ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport: Martin Koči aligned his speed with his tactits at Rallye Tatry and won
The Slovak Rally Championship series continued with its second event in Poprad and its surroundings. The history of the famous Rallye Tatry event includes close fights within the European Rally Championship, severe crashes as well as episodes of relocation to Púchov. The ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport team also knows the feeling of overall victories at the oldest Slovak rally event. The crew Martin Koči – Radovan Mozner jr. defended their last year’s triumph and thanks to the maximum point gain for finishing 1 st within two separately evaluated legs of the competition, they are currently in the lead of the continuous ranking of the Slovak Rally Championship.
Rallye Tatry (May 3 – 5, 2019) upheld its reputation once again. One of the toughest competitions in our country includes very fast tracks, where the average speed of the best crews reaches as high as 130 km/h. The whims of the weather are slowly becoming a tradition as well and the 46th year of the event was no exception.
The spectators around the tracks were certainly pleased by the fact that Saturday’s weather forecast was not accurate. The predicted persistant rain did not make an appearance, only light showers were present. The special stages were dry in some places, wet in others, occasionally covered with a layer of slippery mud. It was very difficult and practically impossible to find the ideal car setup and choose the right tires for all special stages.
„I was not completely satisfied either, but no one really is when it comes to the setup and the choice of tires in these challenging conditions,“ says Martin Koči. „On a dry track, I need the chassis to be harder. On a wet track, I need it to be softer, in order for the car to “breathe” more and for the dampers to be more active. Now, it was about compromise. The chassis worked better in some sections, worse in others, and I had to adapt to that. There was a multitude of wet sections along the track and they were quite dangerous in some places. I told myself I would focus mainly on myself and it worked out.“
Even despite the weather conditions, the pace of the competing crews has risen steadily. The competition started out with a close fight between Martin Koči and Grzegorz Grzyb from Poland. In addition to the two ŠKODA FABIA R5 specials, Jaroslav Melichárek with his WRC category vehicle was not far behind. The results of the 2nd special stage of the event are a testimony of the balanced performance of the fastest trio of drivers, with the difference of only one tenth of a second over more than 5 kilometers.
Martin and Radovan took the lead which continually grew. There was some bad luck in store for Grzegorz Grzyb, who lost over 50 seconds due to a flat tire. The ŠKODA Slovakia motorsport crew managed to avoid mistakes and overcome all the challenges of the track, which include retarders. The artificial ess made of tires is designed to slow the cars down in the most dangerous sections. Moving or damaging the retarder is punished by a time penalty. “When it comes to retarders, we always go easy and maintain a reserve. They could be crossed faster, but we are very cautious around them. It is a thing which is able to ruin the competition, so we have to be careful,” continues Martin Koči.
The first day of Rallye Tatry culminated in the late evening with a spectacular track in the form of a city circuit in Poprad. ŠKODA FABIA R5 in the team colours of ŠKODA Slovaia Motorsport was once again the fastest. “We managed to get through the first day very well, when it comes to our speed as well as tactics. During the first round, everyone was trying to figure out how the car and tires would work. But even despite that it was a fast race. I am glad that we managed to avoid all of the problems which slowed our competition down. We enjoyed it and we are looking forward to tomorrow. It is going to be very challenging, once again,” added Martin Koči.
On Sunday, the tracks were wet right from the early morning. For day two, the organizers prepared two new and old sections in the area of Spiššská Magura. The crews were especially enchanted with a special stage carrying a distinctive name, Tatranská. They should have gone over it three times, however, the organizers cancelled the final pass in the end.
“The new special stages were some of the most challenging we have here in Slovakia. I especially enjoyed special stage Tatranská, including the fast section in the Osturňa village,“ says Martin, while his co-driver Radovan adds: “It is an absolutely amazing part of the special stage, where you are literally flying in between houses. If the tracks were dry, we could have pushed the limit even more. I think that if the organizers were to include this special stage in the itinerary next year as well, everyone would be happy.”
The air temperature was approaching zero all day and the rain was combined with snowflakes. “This day was even more challenging than yesterday. The snow at the end of the special stage Tatranská was something that nobody expected. The landscape around the tracks was white, which had an effect, at least a psychological one. We had no idea whether there would be ice on the road. This was without a doubt the strongest moment of the second day,” said Martin Koči.
The second day of the event was evaluated separately within the Slovak Rally Championship, so everyone was starting from scratch. Martin and Radovan did not hesitate and managed to create a lead in the amount of more than nine seconds. “We did not go into an extreme risk, but we knew that if our time results were good this morning it could help us significantly throughout the rest of the day. It was a new track for all of us, but we trusted our pace notes.”
Despite Grzegorz Grzyb’s hard work, the crew of ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport team did not let both the second day’s win as well as the 1 st place in the overall ranking be taken away from them. “I would like to thank the entire team. Rallye Tatry was a challenging event and even despite the everchanging weather, we enjoyed it. Our ŠKODA FABIA R5 worked flawlessly. It it a fast car of high quality that we can rely on,“ concluded Martin Koči.
ŠKODA Slovakia Motorsport team gained a full point count as well as an overall victory within the Tatransko-Valašský cup. They will compete for more points within the Slovak Rally Championship in the middle of June at the 15th Agrotec Petronas Rally Hustopeče (June 14 – 15) in Moravia. This event will be a joint Czech-Slovak event.
46th Rallye Tatry in a nutshell:
duration: 2 days (each of them evaluated separately within the Slovak Rally Championship ranking)
number of special stages: 12 (Martin Koči won 6 of them)
length: 139.45 km