ŠKODA has scooped the two biggest prizes in Australian rallying.
A pair of ŠKODA FABIA R5 forest racers took victory in the Australian Rally Championship and Rally Australia after three days of torrid competition and changing fortunes over the challenging roads around Coffs Harbour on the NSW north coast.
The big prize went to Eli Evans and his co-driver Ben Searcy, who took the national title despite a first-day mishap that took them out of serious contention in Australia’s leg of the World Rally Championship.
It is the fourth title for Evans, and the first for Searcy, who used a ŠKODA from the Perth-based Racetorque team to dominate through the 2019 season against opposition from Toyota and Subaru.
Victory in Rally Australia went to Steve Glenney and Andy Sarandis, who were making their first start with a ŠKODA, also from the Racetorque stable.
“It’s great fun in the ŠKODA. It’s easy to drive and very quick,” says Steve Glenney. ŠKODA has been a powerful force in world rallying for more than a decade, with a factory team competing for the WRC2 title in the World Rally Championship and importer and privateer teams in many countries.
It has built more than 200 Fabia R5 cars, which are based on the road-going FABIA and upgraded with a 2-litre turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive.
It again won the WRC2 title in 2019 with Czech driver, Jan Kopecky heading a ŠKODA sweep of the top three places ahead of Pontus Tideman and Kalle Rovanpera.
In Australia, the Fabia dominated each leg of the national championship from Perth to Canberra and Launceston, before the final shoot-out at Rally Australia.
Evans was the early pacesetter, although a heavy landing over a jump on the first of three days meant he was sidelined for repairs before returning to the action, but Glenny took up the slack as he adjusted to his new mount. There were two other ŠKODA’s in the field, one driven by Germany’s Armin Kremer and the other by New Zealander, Raana Horan, but both failed to finish.
The Australian Rally Championship win is the latest in a string of ŠKODA titles for Racetorque, which dominated the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship for close to a decade before focussing on Australia in 2018.