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After the debut of the first FABIA generation in 1999, the small car quickly developed into a mainstay of the model portfolio after the OCTAVIA. It was also internationally successful as a rally derivative and built on the strong results of the OCTAVIA WRC in the WRC category. In addition to the complete selection of images for this press release on the media portal skoda-media.de, there is also a 32-page brochure on various topics from 120 years of ŠKODA Motorsport.
Skoda Fabia WRC (2003)
With the ŠKODA OCTAVIA WRC, the ŠKODA Motorsport works team had achieved numerous good results on the international rally slopes and gained know-how for the development and use of other vehicles in the top category. In the first half of 2002, speculations finally arose that the ŠKODA Motorsport works team was working on a new model: the ŠKODA FABIA WRC. The then Chairman of the Board of Management of ŠKODA AUTO, Vratislav Kulhánek, finally commented on these assumptions at the Cyprus Rally. The question was no longer if, but when and where the new rally vehicle would be at the start for the first time.
At the press conference at the start of the Monte Carlo Rally 2003, the ŠKODA Motorsport works team also officially confirmed the development of the new vehicle, and the ŠKODA FABIA WRC was presented to the international public in Geneva at the beginning of March 2003. Extensive tests took place in the following months. At the wheel were the then number 1 and number 2 of the factory team, Didier Auriol and Toni Gardemeister, as well as test drivers Kenneth Eriksson and Matthias Kahle.
The FABIA WRC was created on the basis of the first-generation ŠKODA FABIA RS, a five-door short tail with a 130 hp TDI diesel engine, which was built in series. For the homologation of the racing car, the Czech automobile manufacturer first had to build 2.500 units of the FABIA RS. After a three-day inspection by FIA inspectors in Mladá Boleslav, the homologation finally took place on July 1, 2003, so nothing stood in the way of the first use under competitive conditions.
Power was 221 kW (300 PS)
Due to the regulations in force at the time, the ŠKODA FABIA WRC - unlike the series counterpart of the FABIA - was powered by a turbocharged, water-cooled four-cylinder gasoline engine with a displacement of two liters. The power was 221 kW (300 PS) and the maximum torque was 600 Nm. The power was transmitted to all four wheels via a sequential six-speed gearbox and three active differentials. The McPherson suspension had wishbones at the front as well as two wishbones and a trailing arm at the rear, disc brakes all around provided the necessary deceleration. Due to the regulations, ŠKODA also installed a modified front bumper in the production model FABIA RS for homologation purposes, with which the overall length of the vehicle exceeded the four-meter mark, as required.
In the World Rally Championship, the ŠKODA FABIA WRC competed for the first time in the 2003 Rally Germany, followed shortly after by the challenging Finland Rally. Initially, a few problems with the vehicle and bad luck on various special stages ensured that the FABIA made a cautious debut before the vehicle celebrated some major successes towards the end of the debut season. Alongside Didier Auriol, Toni Gardemeister and Armin Schwarz, Jani Paasonen, Roman Kresta and Colin McRae were also at the wheel. The Scottish rally legend had second place in sight at the 2005 Rally Australia before he was disqualified through no fault of his own.
At the beginning of November 2005, ŠKODA made the decision to no longer participate in the WRC. The factory team then replaced two private teams who continued to be supported by the brand and were given vehicles accordingly. In the fourth round of the series, the young Jan Kopecký achieved the best ever World Championship result for the ŠKODA FABIA WRC with a fantastic fifth place in the Catalonia Rally. A success that Kopecký was able to build on later in Germany.
24 copies of the ŠKODA FABIA WRC
Over the course of the season, Kopecký gained experience in a total of ten World Championship races, which he used in the following seasons at the wheel of other ŠKODA rally vehicles. In 2006 he set the fastest time three times in a World Cup special test. Kopecký helped the ŠKODA FABIA WRC to attract more and more attention internationally, and Formula 1 and rally driver Robert Kubica also drove the car in numerous tests. Two-time rally world champion Carlos Sainz borrowed the FABIA WRC for the last round of the Spanish championship and left the competition far behind.
The German Matthias Kahle was not only involved in the development of the FABIA WRC as a test driver, in 2005 he also won the title in the German Rally Championship (DRM) together with co-driver Peter Göbel in the ŠKODA AUTO Germany team. In 2006 they triumphed in the German Rally Series (DRS). A total of 24 copies of the ŠKODA FABIA WRC were built. His career ended with the introduction of the second generation of the FABIA, with which the automobile manufacturer was able to write another successful chapter in its motorsport history.
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Škoda Fabia WRC (2003): Paving the way for further success
Photo credit: Škoda
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