Skoda has become the latest manufacturer to register for the 2009 Intercontinental Rally Challenge ahead of the opening round of the season next week in Monte Carlo.

The Czech manufacturer will run a brace of Fabia S2000 models during the season ahead as the car makes its competition debut after an extensive development programme, which included the Fabia acting as the course car on a number of IRC events last season.

PWRC runner-up Juho Hanninen will be joined by Czech driver Jan Kopecky for the new campaign, which will mark Skoda's return to the international arena as a works outfit for the first time since it quit the WRC at the end of 2005.

"We're delighted to welcome a manufacturer as prestigious as Skoda, with its long history in motorsport, to the IRC," Geraldine Filiol, managing director of IRC promoter Eurosport Events, said. "We already saw the new Fabia S2000 as the course-opening car on selected events last year, and now we look forward to watching it in the heat of competition.

"Skoda's participation, with its talented line-up of drivers, adds another exciting competitive element to the show this year. This is excellent news not only for the IRC series, but for rally fans all over the world."

Hanninen will run as #3 on the Monte, while Kopecky will run as #6.