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The Skoda Octavia WRC and its story: a powerful and reliable special that has never won

The Skoda Octavia WRC and its story: a powerful and reliable special that has never won

Automaker Mladá Boleslav has been associated with the world of motorsports for decades, but this year the company’s motorsport division is celebrating 120 years of involvement in the automotive specialties. Since the 1990s, the Skoda brand has been associated primarily with the world of rallying. Specifically, the turn of the millennium belongs to the Škoda Octavia WRC. Do you know its history?

At the time of its creation, the automaker Škoda was a regular participant in world rallies, but with the development of the Octavia WRC, the brand reached unknown ground. With the Octavia WRC, for the first time in its history, Škoda was supposed to offer a rally-specific all-wheel drive, which was also scheduled to compete in the top class.

new concept

In the 1990s, Škoda was active on the rally scene, initially successful favorite And later, too Felicie Kate Car, but they were two-wheelers, competing in lower classes. But this time, Škoda was against the best.

The creation of the Octavia WRC was made possible by the new rules of the world rally scene. In 1997, a new WRC class was created – the World Rally Car. This facilitated the creation of a racing-specific all-wheel drive, as, unlike the previous Series A, the production of a limited series of civilian sports versions was not necessary for the new homologation cars. It was enough for the car to be based on a mass-produced type. And that’s what Octavia WRC has already done The first modern generation of the Octavia road Four-wheel drive offered. Additionally, the current Formula 2 (in which Felicia Kit Car and later Octavia Kit Car raced) is over.

In any case, the car for the all-wheel drive was unknown to the Mladá Boleslav racing team. Previous experience developing the Octavia Kit Car with front wheel drive can only be partially used. Designers tuned in to technologies they had never encountered before, simple gadgets were replaced by laptops with heavily guarded software, and the logistics of the whole process had nothing to do with previous years. In addition, strict accountants supervised everything. At the same time, it was a great boon for the designers to be able to access the collection’s solutions and the rich stocks of the components of the collection.

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strong two liters

The 2-liter supercharged petrol engine has finally found its way under the hood of the new competition’s private car, which generates 221 kW at 3250 rpm. The torque was 500 Nm, up to 600 Nm. By the way, the current Octavia Kit Car reached a power of 194 kW. The powerful 2-liter engine works with a six-speed sequential box and all-wheel drive system.

The weight of the empty car was 1230 kg, which is the minimum established by the rules. The combination of a powerful engine and all-wheel drive meant that at that time it was the most dynamic and exclusive in the entire history of ŠKODA’s sports activity.

Testing of the car began during the 1998 season so that the Octavia WRC was ready for the next season. The components have also been directly tested in rally competitions.

The choice of the factory captain behind the wheel of the new car fell to the experienced German pilot Armin Schwartz, who was once considered the best test driver on the racetrack at the time. It was his experience and sense of fine-tuning that came in handy as the car was gradually tuned. The second driver used to always be one of the qualified Czech pilots, and Pavel Sibera and Emil Trainer alternated according to the type of competition deck.

tragic start

For the first time, the Skoda Octavia WRC participated in the famous Rally Monte Carlo in 1999. However, the first event ended in a farce. The two factory cars couldn’t even make it to the start of the preliminary stage. On the way, they were stopped due to technical problems, proving that the development of such a special was still in its infancy in Boleslav’s youth.

Unfortunately, the unsuccessful debut somehow foreshadowed the further participation of Octavia WRC in competitions. The best result of the first year came only in the last competition of the season. Belgian driver Bruno Terry almost broke into the podium at the time, but eventually finished fourth in the overall standings.

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The following year failed to repeat such a result. Armin Schwartz was fifth best in the Acropolis Rally, then managed to win the first stage in the Rally Catalunya. And in difficult conditions, due to heavy rain, the track was flooded with water and mud.

However, the same competitor finally managed to win the podium at the Safari Rally in 2001, when he also won one speed test. He then took fourth place in Monte Carlo and fifth in Great Britain. Finnish Toni Gardmeister also put fifth in 2002 in Argentina and a year later in New Zealand. By the way, 2002 was the first season in which Škoda participated in a full 14-race world series.

Schwarz and Gardemeister are among the legendary riders who have sat behind the wheel of the Octavia WRC. We should also mention Didier Auriol or Stig Blomqvist. Among the Czech pilots, in addition to the aforementioned Triner and Siberia, we should also mention Roman Kresta and Jan Kopecký.

The Octavia WRC didn’t have much success either because in its time it was one of the biggest competition specials on the starting list. The integrated lift system was less nimble on tight trails than the competition. However, at the time of its development, Skoda did not have a suitable alternative that would meet the then-required minimum length of four metres. After all, the new Fabia WRC achieved this only with a special bumper for the standard Fabia RS.

Popular among the riders

Despite the fact that the Skoda Octavia WRC has never been very successful, today it has an irreplaceable place in the history of the Mladá Boleslav racing division. In addition, many riders remember it in a good way.

“The Octavia WRC was actually a lot better than many people thought. Of course due to its size it was not the fastest but it was stable, powerful and reliable. With a car like this you always have a good chance of finishing the race and that is the basis for valuable points,” Once said by the famous Didier Oriol1994 World Champion.

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Tony Gardmeister, who still considers it his car of choice, said the same thing: “The Octavia is a really big car. On the other hand, that would really be the only thing I would change. The size is only an issue on the SS, which is narrow and technically demanding, but I still find Lots of tracks where I can really step on. These are the moments when I’m so happy to be able to get behind the wheel of such a stable car!”

After all, reliability played a role even in the greatest successes that were associated with difficult conditions. This also applies to third place in the Safari Rally in 2001. “We wanted to show the world how durable and reliable the Octavia WRC offers. The Safari Rally was perfect for that. You don’t necessarily need to own the fastest car in Kenya, but it definitely has to be one of the most powerful cars.” “If you drive in Kenya faster than you want, there’s a good chance you’ll break a car. That’s exactly what happened to a lot of teams. That was part of our plan. Even though we’re no longer winning individual tests, we were able to set a favorable pace for us,” he recalls. Armin Schwartz later.

“It was always a bit overkill, but it wasn’t difficult. It didn’t bother anyone, it was easy and fun to use. The overall setup, from the chassis, through the body to the steering, was fantastic. The Octavia WRC went fantastically. Plus It showed its strength mainly in difficult conditions, and I’ve always liked it for that,” Schwartz added about the car’s character.

However, negatives dominated the concept of the Skoda Octavia WRC. And so during the 2003 season on the track Gradually replaced by the Skoda Fabia WRC, a special competition based on a small piece of the B-segment hatchback. But that’s another story we’ll remember at another time.