The fundamentals are the same: you want to tune a rally car to be as fast, but also as reliable, as possible.
But developing a car that’ll compete for World Rally Championship titles and victories is different from dialing in one that’ll be competing no higher than WRC2 – and more different than you might think.
Kris Meeke has been a key player in the development of Škoda’s all-new Fabia RS Rally2, which was officially unveiled to the world earlier this week. And it was far from his first rodeo as Meeke was basically the sole development driver for Citroën’s C3 WRC before it launched in 2017.
“The approach to this testing is a lot different than trying to develop a World Rally Car,” Meeke told DirtFish.
“At certain times you have to think that drivers will be driving this car in Peru, Chile and maybe South Africa and Australia and you have to think of everybody getting into it and the ease of the cockpit and how it operates.
“But you don’t need to create a car that’s on a knife edge to win world championship rallies, you have to create a car that works in all conditions everywhere and it’s easy to use.”
Unlike top-line cars which are developed principally for professional motorsport, and then perhaps sold on later, Rally2 is predominantly a customer-based class.
There are professional drivers – and teams – competing in the ranks but for every pro there’s several more semi-pro or amateur drivers using these machines all over the world, who are not aiming to be a world champion.
A Rally2 car therefore has to adopt a ‘one size fits all’ philosophy, as so many drivers with so many different driving styles need to be able to get the most out of it.
“All drivers are driving in a little bit of a different way,” Mikkelsen explained to DirtFish. “But that was also the reason why Škoda wanted so many different test drivers.
“Because they want a car that is really good for a driver that wants to win rallies, wants to win championships, but it’s also really important to have a car that works for a gentleman driver because it’s a customer sport in the end.
“So I think we found a good mix. We’ll wait and see when it hits the stages.”
Meeke added: “It is a bit of a different approach but they’ve really taken their time with it, with well over 10 maybe 20,000 kilometers [6000-12,000 miles] on the car.
“I’ve done maybe a third of that, I’ve probably done more kilometers in the last year than I’ve ever done in terms of a calendar year. It’s been a nice experience for me.”
Given the eight overall WRC rally victories and seven titles across WRC2, the Intercontinental Rally Challenge and European Rally Championship between Škoda’s array of test and development drivers, Fabia RS Rally2 customers should be in for a nice experience as well.