From Ron Salter [ 22/09/2004 ].
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Skoda and Volkswagen board members are due to decide within the next couple of weeks whether or not the Czech marque will have a future in the World Rally Championship beyond the end of this year. After completing 4 events of a limited programme of 7 this year, the improvement in pace shown by the Fabia WRC has been clear to see, despite the fact that the team are still using the original 2003 homologation of the car. Changes focussing on weight distribution and setup alone have netted the car strong top 8 finishes in Finland and Germany as well as a number of top 6 stage times, including the car's first stage win for Armin Schwarz in Germany.
According to this weeks Motorsport News, the VW board have been impressed with the progress made under new motorsport boss Martin Muehlmeier.
Dr. Harald Ludanek, Skoda Auto head of technical development, is reported by the British paper as saying: "We have shown in the last few months that we have made big improvements with the car. There are also some other things that we have done that we can't bring to the car just yet because we have no (new) homologation."
Ludanek goes on to say: "The VW board has noticed the improvements that we have made with the car and is very impressed with the support that we have got while we have been away."
Since Muehlmeier joined the team early spring, he has done exactly the job he has been asked to do and the performance of the car since has perhaps even surpassed expectations. With a bit more luck in Germany, all three Fabias could well have finished in the top 8 and Toni Gardemeister might well have joined Jani Paasonen there in Finland.
It would be more than cruel now to end Skoda's participation in the WRC when the programme is showing more promise than ever before. If only they are allowed that new homologation then surely they can continue to make big strides towards the top in 2005!