In 1988, the long line of rear-engine rear-wheel-drive Skodas came to an end. The new era of Skoda started with the Favorit, which borrowed its name from a car the manufacturer had built between 1936 and 1941.
It was the first car made by Skoda that put its engine in the front, and the Czech brand was eager to prove its bona fides. To do so, Skoda took it racing. The brand chose to take it rallying, as it had experience in the sport, a decision that would prove to be brilliant since the car was dominant in its class.
Designed by Bertone, the Favorit looked nice and the rally version was developed by Skoda’s hot shoe rally driver, Vladimir Berger. Berger swiftly made the transition from driving a rear-engine RWD 130 LR to a front-engine FWD car and tested an early version of the car at selected rallies in the 1988 Czechoslovak championship.
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Pleased with the progress Skoda eventually homologated the car for the WRC‘s Class A in 1989. That meant that the racer looked a lot like the production car, but actually had many changes.
The body was made of thinner steel and the roll cage made up for the lost rigidity. The roof also got a mechanical flap to improve ventilation, and the rear seats and the trim were removed. Along with a few other modifications, Skoda managed to reduce the car’s weight to just 750 kg (1,653 lbs).
Under the hood, meanwhile, the team increased the Favorit‘s displacement from 1,289.4 cc to 1,299.6 cc. Performance was further improved with new con rods, cams, and Pierburg twin carbs pushed power up to 118 hp (120 PS/88 kW), significantly more than the most powerful production model’s 67 hp (68 PS/50 kW).
The result was a very capable rally car. It earned a class victory in the first event it officially entered, 1989’s Finnish Hanki Rally. There aren’t many rallies that the Favorit didn’t earn a class victory in, but some highlights were its victories at the RAC Rally, the Finnish 1000 Lakes Rally, and the Acropolis Rally. In fact, the duo of Pavel Sibera and Petr Gross won their class at the famed Monte Carlo Rally every year between 1991 and 1994.
Although it would be replaced by the Felicia in 1995, the Favorit remained a favorite (pun intended) with privateers. Skoda may be a totally different brand now, but the green V with a red stripe that defined the Favorit’s racing livery in 1993 remains a staple of its hot vRS cars today.