European Rally Champion Jan Kopecký (CZ) is on course for a podium finish for ŠKODA after the opening day of the Rally Bohemia. The local favourite is embroiled in a battle with Czech champion Václav Pech (CZ) for victory at the Czech automobile manufacturer’s home event around the company’s headquarters in Mladá Boleslav. As well as this enthralling duel, fans on day one were also taken by the ŠKODA works team’s Fabia Super 2000s, which are sporting a retro look. To mark the 40th anniversary of the launch of the first RS model, the two rally cars took to the route in a historic livery similar to that adorning the cars back in 1974.
“It is not easy, the roads are slippery. I would obviously like to be first, but there is still a long way to go. It is going to be an exciting duel at the top,” said Jan Kopecký. The current leader of the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship (APRC) and his co-driver Pavel Dresler (CZ) are 18.0 seconds behind their compatriots Václav Pech and Petr Uhel after the first five special stages. In third place at the rally, which forms part of the International Czech Championship, is the Italian pair of Umberto Scandola/Guido d’Amore, whose performance in a Fabia Super 2000 has given the ŠKODA family even more reason for optimism.
Another ŠKODA duo still with their sights set on the podium is that of Sepp Wiegand and Frank Christian (D/D), who are currently fifth for the ŠKODA Motorsport works team. “The conditions were changing constantly. In some places we had a lot of grip, in others very little. We still have room for improvement, and are working hard to do precisely that. We can go faster,” said 23-year-old Sepp Wiegand. Like Kopecký, he too tackled the three stages in the daylight and two at night behind the wheel of a Fabia Super 2000 in the colours of the first RS models from back in 1974. That was when the ŠKODA 180 RS and 200 RS models made their first official appearances in a race. The spectacular models made their rally debuts at what was then the Rally ŠKODA, the predecessor to today’s Rally Bohemia.
And there was another first this year, which has also created a bit of a stir in Mladá Boleslav. The current ERC leaders Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN) took to selected parts of the route for the first time with the 1.6-litre turbo engine, which has been developed for the new ŠKODA Fabia R 5. From 2015, ŠKODA will line up with the new rally car in the R5 category at international rallies. “It is a great honour for us to be able to test the engine for the R 5 for the first time at a rally, and at ŠKODA’s home rally. We are thrilled,” explained Esapekka Lappi.
Saturday features seven special stages, with 89.37 kilometres against the clock. Saturday’s finish is on Václav-Klement Street in Mladá Boleslav, right in front of the ŠKODA Museum. As in previous years, ŠKODA is the main sponsor of the event.