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New challenges await Škoda Motorsport




New challenges await Škoda Motorsport as it enters Rally Japan for the first time

Armin Schwarz and Mikko Hirvonen drive the Fabia WRC 05

Fast but narrow roads with no margin for error characterise the Far Eastern event


The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team heads to Rally Japan (September 30-October 2) Where the Fabia WRC 05 will make its first appearance amid the ancient traditions and cultures of the Far East. Armin Schwarz/Klaus Wicha lead the team as usual while the second Fabia WRC 05 will be driven by Finland’s Mikko Hirvonen/Jarmo Lehtinen.


Rally Japan is the 13th round of the 2005 World Rally Championship and was a new event in the series last year. The roads are known to be narrow and varied but also quite fast and so there is little margin for error and it is essential to make accurate pace notes.


Mikko said: “I’m really looking forward to getting behind the wheel of the Fabia WRC 05. It will be interesting to see what we can achieve – Japan is a very tricky rally with stages that are fast and flowing but they also need a very precise driving style which I think should suit me. Some of the stages remind me of Finland. Japan is a very beautiful country.”


Armin said: “I will go to Japan for the first time in 2005 so I haven’t got much idea what to expect. I’m told the roads are very tricky.”


Head of the Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team, Martin Muehlmeier, said: “We don’t really know what to expect in Japan as it is our first visit there. We asked Mikko to drive because he has experience from last year and so we will be relying on him quite a lot.”



Team news:


The Škoda Motorsport World Rally Team will enter a third Fabia WRC 05 on each of the forthcoming asphalt rallies in Corsica and Catalunya (October 21-23 and 28-30 respectively). On each occasion it will be driven by reigning Czech Rally Champions Jan Kopecký/Filip Schovánek who were lying ninth overall at one point on the final day of the recent Rallye Deutschland.



Rally Japan in detail:



Rally Japan entered the WRC last year and proved to be a tricky rally for everyone thanks to the varied nature of the stages that combined high speed with very narrow tracks bordered by deep ditches to trap the unwary. The local fans proved to be enthusiastic but well behaved as they were finally able to see the rally stars that they had supported for many years.


Thursday evening sees a ceremonial start in the centre of Obihiro. Friday features nine stages to the north east of the city, totalling 163.26kms and including two runs over the Kunneywa-Niueo stage. At 50.08kms it is believed to be the longest in the entire World Rally Championship. Saturday’s leg sees a further 12 stages (totalling100.98kms) again to the north east of Obihiro. Sunday’s final leg is to the north west of Obihiro and includes five stages totalling 85.94kms before the finish at 1500 (0800 CET).

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