ŠKODA Motorsport: Success Built on Tradition

ŠKODA Motorsport: Success Built on Tradition

The ŠKODA brand’s roots in motorsport reach back more than 100 years. In 1901, Narcis Podsedníček participated for the first time in the Paris–Berlin race riding an L&K motorcycle.

10. 7. 2017 Lifestyle Motorsport


What began in 1901 on two wheels continued in the 1970s and 1980s with winning series both on the track and at rallies. In 2016, the Finnish crew Esapekka Lappi and Janne Ferm won the FIA World Rally Championship series (in category WRC 2). These successes show the result of the company’s involvement in motorsport.


L&K motocycle (1905) - Václav Vondřich Coupe International

Even the founders of the automotive factory in Mladá Boleslav, Messrs. Laurin and Klement (L&K), had a passion for motorsport. Just two years after launching motorcycle production, they entrusted their new one-cylinder L&K motorcycle to the racer Narcis Podsedníček and sent him to the 1901 endurance race from Paris to Berlin. Incredibly fast, Podsedníček was the first to cross the finish line – doing so even before an official timekeeper had been readied. The organizers of the race summarily disqualified him. Laurin and Klement did not let this keep them down. They demonstrated that they had constructed not only the fastest but also the most reliable motorcycle.

Successes in motorsport have always served as convincing marketing tools, as customers have always responded to good race results by buying the vehicles. Such is the tradition of motorsport in Mladá Boleslav that began 116 years ago and continues to this day.


L&K motorcycle (1901) – Narcis Podsedníček

L&K motorcycles long influenced the international racing scene and were among the most successful racing machines in the early 20th century. Victories in numerous uphill races and successes in classic endurance races, such as the 2,400 km race from St. Petersburg to Sevastopol, demonstrated the speed and reliability of the motorcycles from Mladá Boleslav. In 1905, the L&K factory rider Václav Vondřich won the renowned Coupe International in Dourdan, France. In the last days of the company’s activities in motorcycle racing, L&K won the unofficial motorcycle world championship.


L&K Voiturette A (1908) - Otto Hieronymus Semmering, the winner of the Saint Petersburg-Moscow races


But Laurin and Klement saw their economic future on four wheels: the first L&K automobile rolled out of the Mladá Boleslav production hall in 1905. This was the legendary Voiturette A, and its entry into automotive sport was expected. Otto Hieronymus and Count Alexander Kolowrat recorded the first win already in 1908 at a legendary event at Semmering near Vienna. This was followed one year later at Gaillon, Switzerland. Five wins in a row at the Austrian Alpine Run established a foundation for the brand’s rich competitive history. When Count Kolowrat stood at the start of the legendary Rallye Monte Carlo in 1912, his L&K FCR was powered by a four-cylinder, 5.5 l engine producing a then-impressive 100 hp.

The year 1925 marked the merger of L&K with ŠKODA. Far from ending the activities in automotive sport, this in fact marked a new beginning: In 1935, two six-cylinder special racing vehicles, the ŠKODA Rapid Six, participated in the race known as “1000 Czechoslovak Miles”. ŠKODA POPULAR was presented in 1934 as the first ŠKODA vehicle with a state-of-the-art backbone chassis.


ŠKODA Rapid (1935) – 1000 Czechoslovak Miles


ŠKODA POPULAR Sport (1936) - Rallye Monte Carlo


Zdeněk Pohl and Jaroslav Hausman attracted additional acclaim in 1936 when they placed second in their displacement class at the Rallye Monte Carlo with the ŠKODA POPULAR SPORT two-seater. This success spurred further enthusiasm for rally racing in their Czechoslovak homeland. ŠKODA responded promptly and presented the sports model ŠKODA POPULAR SPORT Monte Carlo.


ŠKODA OCTAVIA (1961) - Monte Carlo, Esko Keinänen and Rainer Eklund, a clipping from the corporate magazine „Ventil“ (Valve) from August 1961

ŠKODA continued in its motorsport activities after World War II. Another milestone was participation in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1950. In addition, open sports cars based on the 1101 production model achieved many victories on circuit races in Eastern Europe. ŠKODA OCTAVIA, introduced in 1959, raced from one success to the next in the touring cars class with displacement under 1.3 l. In 1961, not only did the Finnish team of Esko Keinänen and Rainer Eklund win their class in the Rallye Monte Carlo, they also took a sensational sixth place in the overall ranking.

In the 1960s, ŠKODA 1000 MB opened a new chapter. The ŠKODA brand’s first vehicle with rear-wheel drive and its engine in the rear introduced a new technological concept in 1964. With its weight distribution and increased traction on the driven axle, it was ideal for motorsport.


ŠKODA 1000 MB (1968) – Miroslav Fousek in the racing single-seater, Eastern European F3 championship

In addition to  the rally car, a single-seat circuit racer (formula car) was fitted with the ŠKODA 1000 MB powertrain. This, too, was a successful model, and in 1968 Miroslav Fousek drove it to win the Eastern European Formula 3 Championship.


ŠKODA F3, type 992 (1968)


The sports coupé ŠKODA 110 R provided the basis for the legendary race car that from 1975 was a purebred racing machine: the light and innovative ŠKODA 130 RS was endearingly nicknamed the “Porsche of the East”. ŠKODA 130 RS was one of the most successful cars of its time even beyond its own class. A victory in the European Touring Cars Championship in 1981 and a double victory at the Rallye Monte Carlo (1977) in the category of vehicles with engines having displacement under 1.3 l demonstrated the qualities of this concept – Simply Clever and Simply Fast.


ŠKODA 130 RS (1977) - Monte Carlo Václav Blahna




With ŠKODA’s entry into the Volkswagen Group in 1991, motorsport activities were further extended. The competitions continued as before: in 1994, ŠKODA FAVORIT won the FIA World Rally Championship for cars with single-axle drive.


ŠKODA FAVORIT (1994) – Victory in the FIA World Championship

With ŠKODA OCTAVIA WRC, presented in 1999, the factory entered for the first time into the top tier of the World Rally Championship (WRC). The ŠKODA brand’s first World Rally Car had four-wheel drive and a turbocharged engine producing 300 hp.

It achieved the greatest success in the world’s toughest long-distance rally, the Safari Rally in Kenya: The German factory driver Armin Schwarz along with his co‑driver Manfred Hiemer took an excellent third place in 2001. ŠKODA OCTAVIA WRC was a successful model also in many national championships. During 2003 to 2007, it had a worthy successor in ŠKODA FABIA WRC.

In 2009, ŠKODA FABIA Super 2000 dominated the rally world within its category. Up to that time, no other race car within its category had been so successful. Worldwide, ŠKODA FABIA Super 2000 won 50 national and international titles, thereby writing the most successful chapter in ŠKODA motorsport history until finally being surpassed by its successor, ŠKODA FABIA R5.




ŠKODA FABIA WRC (2003) - Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka, ŠKODA FABIA WRC, ŠKODA Motorsport. Rally Mexico 2005


Officially registered at the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on 12 April 2015, ŠKODA FABIA R5, was successful already in its first season. Those first wins were soon bettered, however, by victories in 2016: In the WRC 2: FIA World Rally Championship, Esapekka Lappi/Janne Ferm (FIN/FIN) took the first title for the Czech automotive manufacturer. ŠKODA FABIA R5 won a total of ten world championships. Additional triumphs were achieved by ŠKODA drivers Gustavo Saba (PRY) and Gaurav Gill (IND) driving a ŠKODA FABIA R5 also in the continental championships in South America, Asia, and the Pacific. Nasser Al-Attiyah (QAT) was indomitable in the Middle East Rally Championship (MERC), and an additional 10 national titles were won. The factory’s success also provided an impulse for increasing customer interest: To date, more than 130 ŠKODA FABIA R5 vehicles have been sold to private teams and importers all over the world.


In 2017, the factory teams of Pontus Tidemand/Jonas Andersson (SWE/SWE) and Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler (CZE/CZE) are participating in selected races of the World Rally Championship (WRC 2). After taking two titles in a row, the Kopecký/Dresler team is setting off also in pursuit of a Czech Rally Championship victory.

The 2017 season got off to a triumphant start for the ŠKODA brand: Victorious crews in the first five races of the World Rally Championship were driving ŠKODA FABIA R5 cars. At the end of April, teams with ŠKODA vehicles were leading in 18 international and national championships.


ŠKODA FABIA R5 (2015) – Jan Kopecký Pavel Dresler, ŠKODA FABIA R5, ŠKODA Motorsport. Rally Hustopeče 2017