Skoda has confirmed that it will contest a full WRC programme in 2005, having only competed in a limited number of events this season.

Skoda has competed in the WRC with a works entry since 1999, when it entered the Octavia WRC, switching to the Fabia mid season in 2003. However when the expected jump in performance didn't materialise, the team decided to compete in selected events during 2004 in order to work on developing the Fabia WRC, and the decision appears to have paid dividends - with the car setting its first ever fastest stage time on Rally Deutschland earlier in the year.

Both Fabias also finished in the points on Rally Finland, regarded as one of the quickest events on the calendar, and the car has proved to be a reliable package, with just one retirement so far this season down to a technical fault.

The decision, taken by the Skoda Auto board of management, was made earlier this week and confirmed by the Volkswagen Group as the WRC prepares for the Rally of Italy in Sardinia this weekend. It provides a lift to the series at a time when there are severe doubts over the future of the Ford WRC entry, following the decision to put Jaguar Racing and Cosworth up for sale.

"I am delighted that the board has backed Skoda Motorsport's return to the WRC," chairman of Skoda Auto Vratislav Kulhanek said. "The programme is an important element of ?koda Auto's history but history alone is no guarantee for the future. Everyone must work together to maintain motorsport's importance to the Skoda brand image."

Head of Skoda Motorsport Martin Muehlmeier is also delighted that the teams efforts have been recognised and rewarded with a full season.

"I am pleased that the board has recognised our efforts with this commitment to the immediate future," he said. "This is a positive step for the whole WRC and I am sure that our customers and fans around the world will be equally delighted that our motorsport programme is to continue. However, we can not now relax and, indeed, we must increase our efforts to ensure that our short-term future can be extended to the medium and long term."

The decision to commit to a full season in 2005 also means that Skoda will be eligible for manufacturer points, something that has not been the case this season.

Two Fabia WRCs will compete on each of the 16 events on the calendar, with the driver line-up to be announced at a later date.

Current drivers Armin Schwarz and Toni Gardemeister will hope to remain with the team, while Jani Paasonen - who won the Inmarsat Star Of The Rally for his performance on Rally Finland for the team in August - could also be amongst the contenders.

Press rumours have also linked JWRC contender Kris Meeke, and even his mentor Colin McRae, with a drive with the Czech team, although the 1995 WRC champion has already said he isn't looking for a full time drive for next season.