The mixture of satisfaction and frustration is as obvious as it is unavoidable. Škoda’s all-new Fabia RS Rally2 showed its pace and potential with a dominant Lausitz Rally win earlier this month – but the Czech manufacturer understands it still has no chance of meeting demand for the car.
The supply chain issues which continue to constrain the automotive industry around the world are felt more keenly among those drivers and team owners queueing – virtually – outside the doors at Mlada Boleslav than anywhere else.
Ask Škoda’s head of motorsport Michal Hrabanek about the length of the waiting list for one of the cars and he casts a rueful smile. The simultaneous wave of the hand indicates the list goes on a bit.
And then a bit more.
“The list,” said Hrabanek, “for potential buyers is, right now, endless. I think we will be happy to supply five cars this year.”
Škoda Motorsport’s conservatism here is admirable. Hrabanek is determined to protect both the brand and the customer.
“It’s still difficult,” he said. “On one hand we could build more cars, but we will have no spare parts for those. At the beginning of the project, the package of spare parts is more or less plus one car for the team.
“We don’t want to promise something we are not able to fulfil in the future. That’s why we are in touch with the teams who will get the car in the next months, but we don’t promise you will get it exactly in, for example, September ’23 or something.
“We are telling our customers: ‘Please keep your current car, we will supply you with spare parts. The car is still good enough and competitive. Rely on the material you have, and we will know more when we can supply the new car.’
“It is tough though. We know everybody wants the car and we want to sell the car to everybody, but what can we do? We cannot satisfy everybody.
“It is frustrating. We know how good the [new] car is.
“At our premiere in Lausitz, everything was according to our expectation – we had no technical troubles and also the crew, Andreas [Mikkelsen] and Torstein [Eriksen], performed very well. I think they were on the safe side, but still able to win. I think they controlled the whole rally and I think it was a good start for the car.
“Of course, it was a local rally but when we talk about the mileage it was comparable with normal national championships and the target group of the car. The European and World championship rallies are longer, but when I remember the first start with the Fabia R5 in 2015 it was also one of the Czech championship rallies.”
Ordinarily, Škoda would be expecting to build and sell more than 100 new rally cars in a season. The Mlada Boleslav factory is one of the motorsport world’s most customer-tailored manufacturer facilities – but next season Hrabanek’s target remains limited in terms of delivering new motors.
“If we could talk about 50 pieces, I would be happy,” he said. “We will see, it’s getting better with some parts, but more problems with other parts. And it’s not just the availability of parts, it’s the quality – the suppliers are struggling with the sub-suppliers. You know how complicated the [supply] chain is.”
DirtFish understands four of the five cars will go to Škoda Motorsport’s factory-blessed team, Toksport, with delivery of those cars expected early next month.