360° video: Winter Battle of Champions with FABIA Rally2 evo

360° video: Winter Battle of Champions with FABIA Rally2 evo

Lifestyle Sports Motorsport

Studded tyres, flying snow and white mountaintops all around. Three rally champions and one vice-champion tested their speed against each other on the snowy track of the Ice Race. Let’s take a look at this drive – from the cockpit!

7. 2. 2020

For petrolheads, the Ice Race in Austria’s Zell am See is the winter equivalent of the Goodwood Revival. The modern event is the successor to the famous races that took place from 1937 to 1974. The driving starts early in the morning and continues late into the night, both under blue skies and in glowing spotlights when the darkness falls. Racecars of all types, classes and ages appear, including some really unique classics.

Watch a 360° drive record.

 
 

Last year, ŠKODA triumphed here when the FABIA R5, driven by 2018 WRC2 champion Jan Kopecký, posted the fastest time in its class. This year, ŠKODA Motorsport prepared a unique show for the spectators: the Ice Race of Champions. Four excellent drivers competed behind the wheels of two ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo rally cars: the reigning junior ERC champion Filip Mareš, multiple German champion Fabian Kreim, Slovakian champion Martin Koči, and one local driver, the Austrian vice-champion Julian Wagner.

This time, Jan Kopecký supported the young drivers as an experienced mentor. “What you need here most of all is to drive smart. Watch the track carefully – it changes all the time. Adapt all the time and avoid the deep ruts that can throw the car off balance and cause dangerously intense understeer or oversteer,” he warned, concerning the risks facing the four young drivers.

On the slippery surface, a little mistake is enough to lose a lot, even though the mechanics of the ŠKODA Motorsport works team fitted the two cars with special studded winter tyres and increased the ride height. “The most important part is not to make a mistake. One is enough for you to lose everything. At the same time, you have to be a bit aggressive to win. It’s simply a mix of everything,” commented Kopecký.

Jan Kopecký

His advice was sought after, as none of the four drivers was certain of victory. Although each of them has a lot of experience, they hadn’t had much opportunity to drive on snow and ice in Central Europe, compared with their Scandinavian colleagues. For Filip Mareš and Fabian Kreim, it was their first time on the snow and studded tyres. Martin Koči had done just one winter rally – 2014 Rally Sweden. Julian Wagner was the most experienced in this area, as it was his second Ice Race and he also attends the traditional Jäner Rally in Austria. On the other hand, he has driven an Rally2 car for just a year, while his competitors have many years of experience.

“It’s hard to say which driver will win. All of them are fast, but each one is different. Each one asked me slightly different things. Only one thing is certain – the fastest will win,” Kopecký replied when asked about his tips for the winner. Everyone really wanted to win. Watch to find out who triumphed in the end.

While the experience from tarmac rallies was only useful in a limited way, gravel has a lot in common with snow, from the standpoint of both the car setup and the driving style. And while ordinary drivers usually go very slowly and carefully on snow, a rally car on studded tyres may, in some cases, be even faster than in summer. “If the ice surface is strong and compact, the grip is similar to gravel or even better. I think that snow and ice are a bit easier than gravel,” was Kopecký’s opinion.

Besides discussions with Kopecký, the drivers mainly prepared for their drives by watching the in-car videos from the previous year. In the end, they still had to improvise. Because of the above-zero temperatures, and thick fog alternating with sunny weather, the conditions were changing all the time. The ŠKODA Ice Race Challenge was exactly that, a challenge – and a great show for thousands of spectators.

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