It’s sitting there. Just sitting there all shiny and ready to go. But, for the moment, Škoda’s all-new Fabia RS Rally2 is going nowhere.
September 1 was the homologation date for the car first revealed to the public in June, but when will the world actually see one on stage? Head of Škoda Motorsport Michal Hrabanek was ruthlessly honest in his answer.
He told DirtFish: “For the premier event, we don’t know.”
He did know. We all knew. The fact that you simply couldn’t move around Jyäskylä for Škodas plastered on walls and hanging between trees indicated a significant promotional push for the delivery of what’s the most anticipated Rally2 car ever.
What went wrong?
The world. Škoda Motorsport is no different to you or I. Have you tried to buy a new car recently? Don’t bother you can’t. OK, technically you can, but don’t expect delivery much sooner than 12 months.
Russia’s invasion and continued war with Ukraine, allied to the global downturn with a bit of Brexit thrown in means the supply chain is not what it was.
“We have 90 or 95% of the parts we need in stock,” said Hrabanek, “but there are still some parts we need that we cannot get hold of. Soon, we can be more precise and we will know more. But if we were to supply just one or two of the new cars? I think we would have more dissatisfied customers than satisfied. This, we won’t do.”
Hrabanek’s been in this business a long time and is canny enough to know you have to balance both sides of the equation. Keeping suppliers sweet is as important as looking after customers.
“We have good relations with our suppliers and with our partners,” he said. “We want to do business with them, but they have some troubles on their side and this is why I want to give them more time.
“For some parts you have only one supplier worldwide, the suppliers in motorsport are somehow limited and they are at their capacity. We get the question from suppliers: ‘Do you want the current or the new spare parts?’
“It’s difficult. Now we answer to forget the new car and supply the owners of the current cars – these people have invested a lot of money in the cars they are using now. Our mission is to enable them to run the car they have invested [in] and they need to use the cars every weekend. Somehow we have to say to the suppliers: “Wait with the new model, the priority is the current car.
“When we start with the new car, we want to start and not to stop.”
But when? Could it be Rally Spain?
“I would say that’s 50:50,” said Hrabanek. “But maybe I am a little bit more pessimistic than optimistic. I don’t think we need to [insist] on the premier event being a WRC round.
“One moment when we have enough cars and spares, it can be up to customer where he will compete. It could be the Czech or German championship or even a small event in Italy – it doesn’t matter. Like I said, most important is that we have everything ready and we have the parts to support the cars we sell.”
The initial target is five cars, with a number of those heading to Toksport – Škoda’s preferred satellite operation.
“Five cars for the first batch could be reasonable,” he added. “We are motivated not only to sell the cars, but to compete. We want to see the car out there, this is going to help us to get experience or see if we need to make any changes [to the RS Fabia Rally2].
“The real feedback is so important for us. We are ready when we have five complete cars and five complete kits of spares.”
The list of customers for Škoda’s Fabia RS Rally2 grows by the day, but there’s nobody wants it up and out the door more than Michal Hrabanek.