The showroom version of Skoda’s new Fabia supermini has just gone on sale which can mean only one thing: the firm’s motorsport division is hard at work developing a rally equivalent.

It won’t appear on stages in a competitive guise until next summer at the earliest, but already the boss of Skoda Motorsport believes their next Skoda Fabia Rally2 car is set to be a winner from the get-go.

“Our technicians can build on comprehensive know-how and expertise of the ongoing Fabia Rally2 Evo project, which still is very successful worldwide,” said Michal Hrabánek, who oversees the programme.

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The next Fabia has racked up development miles on Tarmac and gravel so far, with the test programme taking the car to both France and Spain as well as roads around its native country – the Czech Republic.

In Finland recently, Dungannon’s Kris Meeke was asked along to put the car through its paces – and he duly obliged. The five-time World Rally Championship rally winner spent time behind the wheel on some of the country’s fastest roads and declared himself happy following debrief talks with Hrabánek.

Meeke is the latest driver to offer his assessment of the four-wheel-drive car following ex-European Rally champion Jan Kopecký and the 2011 Intercontinental Rally Challenge winner, Andreas Mikkelsen.

There are high hopes for the next iteration of the Fabia Rally2 in light of the fact the current car has enjoyed success at all levels since 2015. In the FIA World Rally Championship’s WRC2 support series, it has carried Esapekka Lappi, Pontus Tidemand and Kalle Rovanperä to drivers’ and teams’ trophies.

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In all, it has won nine WRC2 titles as well as top honours in multiple regional and national rally series thanks to over 1,400 overall victories and class triumphs.

To date, Skoda Motorsport says it has already had more than 400 customers put pen to paper and place an order for R5, Rally2 and Rally2 Evo Fabias.

To ensure it remains competitive against M-Sport Ford’s Fiesta Rally2 and Citroen Racing’s C3 Rally2 car, it was updated prior to the start of the 2021 season.

Changes amounted to upping the power from the 1.6-litre turbocharged engine to 286bhp by redesigning the intercooler and the exhaust manifold.

A new gear ratio for faster gravel rallies upped the top speed by 9 miles-per-hour to 125mph. Handling and stability were also improved by a beefier rear subframe and dampers extensively reworked by ZF.

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