Skoda Motorsport have announced reigning WRC2 champion Jan Kopecky and Kalle Rovanperä will drive for the team in 2019 after cutting their entry to two cars.
The news means that 2017 WRC2 champion Pontus Tidemand, who finished runner up this season, will leave the team after four years with the Czech manufacturer, although he did admit there had been a chance of staying on with the team before the decision was made.
He told Autosport: “We had a chance to stay in Skoda, but that would have been five (seasons) and the years is flying – I am 28 this year and if I am to become a WRC driver then I need to do something else.”
“We are working on opportunities. Maybe we can do some rallies in a World Rally Car – Sweden is always a wish to do this one. This is one of the rallies I can do a strong result. We will see.”
As well as the team changes, Skoda Motorsport also introduced its facelifted Fabia R5, based on the 2019 road car, which is set for homologation next summer.
Manager of Skoda Motorsport Michal Hrabánek said to Autosport: “We are still evaluating this car against the current Fabia R5. We are testing this new car and, of course, we want to collect experience to see where we can improve the car in performance or reliability or to be making the car more friendly for the mechanics when they have to work on things.”
“We are evaluating, so I cannot tell you yet how different from the current car or how many new parts we will have. At the moment the time schedule is to have the car ready for homologation in the middle of the year. We will first introduce it in the works team soon after [homologation] and then sell to the customers soon after that.”
The car will be built at the newly opened factory for the manufacturer in Mlada Boleslave and Hrabánek added: “We have sold nearly 250 Fabia R5 cars and this facility will help us to sell more and to make sure we keep the supply of parts going.”
The 2019 FIA WRC2 championship will see a revamped format as the class is split into two, with WRC2 Pro open to manufacturer teams and drivers while WRC2 will be open to private entries, with both competing on events supporting the FIA World Rally Championship.