How does it feel to be handed the keys to a new ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo, a rally car with less than ten worldwide? First, you don’t get keys. It’s hardly necessary to lock your rally car and starting it is different from your family SUV – you turn on the power and ignition levers, press the start button, then wait until the oil in the engine is at the right pressure. But what you do get, is the acceleration of a super sports car no matter what surface, a car that’s almost indestructible, and customer care that would make clients of the most luxurious brands envious. And the differences go much deeper than that.
Before this 2019’s Rally Finland, Toni Gardemeister became the world’s first private customer of the modernised ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo. “When I’m buying a new rally car, the feelings inside me are much stronger than with a regular road car. I really love these cars. As soon as ŠKODA announced that the FABIA R5 evo was being developed, I called them to place a reservation on one or two cars,” enthuses Gardemeister, who has rallied with cars such as the OCTAVIA WRC, the FABIA WRC and the FABIA S2000 in the past.
Less than 280 of the previous-generation FABIA R5 were sold over its four years of production. In the world of motorsport, that’s a pretty respectable number – in fact, the FABIA R5 became the bestseller in its class.
1.The Test Drive
For most consumers, the test drive might be most important part of the car buying process. However, you can’t really test drive a rally car – you choose one based on its reputation and performance in rallies. An exception was made for the FABIA R5 evo, which was presented to a select group of drivers, allowing them to give it a spin on a racing circuit. They go to test-drive the car absolutely flat out by flooring it and drifting. Truth be told, though, those customers had ordered their cars first and were only getting to test-drive them later.
2.Placing Your Order
There is only one place in the whole world where you can buy the ŠKODA FABIA R5 evo – at the ŠKODA Motorsport headquarters in Mladá Boleslav, about an hour’s drive from, Prague. There is only one version of the car available, built to tarmac or gravel specifications. Despite a price tag equal to 20 ordinary ŠKODA FABIAs, it’s completely sold out for this year! And, of course, you pay in advance.
3.Building Your Car
Each car is hand-built and takes seven weeks to complete. Based on the modified body of an ordinary ŠKODA FABIA, it is extensively reinforced and fitted with top-grade racing components supplied by renowned brands from around the world. Each engine is thoroughly tested on a dynamometer to make sure it complies with stringent performance requirements.
Every owner of a new car knows that, for the first 1,000 to 1,500 kilometers, you should not rev the engine to more than 60%. But if you have a new rally car, however, that could mean several lost rallies. That’s why the R5s are thoroughly tested under high pressure on the ŠKODA proving grounds before being handed over to their new owners. This includes full acceleration tests on all gears up to the rev limiter and hard braking.
5.The Hand Over
Now the car’s ready to be delivered to its new driver, usually accompanied by a large shipment of spare parts. Even though the FABIA R5 is built for reliability and durability, components such as bumpers and half-shafts are treated as consumables.
6.Race Set Up
Another thing specific to rally cars is that they need tweaked for each rally, especially the suspension. ŠKODA Motorsport technicians recommend settings for various conditions to all owners, and are ready to give advice on the spot if needed. But, all drivers need to test and fine-tune settings to suit their own preferences. You can’t just hop in and drive if you want to have a shot at victory.
7.Your First Rally
Your family car is a cherished treasure, but the FABIA R5 evo exists to be pushed to the limit of its technical and physical capabilities. Only after the first bumper is destroyed and the first set of tyres is worn out can the car be considered to be broken in.