From Pioneers of Racing to a Top Team
The brand owes its sporting success to the extraordinary technical quality of its cars and the passion of many generations of ŠKODA employees
ast year, we commemorated the 125th anniversary of the carmaker, which was founded in 1895 by Václav Laurin and Václav Klement. These two enthusiasts who produced bicycles, then motorcycles from 1899, and then cars, laid the foundation for a company that has remained a strong traditional brand to this day and has not disappeared in the face of global competition. This year, we are celebrating another anniversary at ŠKODA Mobil: It has been 120 years since the L&K/ŠKODA brand started participating in motorsport.
L&K motorcycles won 32 of the 34 races in which they participated in 1903.
Brave men on wonderful machines
The history of the Mladá Boleslav carmaker’s sports success began in 1901, when an employee at the local factory, Narcis Podsedníček, participated in the Paris–Berlin race using an L&K SLAVIA type B motorcycle and famously reached the finish line. Many years followed in which Czech motorcycles placed at the top of domestic and international races. That was a great promotion for the manufacturer. Starting in 1905, the factory line also included the first L&K cars, which already participated in various races before World War I. Their drivers, Count Alexander Kolowrat-Krakowský and Otto Hieronimus, were the crowd favourites. However, the difficult economic situation after the end of the war did not support sports ambitions, and the carmaker had to wait for another big success. That moment came at the Monte Carlo Rally in 1936, where the Czech crew driving from Athens got a place on the podium in the category up to 1,500 cm3. The company used this accomplishment for promotional purposes and produced a unique series of ŠKODA POPULAR Monte Carlo cars.
Heroes of socialist motorsport
The period following 1945 was not initially conducive to motorsport. Even then, however, drivers, design engineers, mechanics and fans of Mladá Boleslav motorsport had amazing experiences, like the one at Le Mans in 1950 where the ŠKODA SPORT car was doing very well before being disabled from the famous 24-hour race because of the failure of a component worth a few pence. Although ŠKODA cars returned to the famous Monte Carlo Rally in 1949, they had to wait for their greatest success until 1961, 1962 and 1963, when private crews won their classes with the ŠKODA OCTAVIA TS (Touring Sport) model. In the mid-1970s, a legend was born: the ŠKODA 130 RS (Rally Sport). These racing machines successfully raced on both the rally tracks and the racing circuits. One of the greatest successes was experienced by the so-called Porsche of the East, again at the Monte Carlo Rally. In 1977, two ŠKODA 130 RS cars with start numbers 49 and 44 finished first and second in their class.
World Rally titles
After 1989, the factory team began to have a significant impact on the international scene. The Czech brand cars, this time the ŠKODA FAVORIT 136 L, returned – where else but to Monte Carlo. ŠKODA secured four consecutive wins in its class – in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994. The 1990s brought with it a boom in motorsport under the ŠKODA brand. The fans’ interest, as well as the good sound and ever-growing reputation of racing machines with a winged arrow on the hood, did not wane. Among many others, we can point to the successful ŠKODA FABIA S2000 special. The factory team has recently dominated in its class at the World Rally Championship. Today, the ŠKODA FABIA Rally2 evo, which entered 2021 with a number of improvements, is flying through the race tracks.
This short list of important but by no means comprehensive successes of the ŠKODA brand in the field of motorsport demonstrates how its concept has changed. However, there is one thing the racers – from Narcis Podsedníček with his workshop background to the noblemen-adventurers and socialist-era handymen to today’s purely professional teams, as well as generations of fans – have in common: a passion for fast wheels and the thrill that races provide. ED
The Mladá Boleslav factory’s début on the sports field took place in June 1901 on the track of the three-day Paris–Berlin race. This largest motorsport race of its time was attended by 110 cars and 10 motorcycles and tricycles. The carmaker was represented by Narcis Podsedníček on a Laurin & Klement SLAVIA type B motorcycle. The race had a dramatic course that embodied the wild and crazy early days of motorsport: There were 57 accidents on the track, 28 people died, and other 29 were seriously injured – mostly undisciplined spectators on the sidelines. Only 48 vehicles out of 110 reached the finish line. Podsedníček was the only motorcyclist to finish. Unfortunately, he could not find any of the race commissioners at around 3 o’clock in the morning and, therefore, his arrival time was confirmed only by a patrolman. However, the organisers did not recognise the record and, in the end, only four French riders on De Dion-Bouton tricycles were classified in this category. Podsedníček became a mere moral champion but had achieved a huge victory. And yet, the public could not fail to notice the technical qualities and exceptional reliability of the motorcycle from Central Europe. Other sports and related commercial successes of the Czech brand did not take long to follow.
Famous ŠKODA AUTO Motorsport Moments
Narcis Podsedníček crosses the finish line of the Paris–Berlin race on the SLAVIA type B motorcycle.
Václav Vondřich wins the Coupe internationale des motocyclettes in Dourdan, France, the unofficial motorcycle world championship.
Mladá Boleslav wins the travelling cup for winners of the Alpine Ride, the most prestigious Austrian-Hungarian race. In total, they would win the race five times in a row.
The Zdeněk Pohl / Jaroslav Hausman crew with the ŠKODA POPULAR Sport wins a silver medal in the class up to 1,500 cm3 in the Monte Carlo Rally.
Three ŠKODA 1101 “TUDOR” cars win in their class in the famous 24-hour race in Spa, Belgium.
During the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Václav Bobek and Jaroslav Netušil crew fights for first place in their class but has to withdraw due to a defect in their ŠKODA SPORT special.
The private Esko Keinänen / Rainer Eklund crew with a OCTAVIA TS wins their class at the Monte Carlo Rally. ŠKODA cars defend their victory the next two years.
The Václav Blahna / Lubislav Hlávka and Miloslav Zapadlo/Jiří Motal crews win a double in their class at the Monte Carlo Rally. The third ŠKODA 130 RS won't finish.
The ŠKODA 130 RS cars win the European Touring Car Championship ahead of brands like BMW, Ford and Audi. The ŠKODA 120 LS triumphs at the British RAC Rally.
The Pavel Sibera / Petr Gross crew wins in the ŠKODA FAVORIT the Monte Carlo Rally in the class up to 1,300 cm3 for the fourth time in a row.
Armin Schwarz and Manfred Hiemer in the OCTAVIA WRC place third overall in the Kenyan Rally.
Finns Juho Hänninen and Mikko Markkula of the Red Bull ŠKODA team win the historically first world title in the SWRC category with a FABIA S2000.
The factory team wins the fifth world title in a row in the manufacturers’ rankings of the WRC2/WRC2 Pro category.