History repeated at Rally Portugal: In 2015, the first generation ŠKODA FABIA R5 celebrated a successful debut at the Portuguese round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Exactly four years later at the same event, the successor ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo was unbeatable among the initially 32 entries strong field of R5 cars. Only a puncture during the fourth special stage prevented Kalle Rovanperä and co-driver Jonne Halttunen from leading the WRC 2 Pro category from start to finish. Only four stages later, he regained the top position, which he eventually defended until the finish line in Matosinhos close to Porto.
“The car felt really great, it was such a pleasure to drive it. The most important thing on the final day was not to lose the concentration and to control the lead,” Rovanperä confessed and added: “Honestly, it’s not so much fun to drive with a one minute lead – it’s harder than to drive flat out. But today, we could enjoy the stages.”
Rovanperä’s teammates Jan Kopecký/Pavel Dresler had given the new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo its maiden win on tarmac in the Czech Rally Championship two weeks ago. Having not driven competitively on gravel roads since last year’s Rally Spain, the two Czechs in Portugal also delivered a great performance by finishing second of the WRC 2 Pro category: “Having done the majority of the tests with our new rally car, I am delighted to see how well it works on tarmac and gravel. I know that today we just had to get to the finish, but we did our best to have fun in the car,” said reigning WRC 2 champion Jan Kopecký.
In the overall result, Rovanperä even climbed to sixth among the much more powerful World Rally Cars, again followed by teammate Kopecký in eight. ŠKODA Motorsport boss Michal Hrabánek was delighted. “What a great debut of our new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo,” he said. “All the development and testing paid off. I am very proud of Kalle, Jan and the whole ŠKODA Motorsport team.”
Driving the predecessor ŠKODA FABIA R5, but not nominated in WRC 2 Pro category, French privateers Pierre-Louis Loubet/Vincent Landais were third fastest among the initially 32 entries strong field of R5 cars.
Final Results Rally Portugal (WRC 2 Pro)
Rovanperä/Halttunen (FIN/FIN), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, 3:30:57.0 h
Kopecký/Dresler (CZE/CZE), ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, +1:07.7 min.
Østberg/Eriksen (NOR/NOR), Citroën C3 R5, +19:08.6 min.
Pieniazek/Gerber (POL/POL), Ford Fiesta R5, +30:55.1 min.
Current championship standings WRC 2 Pro/Drivers (after seven of 14 rounds)
Kalle Rovanperä (FIN), ŠKODA, 86 points
Mads Østberg (NOR), Citroën, 83 points
Lukasz Pieniazek (POL), Ford, 74 points
Gus Greensmith (GBR), Ford, 73 points
Jan Kopecký (CZE), ŠKODA, 18 points
Marco Bulacia (BOL), ŠKODA, 12 points
Current championship standings WRC 2 Pro/Manufacturers (after seven of 14 rounds)
Ford, 147 points
ŠKODA, 116 points
Citroën, 83 points
Number of the day: 3
Three ŠKODA crews were overall best placed competitors among the initially 32 entries strong field of R5 cars.
The calendar of the 2019 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2 Pro)
Great Britain 03/10/–06/10/2019