Skoda Fabia RS Rally2: The last of a glorious line in rallying
Not content with offering a particularly interesting RS range (see my test of the Octavia RS, aka the Swiss army knife car), Skoda also has real legitimacy in motorsport, and in particular in rallying. Following on from the first-generation Octavia, the Fabia has been scouring rally stages around the world since 2009. Generations have followed: Fabia Super 2000 (2009-2014), then Fabia Rally2 (2015-2022). For a few weeks now, the new Fabia RS Rally2 has taken up the torch. I just had the privilege of having a co-drive aboard the latter, with a distinguished guest: Kris Meeke. Story of an extraordinary experience, and that I am not ready to forget.
Skoda Fabia RS Rally2: the latest from Skoda Motorsport
The Fabia RS Rally2 is the latest from Skoda Motorsport. Its development began in January 2020, with first tests in June 2021, and homologation in competition in September 2022.
This “baby WRC” is the distant heir to the legendary 130 RS, victorious in the Monte-Carlo rally in 1977. It is the spearhead of Skoda’s customer competition program, opened in 2009. In addition to sales, the latter also provides technical support (with a dedicated team of engineers), and car maintenance/repair.
In total, more than 500 rally Fabias have already been sold, including 474 for the second generation (Fabia Rally2). The record of this Fabia Rally2 commands respect, with more than 4,600 podiums, and a whopping 12 world titles. In total, it has more than 14,000 rally starts, including 2,000 in France alone.
Fabia RS Rally 2 specifications: Structure and weight reduction
Skoda Motorsport didn’t go far for the “shell” of the Fabia RS Rally2. And for good reason: it shares its hull with that of the Fabia as standard. It is obviously reinforced, with a solid roll bar. Solid, but light this arch: 55 kg is not much, especially for nearly 36 m of tubes! In total, the shell (including the arch) weighs 344 kg.
Weight is the enemy of performance, it’s well known. It is for this reason that the Fabia RS Rally2 receives refinements worthy of the best supercars, like its dry lithium battery, which weighs only 8.5 kg, or the tank. Despite its capacity as a van (82.5 litres), the latter weighs only 8.25 kg on the scale, with its flexible structure, made up of textile / rubber / aluminum, not to mention several layers of an aramid / carbon coating. , in order to reinforce/secure everything. In the end, Skoda announces a minimum weight of 1,230 kg for this Fabia RS Rally2, in line with FIA standards.
An engine derived from the series
The Fabia RS Rally2 is powered by a 1.6 L which develops 214 kW (291 hp) / 430 Nm, and derived from the 2.0 L TSI of the Octavia RS. Taken from the old Fabia Rally2, this four-cylinder is supported by a turbo (in this case unprecedented), and it is associated with a 5-speed Xtrac sequential gearbox, and the power is transmitted to the four wheels, via mechanical differentials . These data are identical to those of its predecessor (within 5 Nm): the Fabia Rally2 evo.
A car designed to withstand the worst tortures
The suspension no longer has much in common with the standard Fabia. Adjustable, it is designed to withstand the most extreme constraints: jumps, ruts… Braking is also oversized, with 4-piston calipers at the 4 corners, and “XXL” discs: 355 mm in asphalt configuration. Although logically bare, the passenger compartment impressed me with its manufacturing quality: perfect welds, cable storage: nothing was left to chance! I would see the carbon crankset as a decoration in my living room, that is to say.
It is now time to get down to business, and to judge this new Fabia RS Rally2 “on parts”. For the occasion, Skoda has closed a small road in the Czech countryside, and has set up a device worthy of a rally: marshalls, medical team… I start with the glorious predecessor of the Fabia: the 200 RS of 1974.
Co-drive on board the Skoda 200 RS: 50 years (or almost), and all its teeth!
Driven by a 2.0 L of 163 hp which transmits its power only to the rear wheels (and which associated with a 5-speed mechanical gearbox of Porsche origin), the 200 RS is not a monster of power, in any case. not according to our current criteria. It is, however, an authentic rarity. Next to it, the Ferrari 250 GTO would almost pass for a mass-produced car. And for good reason: the Skoda 200 RS was produced in… 2 copies.
Very small, it is furiously reminiscent of a French national monument: the Berlinette Alpine A110. The proportions are similar, and the same goes for the shape of its rear window, or for its interior, stripped down.
As I’m being slapped in the right seat, I see that the phrase “seated low to the ground” has never been better illustrated. There’s no footrest, and the roll bar is far less intrusive than on a modern rally car. Contact: the 2.0 L is definitely not the shy type. Devoid of any flange, the exhaust warms the cabin, and reminds me that I’m not in a lambda car. With the characteristic transmission whistle, we set off for a few short kilometers on a tiny country road in the Czech hinterland.
Sensations that have little to envy to a modern rally car
I have already had two opportunities to experience the sensations of a modern rally car (in a Clio R3T on a special stage of the Rallye du Varand on board the recent Hyundai i20N Rally2), and I can tell you that this Skoda 200 RS still has a good grip. Admittedly, its accelerations do not have the intensity of a “state-of-the-art” rally car, but for the rest, it does not have many lessons to learn.
Light (850 kg), the car seems very agile on its downforce, and the rear engine/rear-wheel drive architecture compensates very well for the lack of all-wheel drive (good OK, the car is still slipping in third gear , but the “oily-wet” conditions of our co-drive didn’t help). Ah yes, I also noticed that the driver had to put more steering than on a modern rally car. So certainly, it requires more commitment to piloting, but it is nonetheless a real sensation factory. Impressive the (almost) granny!
Co-drive in Skoda Fabia RS Rally2
Easy in the 200 RS, access is much more complex in the Fabia RS Rally2. Compared to its illustrious predecessor, it is necessary to have technique to settle on board, as safety has evolved, with a rollbar which constitutes a real protective cage. The best solution ? Tuck your feet in first, and then let your pelvis tip inside. Security always requires, we are much more firmly strapped in the bucket seat. The possible movement of the body is non-existent, with a result worthy of the greatest bondage techniques.
Truce (doubtful) comparison: the 1.6 L snorts. He too is focused on decibels, but less on vibrations. The reverse gear slams, and after a quick U-turn, the car takes off on its playground. Playful, Kris begins the special with a launch-control. To use the expression of the famous Etienne the bolideur: “it grows! “. The motricity is impressive, and we feel that the power has no trouble getting to the ground. Each deceleration is accompanied by the characteristic sound of the turbo wastegate, and the soundtrack is very close to a “real” WRC.
A feeling of supernatural efficiency
Despite the indecent speeds quickly reached (top speed of 170 km/h on our short special: not bad for a tiny country road where there is no room to pass another car!), the impression of ease and efficiency leave you speechless. The car seems glued to the ground, and the driver has only a few corrections to make at the wheel. Firmly harnessed to my seat, I see that rally drivers are definitely not made of the same wood as us poor ragtags, sorry, lambda drivers. Kris is calm, his gestures are precise, and absolutely nothing shows any risk-taking, despite our indecent speed.
Equally impressive, the braking is supernaturally efficient, as is the hydraulic handbrake, which allows the car to pivot in the blink of an eye. Not to be reproduced at home, otherwise you will lose your self-esteem (and your bonus coefficient).
Go, I stop my long palavers, and I leave you with a video made by Skoda Motorsport, where you can admire your servant being used as a sandbag for Kris Meeke. A big thank you to Skoda France precisely for this superb invitation.