After a successful debut at the Monte Carlo Rally in January and a second-place finish at the Azores Rally in May, Skoda Motorsport has confirmed that it will take part in the next IRC event, the Ypres Rally in Belgium, later this month.
The announcement means that the Czech marque will be back in international action ahead of schedule, with Ypres' location and reputation apparently playing a major role in the change of heart.
“Initially, we were planning to appear again after the Azores Rally as late as at the rally in Russia, but we changed our mind because the rally in Belgium is one of the most important events in the IRC calendar, with many top class drivers on the start line and an excellent setting," Skoda's head of motorsport Michal Hrabánek said.
"Another reason is that our motorsport project involves competitions and, equally importantly, a Fabia Super 2000 customer sales programme. So we have decided to compete in Belgium, with the future prospects of our project in mind. One of the key drivers behind this decision was the excellent co-operation we have with our Skoda importer in Belgium, who is supporting the appearance of Francois Duval, a Belgian star driving a Fabia Super 2000 for René Georges' team. Last but not least, the event is going to be another premiere for the Fabia Super 2000, as this will be the vehicle's first exclusively tarmac competition."
Skoda's customer programme continues to go from strength to strength, meanwhile. Initial privateer Raimund Baumschlager's BRR team, which was also involved in last year's Fabia Super 2000 prototype testing, has enjoyed a successful PWRC campaign with Swede Patrick Sandell, who won in Norway and Cyprus and finished second in Sardinia., while Baumschlager himself is dominating the Australian national championship with a win and third in a Fabia Super 2000.
The Fabia has already made its mark in Italy, with the A-Style/MRT team taking second and third places with its two entries, and soon to be joined by a third car, courtesy of the local importer ŠkodaRally Team Italia.
“Launched in the first half of this year, Skoda Motorsport's customer programme seems to be equally positive as the results of the factory team,” Hrabánek added, "We are preparing more vehicles to be sold in other countries where we are at various negotiation stages with the respective potential buyers.
"The demand is now greater than the project's capacity to deliver. Nonetheless, we still want to satisfy as many as 15 customers this year. We are pleased with the number of enquiries we have received from potential customers - the current demand indeed shows that our strategy of supporting our factory team as well as private teams is correct.”