Fiat and so this is a championship to watch out for.

Team ZigWheels took in the opening round of this year’s IRC which was the 79th Monte Carlo Rally and immediately the two Skodas, resplendent in their white and lime green livery were quick off the blocks. In an event where snow and changing conditions can catch many off guard, Skoda’s Juho Hanninen was dominant in the opening leg, effortlessly leading the field with a string of fastest stage times.

The dominant works Peugeots of Stephane Sarrazin, Kris Meeke, Freddy Loix and eventual Monte winner Sebastien Ogier just couldn’t keep the quick Fabia in check. On top of that Jan Kopecky in the second Fabia S2000 was running admirably well, backing up his team leader on all the stages.

When armed with a healthy lead Hanninen suffered a puncture which cost him over two and a half minutes and the rally lead. He tried to monster his way back up the field in the snowy stages of the second leg but crashed out at the start of stage 10, ending what should have been a memorable debut for the car in top flight rallying.

Kopecky was now the sole Fabia S2000 driver in the fray and he traded positions with his rivals and was looking at a top three placing when team orders went out calling for a finish in the top five. Kopecky’s fourth was a fine finish on debut for the new car and if this is the pace the Fabias can unleash, the Peugeots, Citroens, Fiat Abarths and the Mitsubishis would be wary of in the other 11 events this year.

Skoda India’s managing director Thomas Kuehl, himself a rally enthusiast, was delighted with the result but when he told me last week that he was trying to get one such car for Skoda to field in Indian national events, the message was not just loud and clear but also very welcome. Watch out for the Fabia, it means business, not just on our roads but also on the Indian rally stages.

Source: Pricewale.com

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1 Response to "Skoda to field in Indian national events?."

nice your information…thanks

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