Skoda will intensify its assault on the World Rally Championship with the Fabia WRC - the Volkswagen subsidiary’s most ambitious rally car to date.

Skoda will intensify its assault on the World Rally Championship with the Fabia WRC - the Volkswagen subsidiary’s most ambitious rally car to date.

This was announced by Volkswagen Group motorsport head Franz-Josef Paefgen at the Geneva Motor Show on Tuesday. Paefgen also announced that the Volkswagen Group had made an additional three-year commitment to the World Rally Championship.

The new model, which will début in the competition later this year, is based on the forthcoming diesel-engined Fabia RS road car but has been extensively modified in almost all areas within FIA’s rules. And it shares no components with the current Octavia WRC other than the Volkswagen group’s turbocharged two-litre four-cylinder 20-valve powerplant.

In order to accommodate its wider tyres and larger wheelbase on both axles, the bumpers and wheel arches have been adjusted to reach the maximum admissible width of 1 770 mm. The floorpan was modified to allow installation of four-wheel drive.

The front windscreen and side windows are electrically heated to ensure good visibility for teams drivers - Didier Auriol, Toni Gardemeister and Kenneth Erikson.

The Fabio WRC was designed by German engineer Dietmar Mettrich, in charge of Octavia development. It is the first works Skoda with a semi-automatic gearchange.

"Skoda Auto has an outstanding tradition in motorsport, especially in rallying and endurance events. Therefore, there were no doubts about the future motorsport activities of the brand," said Paefgen.

Meanwhile, a mildly updated version of the Accent WRC3, unofficially referred to as the Accent WRC3.5, will compete for the first time in April on the Rally of New Zealand.

According to reports, budget problems have thrown Hyundai’s testing programme into disarray in recent months, but planning has continued within its team, Motor Sport Developments, and a revised turbo and manifolds could get FIA approval in time for New Zealand, the fourth round of this year’s World Championship.

However, a more significant change is being planned for 2004. New regulations demanding a minimum bodyshell weight of 300 kg along with a facelift of the showroom model, will oblige Hyundai to begin 2004 with a fresh model.

Original article from Car