MRF Tyres, which has over the last 10 years competed with Mitsubishi AWD cars, will participate in two Skoda Fabia S-2000 cars in the FIA Asia Pacific Rally Championship 2012.
The change was inevitable with car manufacturers like Mitsubishi and Subaru being virtually out of rallying worldwide, the focus is now on the Super 2000 cars, a category promoted by FIA in recent years.
This switch will now make MRF take the fight to the Proton S2000 cars, which held an advantage over road-going modified Mitsubishi Evo Xs. The fact that the Skoda has won the SWRC and the (IRC) International Rally Challenge Championships last year will put enormous pressure on the Proton development team.
The S2000 Skoda Fabia is a purpose built, modified rally car and really has little in common with the original Fabia road car. With the same body shell as the road car, the S 2000 is severally modified to accommodate a racing engine, sequential gearbox, and new suspension.
Compared to the Evo X, the Skoda is about 300 kg lighter and 400mm shorter. The Skoda S2000 brakes better and is more nimble. The S2000 cars do not have a turbocharger so there is less torque from the engine but these cars do not have a restrictor so they rev to 8500 rpm. The Skoda S2000 is powered by a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine which produces 270 bhp.
The Skoda S2000 will boost Team MRF’s hopes for the APRC title which it won in 2003 (Armin Kremer,Germany), 2005 (Jussi Valimaki,Finland) and 2010 (Katsuhiko Taguchi,Japan).
The change would also give Gaurav Gill another chance to win the APRC title which he narrowly lost to his teammate Taguchi in 2010 due to a regrettable error. No Indian has ever won an FIA international rally title before.
Gill’s team-mate is yet to be confirmed, as Taguchi’s MRF exit looks inevitable as the Japanese is a Mitsubishi protégé and is unlikely to compete with Skoda.