Skoda Rally car entered the global scene after becoming part of the Volkswagen Group in 1991. But even decades before, Skoda competed extensively in motorsports like rallying. Though little-known outside Eastern Europe, Skoda fielded speedy, reliable rally cars as far back as the 1960s.
Let’s explore Skoda’s unsung history in rally racing and learn how unassuming models like the 120, 130 RS, and Fabia achieved giant-killing motorsport success.
Skoda Rally car Humble Beginnings
Skoda’s competitive rally debut came in the late 1950s with the rear-engined Octavia sedan. Utilizing a 1.1L powertrain, the affordable Octavia lacked power but demonstrated ruggedness by finishing the 1960 Rally Monte Carlo in challenging conditions.
The more advanced Skoda 1000MB then put Skoda on the map by dominating the European Rally Championship for production cars from 1964-1967. Reliability propelled the 1000MB’s victories rather than raw speed. This durability laid the groundwork for Skoda’s rise.
Local Dominance in the 1970s
Building on earlier success, Skoda developed the rear-drive 130 RS prototype specifically for rally usage. Equipped with a tuned 1.3L engine and five-speed transmission, the 130 RS won its class in the 1972 Rallye Monte Carlo thanks to solid construction.
The 130 RS continued winning Eastern Bloc rallies through the mid-1970s, though lack of funding prevented it from WRC competition. Even with dated design, Skoda’s competition know-how conferred an advantage locally versus more advanced machinery.
Reputation Grows with the Favorit
Once the Iron Curtain fell, Skoda had a greater opportunity to compete internationally. Using the new front-wheel drive Favorit econobox, Skoda homologated the 136hp Favorit 136L into Group A specification for rally racing in 1990.
Unexpectedly fleet and agile for a budget family car, the Favorit scored class podiums on rallies in Britain, Sweden, and Greece into the mid-1990s. Skoda won consecutive European Rally Championship titles from 1994-1995 in the Favorit Kit Car with nearly 300hp. Despite tight budgets, Skoda made an impact.
WRC Success with the Fabia
Skoda’s rally reputation accelerated upon launching its Fabia subcompact car in 1999. After honing the Fabia in lower classes through 2003, Skoda entered the World Rally Car spec Fabia WRC in the WRC competition for 2004.
The high-strung Fabia WRC and its successors took class wins in Mexico, Australia, and Sweden. Skoda became a regular top 5 finisher, proving the brand’s competitiveness against established rivals. Factory driver Andreas Mikkelsen nearly won the 2015 Rally Australia outright until a late crash.
Why Skoda Rally Car Excelled in Competition
Lacking budgets to dominate technology-wise, Skoda focused on engineering know-how to maximize reliability and drivability. Even early models like the 120 ran successfully thanks to resilience rather than peak power. This durability edge offsets disadvantages in funding.
Skoda also benefitted from local Czech and Eastern European talent familiar with the brand’s qualities. Drivers like Armin Schwarz and Jan Kopecky gelled with Skoda machinery. Combined with Skoda’s underdog work ethic, the results surprised Western competitors.
Legacy of Skoda Rally car
While no longer active in WRC, Skoda’s past rally achievements remain a point of pride.
Now globally prominent, Skoda hasn’t forgotten its rallying heritage. Performance models like the Fabia RS carry this spirit, even as Skoda’s identity evolved beyond Eastern Europe. For brand devotees, Skoda’s gritty motorsport history defines their plucky personality.