Skoda Fabia S2000

To the outsider, it would be all too easy to forget that the FIA World Rally Championship has more than one class. Just like Le Mans endurance racing has various LMP and GT racing categories, and NASCAR has the Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series, so too does the WRC have more than one tier. So while the Sebastien Loeb and the Citroën World Rally Team were locking up their seventh title in the top tier of the championship, Skoda took its first title in the Super 2000 category as its Finnish crew Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula won took a class win and 10th overall in the RACC Rally of Spain this past weekend.

So what, who cares, you ask? Well you'd be forgiven for dismissing an overseas automaker (whose products we don't even get here) winning a second-tier rally series that doesn't come here, either. (Mexico's the closest stage on this year's calendar.) But we'll tell you why it matters: Skoda's sister (or parent) company Volkswagen is entering the top-tier WRC next season with the new Polo R. And while VW has enjoyed much success in rally-raid events like Dakar, the WRC is an entirely different beast.

In order to prepare for its assault on the most world's foremost rally series, Volkswagen has been looking to Skoda's program to test out everything from machinery to personnel. And given that Skoda – whose motorsport division celebrates its 110th anniversary this year – has come out on top, we could be looking at a very serious contender from Wolfsburg for next year's championship.
Show full PR text
ŠKODA WINS ITS FIRST FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE WITH THE FABIA S2000

- Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula are new World Champions after winning the season's final Super 2000 World Rally Championship event in Spain
- The Red Bull ŠKODA team wraps up the title at the RACC Rally de España

ŠKODA has won its first FIA World Rally Championship title in its history, after the Red Bull ŠKODA Fabia S2000 crew of Juho Hänninen/Mikko Markkula (Finland) secured victory on the last rally of this year's Super 2000 World Rally Championship (SWRC) – the RACC Rally de España (20-23 October).

The world title is a fitting climax to this year's celebrations marking 110 years of ŠKODA motorsport.

Run on a mixed surface of both gravel and asphalt, the Rally de España was the longest round of this year's WRC – with 252.59 miles (406.52kms) of competition spread over three days and 18 special stages in the Tarragona region of north-east Spain.

Hänninen drove faultlessly to finish 1st in S2000 and 10th overall to clinch the title, his first at WRC level. His experience, skill and speed paid dividends, as did the reliability of the Fabia S2000, as Hänninen had to change his strategy and drive more tactically after his main SWRC title rival, Ott Tänak (Estonia), retired on the opening day. With one eye on the title, Hänninen continued to set excellent stage times and remained focused throughout to finish 14.9 seconds ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah (Qatar) and be crowned SWRC champion in style in Spain.

Juho Hänninen: "This is a perfect day for all of us and an excellent achievement, one of the milestones of my career. Everything worked perfectly, and although we didn't have to play it risky, we were at the head of the pack throughout this rally. I wish to thank all those who've been helping us on our way to this achievement. We have been provided with all necessary conditions and resources to be able to put in first-class performances, and the World Championship title is a sweet reward for all of us."

Raimund Baumschlager, head of the Red Bull ŠKODA team: "Today is a very special day for all of us. Juho has showed his calibre by putting in a technically precise and mature performance here. Moreover, he has been the fastest driver of the season, putting in the most consistent performances of all the drivers. We are really proud of this achievement!"