Skoda Fabia S2000 – Click above for high-res image gallery

Of all the names you might associate with rallying – Lancia, Audi, Subaru, MitsubishiSkoda might not rank all that high, but they probably should. The Czech automaker took home top honors in this year's Intercontinental Rally Challenge, and on the back of its success, is graduating to the World Rally Championship.

Well, almost. Skoda won't be competing next season in the top class of the WRC, but will be taking its Super 2000-spec Fabia to the S-WRC. The new category inaugurated for the 2010 season allows Super 2000 cars to compete against each other on the top rally stages in the world.

Teaming up with Red Bull, Skoda will have two teams in the S-WRC class next season: one factory outfit and another privateer entry fielded by Baumschlager Rally Racing. Parallel to the world titles which Red Bull Racing took home this year in Formula One, the Red Bull Rally Team took top honors in the inaugural S-WRC standings. Teamed up with Skoda, they could have a dynamite combination on their hands. Details in the press release after the jump.


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[Source: Skoda]
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ŠKODA AND RED BULL TEAM UP TO APPEAR IN S-WRC
IRC champion Juho Hänninen top driver of Red Bull Škoda team in 2011 World Rally Championship
  • Further progress in the Fabia Super 2000 project
  • Top-class partnership with Red Bull

Shortly after winning this year's IRC, Škoda has made another big step forward by becoming part of Red Bull Škoda, a new team based on the brand's partnership with the top-class company Red Bull and its liaison with the private team BRR. Both of the new team's crews, the IRC champions Juho Hänninen & Mikko Markkula of Finland and Germany's young hope Hermann Gassner jr. & Katharina Wüstenhagen, are going to appear in the 2011 S-WRC.

The Red Bull Škoda team is a result of joint efforts by Škoda Motorsport (factory team), Baumschlager Rally Racing (BRR) (private team) and Red Bull. Head of Škoda Motorsport Michal Hrabánek says: "We are really pleased that we can contribute to further growth of the Fabia Super 2000 project as part of Red Bull and BRR. Red Bull is one of the strongest possible partners on today's sports scene. The BRR team led by Raimund Baumschlager, a nine-times Austrian Rally Champion and the buyer of the first Fabia Super 2000 vehicle we sold, is a guarantee of a highly professional approach and top-class background."

Raimund Baumschlager has many years' experience in rallying. He is one of Austria's rallying icons. Under his leadership, the Red Bull Rally team has been using a Fabia Super 2000 in world-class competitions over the past two years and has made some great achievements with this car, including, in particular, several 2010/2011-season wins by Patrik Sandell who was supported by the Swedish importer of Škoda. Juho Hänninen, one of the new members of the squad, has great memories of Baumschlager's team, too – driving Baumschlager's Fabia Super 2000, he convincingly won last year's Finnish Rally in the S-WRC category.

Raimund Baumschlager is sure that the team with Hänninen has a great future: "First of all, I wish to thank Škoda Motorsport and also Red Bull, our partner, for their support. We have only the best experience of cooperating with them, and they are both leaders in what they do. Juho has been one of the top drivers over the last few years, I remember him when he used to appear in PWRC - he was our toughest competitor in the battle for the championship title. At the same time, I know him as an excellent test driver and a great chap, too. I am sure that with him around we can think of the highest ranks. Hermann Gassner has a great opportunity to grow beside Juho and learn from him, in both tests and races. We are planning to appear in about seven Championships events."