- ŠKODA clinches the manufacturers’ and drivers’ championships early
- Third consecutive APRC title
- Czech factory driver Kopecký claims his second continental title after winning the European Rally Championship in 2013
- Fifth win for ŠKODA in round five of the season
- Fabia Super 2000 continues on its winning streak – three national titles already bagged this year
Obihiro, Japan, 29-9-2014 — /EuropaWire/ — ŠKODA has every reason to celebrate: the Czech car maker has made motorsport history by clinching a double title early in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). It is ŠKODA’s third consecutive triumph in the APRC manufacturers’ and drivers’ championship*.
With the win, works driver Jan Kopecký (CZ) secured another continental championship less than a year after lifting the European Rally Championship trophy. Kopecký and his co-pilot Pavel Dresler (CZ) put in a commanding performance at the Rally Hokkaido in Japan to make their victory perfect.
“I’m absolutely delighted that we were once again able to win the two continental titles in what is a very important region for us. It means we have achieved a major goal. It’s all the better to be able to travel to the APRC season final in our most important market, China, having already notched up these wins,” commented ŠKODA Motorsport Director Michal Hrabánek. He singled out the new champion Kopecký for particular praise. Following wins by Chris Atkinson (AUS/2012) and Gaurav Gill (IND/2013), the Czech driver completed the car maker’s title hat-trick in the APRC.
“It is Jan’s first year at the APRC, and winning the title in these difficult circumstances is an incredible achievement,” said Hrabánek. Kopecký and Dresler could hardly believe their historic success. “I would like to thank the ŠKODA Motorsport team and the team from ŠKODA MRF for their great support. It’s amazing to be able to celebrate another big success like this after winning the European Rally Championship. All of this season’s rallies were uncharted territory for us, but we rose to the challenge. I’d also like to pay my co-driver Pavel Dresler a huge compliment – I would’ve lost my way in the Asian-Pacific forests without him,” said 32-year-old Kopecký.
He continued to display strong nerves in round five and wowed tens of thousands of spectators who had thronged to line the route. Kopecký/Dresler were the clear winners at the end of the 18 Special Stages with a total length of 222.28 kilometres. Having already taken the top spot on the podium in New Caledonia and Australia, winning round five marked their third victory in this season’s APRC.
The remaining two rallies in New Zealand and Malaysia were won by ŠKODA’s other pairing, Gaurav Gill/Glenn Macneall (NZ). The reigning champions and winners of last year’s Japan rally were at the top of the table, just ahead of their team-mates, until SS 07 of the classic rally on the island of Hokkaido when a crash forced them to retire early. “Of course I would’ve liked to defend the title, but it’s only fair to congratulate Jan on his success. The title is in the right hands. I’m glad that I was able to help ŠKODA win the manufacturers’ championship,” Gill said following the triumph in Japan.
Competing in the APRC is immensely important to the Czech car maker. Its aim is to further enhance international awareness of the brand – especially in China, ŠKODA’s largest market, where the final round of the APRC season will take place in November. ŠKODA hopes to increase its global sales to at least 1.5 million units per annum over the next few years with particularly strong growth in the rapidly expanding Asian markets.
This double title success in the APRC means that the legendary ŠKODA Fabia Super 2000 remains on a winning streak. It has already claimed three national titles this year: Freddy Loix won the Belgian championship as well as finishing first in the FIA European Rally Championship leg in his home country in June at the wheel of the high-tech 4WD made in Mladá Boleslav. Prior to this, Pedro Meireles – who is supported by ŠKODA Portugal – won the Portuguese championship. Veteran driver Raimund Baumschlager also sealed his twelfth rally championship in Austria in the Fabia Super 2000. ŠKODA could yet rack up another title in the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC), where works driver Esapekka Lappi (FIN) is currently top of the table ahead of his team-mate Sepp Wiegand (D).
* Subject to confirmation by the FIA.
The number for the Rally Hokkaido: 15
One of the two drivers from the ŠKODA MRF team put in the fastest time in 15 of the 18 Special Stages at the APRC Rally Hokkaido. Jan Kopecký ranked top in 11 Stages, while Gaurav Gill claimed four best times.
The 2014 APRC calendar:
11–13 April: Rally of Whangarei – New Zealand
16–18 May: Rallye de Nouvelle-Calédonie – New Caledonia
20–22 June: Rally of Queensland – Australia
15–17 August: Malaysian Rally – Malaysia
26–28 September: Rally Hokkaido – Japan
7–9 November: China Rally – China