Rally Mexico: Skoda preview

The Å koda Motorsport World Rally Team heads for Rally Mexico (March 10-13), the third round of the 2005 World Rally Championship with a new car, the Fabia WRC 05. Rally Mexico joined the WRC for the first time last year and was voted one of...

The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team heads for Rally Mexico (March 10-13), the third round of the 2005 World Rally Championship with a new car, the Fabia WRC 05.

Rally Mexico joined the WRC for the first time last year and was voted one of the best events in the championship -- a clear indication of the quality of the welcome that awaits the crews. The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team did not participate in the rally, however, as none of the 'long haul' events outside Europe were included in the team's 2004 programme.

The Skoda Fabia WRC 05 is immediately identifiable by its revised aerodynamic package and bold new livery. Under the skin are changes in several areas to further improve the performance of the car. A revised turbocharger has been fitted along with modified exhaust manifold and there have been several areas where weight savings have been made.

Armin Schwarz returns to the wheel now fully recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered in Monte Carlo and which forced him to miss the Swedish Rally last month. The second Fabia WRC 05 will be driven by Jani Paasonen on his second appearance of the season for the team.

Armin said:
"We had a good test at the end of February in Spain where I drove around 400kms (a full rally distance) in two days. We had no problems with the Fabia WRC 05 and my shoulder was fine. The improvements to the car have made it more driveable so I am quite happy. I haven't competed here before but I did the recce in 2004. The stages remind me a lot of those around Fafe in Portugal which were some of the most enjoyable in the whole World Rally Championship."

Jani said:
"We had a good test session in Spain with the new Fabia WRC 05. We lost a bit of test time because of snow, which I don't expect we will see in Mexico! However, I still did about 250kms. I can already see some improvements from the previous car so I'm looking forward to the rally. I like this event very much. The roads are nice and I set some good times there with a Group N car in 2004."

Martin Muehlmeier, Head of the Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team, said:
"We are looking forward to this rally and the arrival of our new car, the Fabia WRC 05. We should see some performance benefits immediately from our recent modifications but our main priority remains to improve the reliability."

Team news:

Although only Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha and Jani Paasonen/Jani Vainikka will be competing in Mexico, the other Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team crews, Janne Tuohino/Mikko Markkula and Alex Bengue/Caroline Escudero, will also be there as they are both driving the recce to gain experience of the roads. Alex did a similar thing in Sweden last month and a year ago Armin did the same in Mexico, ensuring that he has at least some experience of the stages.

Armin and Petra Schwarz celebrated the birth of a son, Fabio, on February 21.

Rally Mexico in detail:

Rally Mexico is based approximately 400kms north west of Mexico City in Leon. The rally begins in the evening of Thursday March 10 with a spectacular ceremonial start in Guanajuato City, capital of the State of Guanajuato and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where thousands of rally fans are expected to gather for a traditional fiesta-style send-off to the event. It is one of the most compact events in the championship with a route that is never more than 50kms from the Poliforum indoor rally base in Leon.

Friday is the longest leg of the event and also the highest. It features six stages (two loops of three totalling 146.84kms in a day's route of 420.04kms). Stage 2 and 5 peaks at 2737 metres above sea level.

Saturday's second leg includes another six stages (totalling 146.48kms in a leg total of 365.02kms).

Sunday's final leg comprises just two stages but both are new to the event in their current format. The second, at 44.39kms, is by far the longest of the event and is likely to be the longest of the whole 2005 World Championship.

The event finishes in Leon at 12.30pm (Mexico is CET -7 hours).


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Series WRC
Drivers Jani Paasonen , Armin Schwarz , Janne Tuohino , Jani Vainikka , Alex Bengue , Klaus Wicha , Mikko Markkula