Skoda Motorsport scales back for 2019 WRC2 season, Tidemand exits

The factory Skoda World Rally Championship WRC2 squad will scale down to a line-up of defending champion Jan Kopecky and rising star Kalle Rovanpera, with Pontus Tidemand exiting the team

Skoda Motorsport scales back for 2019 WRC2 season, Tidemand exits

Kopecky and Rovanpera will drive the Skoda Fabia R5 cars, with Skoda slimming its driver line-up from five crews to two.

Speaking at Skoda Motorsport's annual press conference in Prague on Tuesday, Skoda team manager Pavel Hortek said: "Jan is 36 now and he's been with us for 11 years and maybe this is even too much.

"But he is getting better and better and this year was maybe his best year ever.

"He is very keen to continue and his knowledge for the development of the car is very important for us.

"It was not easy to have so many drivers in 2018 and we found out that Jan and Kalle are so important to ourselves that we can very well live with those two crews - we have the experience and an extremely talented young guy."

Tidemand signed off on his time with Skoda in Prague, but told Autosport he could have stayed for another season in the Fabia.

"We had a chance to stay in Skoda," he said, "but that would have been five and the years is flying - I am 28 this year and if I am to become a WRC driver then I need to do something else.

"We are working on opportunities. Maybe we can do some rallies in a World Rally Car - Sweden is always a wish to do this one.

"This [Sweden] is one of the rallies I can do a strong result. We will see."

At the summit in Prague, Skoda unveiled the next evolutions of its Fabia R5 car, with homologation set for the summer.

Skoda motorsport manager Michal Hrabanek said it is still evaluating the new-look Fabia.

"We are still evaluating this car against the current Fabia R5," said Hortek.

"We are testing this new car and, of course, we want to collect experience to see where we can improve the car in performance or reliability or to be making the car more friendly for the mechanics when they have to work on things.

"We are evaluating, so I cannot tell you yet how different from the current car or how many new parts we will have.

"At the moment the time schedule is to have the car ready for homologation in the middle of the year.

"We will first introduce it in the works team soon after [homologation] and then sell to the customers soon after that."

Skoda also confirmed its new factory in Mlada Boleslave opened on Tuesday.

The 16,400-square metre facility has 10 build bays and significantly improved logistics. Hrabanek said: "Now it's much more straightforward and it's done as a commitment to our customers.

"We have sold nearly 250 Fabia R5 cars and this facility will help us to sell more and to make sure we keep the supply of parts going."

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Series WRC
Drivers Pontus Tidemand
Author David Evans
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