Octavia TS triumphs at the Acropolis Rally again, 60 years on

Octavia TS triumphs at the Acropolis Rally again, 60 years on

In 1963, a Škoda Octavia Touring Sport came first in its touring car category at the 11th Acropolis Rally. 60 years on, motorsport and Škoda enthusiasts managed to repeat that victory.

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When Škoda employees got their hands on the latest issue of Ventil, the company newspaper, on 15 June 1963, they found it contained a small reprint of a telegram sent from Greece with extremely pleasing information. Even if the telegram did refer to a month-old event and the name of the driver Minas Vourdoubakis was slightly misspelt, the message was clear – a Škoda Octavia Touring Sport with the starting number 99 had won the touring cars category in the 1,000-1,300 cc class at the famous and demanding Acropolis Rally. And the employees were even thanked for it. After all, the entire 1963 season was memorable for the Octavia TS. 

Ventil, Škoda’s in-house magazine, announces victory in the Acropolis Rally in June 1963.

 In its category, the Škoda won not only the Acropolis Rally, but also the famous Monte Carlo Rally and the Austrian Alpenfahrt. And it was these successes that inspired Oldřich Kovařík’s bold idea: “Let’s try it again 60 years on!”

Škodas have a special place in our hearts

The hall in a small village near Domažlice blends in perfectly with the local industrial zone. From the outside there’s no indication of what gems it hides. Only a parked box van trailer gives us a clue that we’ve come to the right place. And once we’re inside the entrance hall, the Škoda logo on the floor tiles leaves no doubt that they’re serious about their love for the Czech carmaker’s sporting history. The ever good-humoured Oldřich Kovařík Jr. explains, “My dad, brother and I have been collecting Škoda cars for about 25 years, so this has resulted in a fairly complete collection, with a lot of cars that have written the history of motorsport at Škoda.”

A hall full of vintage Škodas - the Kovařík family’s stunning collection.

In the hall, then, among dozens of other cars, you will find a restored Škoda 130 RS in Acropolis Rally colours, a Felicia Kit Car and even an Octavia WRC... But what we’re most interested in now is the Octavia TS, still covered in Greek dust, which has been parked at the entrance to the hall since its return from the rally. 

A memory of 1963

The Octavia TS has been driven since 2016 by Oldřich Kovařík’s father, who won four championships in the Czech Republic in category 1, which is for the oldest cars. “After we did two fairly big events last year, Rally Vltava in Czechia and Rally Weiz in Austria, I persuaded my dad to take part in the European historic cars championship this year and we went for a fuller season,” says Oldřich Kovařík, adding, “Since we finance everything ourselves, it’s logical that we left out some of the events. In any case, that’s what most of the competitors do.” The season started with the domestic Rally Vltava, and in June the Octavia TS was victorious at the Austrian Rally Weiz. Part of its route takes in the same places as the 1963 Alpenfahrt, another triumph for Škoda. In August, the Kovaříks took on the fast Finnish rally, where unfortunately a cracked crankshaft knocked them off the 2nd place spot on the last day. The crowning event for the whole team came in November with the Acropolis Rally in Greece, which was the most challenging of all. “If Monte Carlo had been on this year’s European Championship programme, we would certainly have entered, because the Octavia TS won there in 1963,” adds Oldřich Kovařík. 

“It’s now achieving its greatest glory with us!”

The car which the crew put back on the Acropolis Rally podium sixty years on became part of the Kovaříks’ collection in 2015. “The car was built in 1962, but in 1988 it was converted into a rally car for the historic cars competitions that were just getting started,” Oldřich Kovařík explains. “We know that the Octavia was then being driven in the Czech Republic before disappearing to England, and around 2010 it returned to the Czech Republic. And from there the road led to our garage.” After acquiring the car, the Octavia TS needed a new roll cage as the existing one was no longer compliant with the regulations, and after the first season in 2016, the Kovaříks also decided to build a new engine, as they didn’t know what the original one had been through and wanted to be sure of maximum performance and reliability. Although the power output has never been measured, it is estimated at around 80 horsepower, with the 1,221cc four-cylinder revving at 6,000 rpm and fitted with twin Jikov carburettors. As the homologation basically requires it to be a production car, the car is not heavily modified – so it has a four-speed gearbox, a backbone frame, a rear transverse leaf tongue and even four drum brakes, although these have special linings. The car’s bodywork has its original patina. “As far as I know, this car has taken part in dozens of races, but it was never driven by any well-known drivers, so it doesn’t have any glorious racing history,” Oldřich Kovařík says with a smile. “So it’s now achieving its greatest glory with us!”

Škoda cars still arouse positive emotions in Greece

Two crews and a three-member service team set off from Domažlice district to the Acropolis. The service team drove not only the Octavia TS to Greece, but also the Škoda Favorit Oldřich Kovařík Jr. drove in the rally. “Škoda cars still have a very good reputation in Greece and arouse a lot of emotions among the fans,” says Oldřich Kovařík, adding, “The spectators kept coming up to us during the rally, wanting to talk about famous moments from Škoda’s history, especially Emil Triner and Pavel Sibera.” 

The Octavia TS set off for the demanding gravel race, which, including transfers, covered a thousand kilometres, 167 of which were racing stretches, with Oldřich Kovařík Sr. at the wheel, and next to him experienced navigator Petr Dufek. The car coped with the challenging sections full of dust and stones and the only problem was a cracked steel disc, which was quickly replaced with a spare wheel. “In Greece, the famed reliability and robustness of the Octavia TS was fully demonstrated,” Oldřich Kovařík points out, going on to say, “Although not many crews start in category 1, this Škoda is more than a match for a Ford Escort TwinCam, Porsche 911 S, BMW 2002ti, Alfa Romeo Giulietta and even a Renault Alpine 110.” 

60 years on, the Škoda Octavia Touring Sport makes a successful comeback at the Acropolis Rally.

There were many reasons to be cheerful after crossing the finish line. Not only did the Octavia TS dominate its category 1 and its subcategory A1 at the Acropolis Rally, the Czech crew also won the trophy for 3rd place in the European Championship for the whole season. No wonder Oldřich Kovařík has a broad smile on his face as he tells the story. “We actually have the same trophy at home now that Honza Kopecký has!”