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Skoda Home Country: Czech Republic
The company actually started as Laurin & Klement with Vaclav Laurin & Vaclav Klement producing first bicycles, then motorbikes and cars. Only financial difficulties after world war 1 resulted in a merger with the steel industry group Skoda Works and the Skoda name was adopted as brand name. This name also originates from its founder, Emil Skoda. The brand logo, a winged arrow, also is in fact the brand logo of Skoda Works. Laurin and Klement formerly used an “L&K” in a circle, ironically similar in idea to the VW logo. VW bought Skoda Auto from Skoda Works between 1991-2000 (it was a process of buying more and more shares). So the Skoda name is in a way ironic. Laurin & Klement originate from Mlada Boleslav, a small town just north of Prague where the car manufacturer is based until today, while Skoda Works is from Pilsen. But everything else, brand name and logo, identifies Skoda Works. Yet without Laurin & Klement, Skoda Works would have never produced cars. Strictly speaking, what VW bought is Laurin & Klement and not Skoda – despite identical name and brand logo, Skoda Works in Pilsen is again an independent company that is no more connected to VW and Skoda Auto!
It is indeed ironic that the Skoda name was kept for the L&K cars. Skoda Works in Pilsen is famous for lokomotives, trams and trolley busses, they did lokomotives, trams and trolley busses before they adopted L&K cars and they still do all this today! So once again if you spot a Skoda lokomotive, tram or bus with the Skoda name and the Skoda logo, this is original Skoda and they have nothing whatsoever to do today with the VW owned Skoda cars of Mlada Boleslav, which are not the original Skoda. Not complaining, the Skoda Works of Pilsen transports are fascinating and characterful and I am sure most Skoda (car) fans love them. But see, Chrysler belonged to Mercedes for a short period and today Chrysler belongs to Fiat, so how about Fiat selling cars under the name Mercedes Panda and Mercedes 500?
Skoda may be always regarded as the poor team of the WRC and remembering where they come from and what their background is, this may be right. After all the Czech Republic is one of the Eastern European countries with a communist background rather than free economic market not that long ago. But for the same reason, the pure fact that they are here, and not only that, but that they are actually regular points finishers, is the more a testimony of their strong enthusiasm and character. There certainly is no shortage of both, enthusiasm and character as Skoda’s motorsport history started in 1901, over 100 years ago. And although they were into motorbike races at first, car rallies have been part of their activity nearly since the beginning.
Nowadays still everybody seems to remember Skoda taking part in rallies with little RWD rear engined cars and good for respectable class wins. But in fact in the 1960s the Skoda 1000MB and 1100MB were not that far off the norm, nor was another rear engined car of that time, called the Octavia! In fact from their layout there were similarities between the Skodas and i.e. the famous R8 Gordini and Simca Rallye. Further, the Skodas were certainly sophisticated cars compared to what some of the opposition came up with, just remember the rear engined NSU Prinz or the 2-stroke engined DKW and Wartborg – at least Skoda had proper engines. However, for their country's political background Skoda kept producing rear engined RWD cars until 1988, decades longer than all other car manufacturers. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s Skoda seemed to struggle keeping up with the way modern technology went, which couldn’t be helped for the situation the CZ found themselves in, but in that situation they did more than most of even today’s big firms could have ever coped with. In the 1980s Skodas had a 1.3 litre rear engine which looked antique, but you would reconsider such judgement quickly at the finish line as Skodas never seemed to break down and they often managed to get in or at least close to the top10 overall, even in group B days. It is not without reason the Czechs are regarded as some of the most eager engineers there are. Go to central European touring car teams and you will be surprised how many of them have already worked with Czech engineers and mechanics and give them the best references you could imagine. Skoda surely had their fans as well, high profile fans at that and not only within the CZ. So was i.e. Norwegian John Haugland an absolute top star driver talent at the time, but he somehow refused to compete in anything else but a Skoda. To the day John Haugland has a reknown ice driving school and to the day he is a loyal admirer of Skoda.
So don’t take me as talking bad about Czechs. One year I combined a visit to the Barum Rally with a holiday in Prague. It is interesting to see the (Skoda!) trolley busses of Zlin, that seem modern to Western Green Fanatics yet the Czechs seem to want to get rid of them for they are too expensive and unflexible (at that rate the Czechs keep moving forward, while Green Fanatics influenced western countries are flat out in reverse). The cobble stone roads and surrounding buildings of Otrokovice, on which modern Audis and BMWs seem disturbing but Skoda Favorits and Felicias plus the odd 130 with the front boot opening to the side for easy loading from the pathment make a perfect picture. And round it off with the paddle wheel diesel boats (yes, diesel rather than steam, they are not that old fashioned) on the Moldova in Prague, which have a huge paddle wheel mounted all across the back rather than slim side mounted ones. Haha, you could say these Moldova boats are rear wheel drive. I noted the huge paddle wheel was cut in halves, which looked a little odd, and asking someone why that was done the reply was “so we could twist them, if the paddles don’t hit the water at once over the complete width of the boat it makes for a smoother ride, function before looks.” – clever, and still looks great! Maybe this is only me, but for me communism is not a bad word, it somehow stands for a very distinct style with extremely enthusiastic people and clever engineering. OK, it is rather wrong to still use the word communism, but it seems very poor days combined with this enthusiasm and cleverness resulted in a very distinct and loveable style! And I hope Skoda can keep this style forever.
In the 1990s the situation for Skoda and their country changed dramatically. Of course you can’t expect miracles overnight. This as well has good aspects however, since Volkswagen bought themselves into Skoda but this did not make Skoda give up their unique character in any big way. So Skoda still rallied 1.3 litre cars and soon 1.5 and 1.6, but by now they were FWD, they were of a modern layout, but they did in no way lose their sturdiness and efficiency. In fact the FWD Favorit debuted in 1988, which is still 3 years before VW had anything to do with Skoda. In 1994 Skoda still competed with the Favorit 136L and amazingly with it won the 2 Litre World Cup. One highlight that just seems typical of Skoda was the RAC Rally 1996. This was no full WRC event that year, but nevertheless with entries such as Armin Schwarz & Juha Kankkunen in works Toyota Celica and full works F2 teams of Renault, Nissan and Seat. But it was Skoda weather with virtually snow blizzards and Stig Blomqvist managed to come 3rd overall(!) on that event with a little Skoda Felicia 1600 Kit Car!
When in 1997 Skoda then moved on to an Octavia 2000 Kit Car, this car did not seem to fit into the frame. Not that it was a bad car, it just was rather big – too big – for an F2 car and it seemed strange that out of all companies it was the traditional giant killer Skoda to come out with the biggest F2 car of the lot. It wasn’t the biggest success, though. But by 1999 Skoda came with a proper WRCar. This was incredible, only 10 years earlier nobody would have dared to dream of an A8 or WRCar coming out of former communist Eastern Europe. Now it was there in the shape of the big Skoda Octavia again. The Octavia may not have won a WRC rally, but Skoda certainly has settled in well and the Octavia WRC has scored podiums, which i.e. Hyundai never managed! It speaks volumes that even many of the opposition regard Skoda’s engine as one of the strongest there is, while the Octavia’s main downfall seems to have been the transmission which ironically is an old Subaru system purchased through Prodrive in the project's early days. Now we have the much more conveniently sized and again more modern Fabia WRC and things turn ever more exciting, not only for Skoda themselves but quite likely even too exciting for some of Skoda’s competition! Or this could have been, it could be said that the Fabia could have impressed more in the few events it did in 2003, however a change in the rules that made the 2004 season far more expensive sadly forced Skoda out of competing a full season.
Update: Eventually the Fabia WRC program was a disappointment following the successes of the Octavia. It seems there were actually 2 problems here: 1) Even though the Fabia was of a much better basic configuration, increased influence of Volkswagen management seemed to hinder Skoda's progress in motorsport more than help it. And 2) ever increasing cost in WRC with the rules dictating teams to go to 16 rounds, often in locations that are of no marketing interest for Skoda and others, eventually made Skoda pull out of the WRC.
Maybe the claim about Volkswagen management is an interesting one, maybe they should have kept more their own Czech style. It is a claim that I have heard several times by several people, OK, Skoda fans. But they do seem to not be completely unreasonable when coming up with examples as Colin McRae would have come 2nd with the Fabia in the 2005 Rally Australia, had Martin Mühlmeier not insisted on a late precautionary gearbox change that in the short last service was bound to go OTL. Apparently before the event Colin McRae had a row with Mühlmeier about using his own set up, too. And when the car was such a failure, how come the then very young Jan Kopecky could come a fine 5th overall in Rallye Deutschland 2007 in the by now well outdated and fully private Fabia WRC? And even later still, in Norway 2009, P.-G. Andersson could win WRC stages outright in a 4 years old rented Fabia WRC?
Fact is that in 2008 Skoda was working on a Fabia S2000 project without help from Volkswagen Group, and this car had a strong debut on the IRC Monte Carlo 2009, won Skoda the IRC makes titles 2010, 2011 & 2012 and made Skoda the most successful manufacturer in IRC history. And now we are talking overall, not some 1300cc class results! The show was in fact so impressive, that Volkswagen had a re-think, as Volkswagen Motorsport acquired no less than 6 Fabia S2000 and based their Polo R WRC around the Skoda! Even quite a number of staff at Volkswagen Motorsport Hannover are Czechs.
COLOURS & TYRES:
On the old rear engined cars Skoda was often having a distinct white and light blue with a little red. But since the Favorit and throughout Felicia and Octavia, they use a combination of mainly white and a strong green that easily identifies them. And with the Fabia add black to that. Come Skoda’s Fabia S2000 from the 2009 IRC season, we still have a layout of green & black on a white car, but the green is now a very distinct bright metallic.
In the rear engine days Skoda had no real tyre contract most of the time, but often used Dunlop or Michelin. Since the Favorit they have always been on Michelin.
Czech reg plates are amongst the more difficult ones to identify and trace. See our general registration guide as to why this is. Skoda is based in Mlada Boleslav, therefore the 3-letter-block of the reg plates would start with MB with the 3rd straight follow on letter having no meaning, MBA, MBB, MBC, etc.. However this system has changed in 2003, when the first 3-digit block used numbers as well as letters and the middle digit being an “S” identified Mlada Boleslav. And by 2007 this system saw an addition, now special registration plates for rally cars are available, with the 3rd digit of that first block being an “R”. We also ever again see cars with an “E” in that block since this new system, this identifies short term reg plates for cars to be exported. It's all not easy, as well as reg plates can be changed and sometimes re-used in the Czech Republic, but this should give a first overview for most Skodas.
|Skoda 120||Group 2|
|Skoda 130||Group B|
|Skoda Fabia (1)||World Rally Car|
|Skoda Fabia (2)||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T|
|Skoda Fabia (3)||Class R5|
|Skoda Favorit||Group A|
|Skoda Felicia||Formula 2|
|Skoda Octavia (1)||Formula 2|
|Skoda Octavia (1)||World Rally Car|
|2016 IRC||Class R5||1st.||Skoda (248pts)||10|
|2015 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||3rd.||Skoda (159pts)||10|
|2014 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||2nd.||Skoda (239pts)||12|
|2013 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||1st.||Skoda (289pts)||12|
|2012 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||1st.||Skoda (348pts)||13|
|2011 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||1st.||Skoda (362pts)||11|
|2010 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||1st.||Skoda (120pts)||12|
|2009 IRC||Super 2000 / WRC 1.6T||2nd.||Skoda (77pts)||11|
|2006 WRC||World Rally Car||6th.||Skoda (24pts)||16|
|2005 WRC||World Rally Car||6th.||Skoda (22pts)||16|
|2003 WRC||World Rally Car||5th.||Skoda (23pts)||14|
|2002 WRC||World Rally Car||5th.||Skoda (9pts)||14|
|2001 WRC||World Rally Car||5th.||Skoda (17pts)||14|
|2000 WRC||World Rally Car||7th.||Skoda (8pts)||14|
|1999 WRC||World Rally Car||7th.||Skoda (6pts)||14|
|1994 WRC||Group A||8th.||Skoda (4pts)||10|
|1979 WRC||Open||16th.||Skoda (6pts)||12|
|1977 WRC||Open||18th.||Skoda (7pts)||11|
|1975 WRC||Open||16th.||Skoda (4pts)||10|
|1973 WRC||Open||17th.||Skoda (3pts)||13|