Skoda Motorsport driver Jan Kopecky will compete in the Italian Rally Championship this year, as well as the 2010 Intercontinental Rally Challenge, it has been announced.

Kopecky, who finished runner-up to Kris Meeke in the 2009 IRC drivers' standings, will do all eight events in the Italian series beginning with the Rally 1000 Miglia, which runs from April 22-24.

"This is something new for us, a way of gaining experience in a new environment against huge competition from top drivers on circuits which we have never driven on before," said Kopecky.

"This experience will take both Petr [Stary - my co-driver] and me forward as sportsmen and we are looking forward enormously to the Italian championship."

Kopecky's Fabia S2000 will run in the Italian Rally Championship under the 'Skoda Rally Team Italia' banner: "This is a combination of factory, importer and private activities," explained Michal Hrabank, head of the Skoda Motorsport team. "The Skoda Rally Team Italia is amongst our first customers and our cooperation has been top-class for a long time.

"We welcome the possibility of our team participating at one of the most prestigious national championships in Europe. This project will undoubtedly be an interesting marketing initiative for the Italian importer and a major sports event for the team, which I firmly believe will make the most of this experience in the colours of the factory team."

Axel Mohr, Director of Skoda Italia, meanwhile is convinced that Kopecky can be a real force to be reckoned with.

"This is an important chance for Skoda Rally Team Italia, Kopecky is a great driver and now he is officially part of our team," he added. "We started this project last year, it has been strongly developed in the last months and in 2010 we will take part in the Italian Championship with two cars.

"I would like to thank ?koda Motorsport for their support. We are proud to have this opportunity, and we are sure that Jan Kopecky will show his skills on the Italian roads."