All carmakers do endurance tests, but Skoda goes one further by supporting humans through some of the toughest trials in the world
Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic –
Motorsport is the usual go-to when a carmaker wants to test the mettle of its products. It’s always exciting and fun to watch, but it’s not always the best trial of the daily usability of a regular production car.
Skoda, in its typical clever, Czech fashion, has its own way of ‘going racing’, and we don’t mean its successful history of rally competition.
The way Skoda challenges its cars is in a form of ‘extreme daily life’ – by supporting some of the toughest races in the world, on two-wheels, four-wheels, whether human or engine-powered.
Skoda’s link to cycling is part of the company’s history (see our sidebar). But today, you’ll probably best see this in world’s most famous bicycle race, the Tour De France.
Skoda has been the Official Partner of the race since 2004, providing 250 vehicles that help the famed cycling event run smoothly, including the Skoda Octavia sedan, Skoda Karoq mid-size SUV, and Skoda Kodiaq large SUV.
The support vehicles do literally everything you can imagine, from transporting medics, to television crews, race officials, and more. The support vehicles also act as mobile workshops, helping riders get back on the road and in the race as quickly as possible.
Race director Christian Prudhomme even uses a specially-modified Skoda Superb as a mobile command centre (the red car in the photos) – he’s able to peek through the specially-enlarged sunroof to survey the peloton and with its on-board radio system, to give his approval before the race starts.
Skoda’s even supported the toughest rally in the world: the Paris-Dakar. The legendary rally, which is now held in Peru, South America and running more than 5,000km – with over 3,000km in the sand alone.
Two Skoda Kodiaq SUVs supported the Czech Barth racing team. While they didn’t run on the rally route, obviously, it’s not exactly a walk in the park for the support vehicles either. Peru’s rough wilderness roads are one thing, but poor quality fuel and elevation in excess of 4,000-metres caused engine trouble for others. Not the Kodiaqs, which were 2.0 TDI models straight from the showroom floor.
Skoda also provided a Skoda Karoq and Skoda Kodiaq for the Himalayan Challenge – a bicycle race that rewrote the history books on the fastest ascent into the world’s highest mountain range.
Besides their usual role as support vehicles, the Skoda SUVs had to face very tough conditions: “After a week of final preparations with magnificent weather, it suddenly started to snow during the race, the temperature fell to zero – and the visibility nearly did, too. Now, imagine that this was at 5,000 metres above sea level, pedalling hard on a bike, and trying to finish first,” said Milan Dědek, Skoda’s communications representative at the event.
Skoda aims high, there’s no doubt about it. Which is why Skoda Singapore is the Official Safety Car Partner for the Charity Bike N Blade 2019, which kicks off this weekend in Malaysia.
The Singapore-organised bicycle race which includes a 100+ kilometre route from Ipoh as well as a very challenging ascent of the Cameron Highlands, is now in its 12th iteration. Skoda Singapore will be supporting the race with a fleet of six vehicles, a Skoda Superb, two Skoda Octavias, a Skoda RS 245, a Skoda Karoq, and a Skoda Kodiaq.
For the riders and support personnel, it’s good to know that the Skoda lineup has been proven in some of the most extreme races and places the world has to offer, delivering their unique brand of practical utility, space, and performance that makes every Skoda a solid choice, even if you’re not a rider.
Skoda may be the friend of the cyclist today, but its association with bicycling goes back to its very origins. In fact, the brand’s origins can be traced to an insult — and the burning desire to avenge it.
In 1894, Vaclav Klement, a Czechoslovakian bookseller and early cycling enthusiast, returned his Germania bicycle to Seidel & Naumann, a manufacturer in Dresden. He attached a note complaining about the warped frame and how it caused the chain to fall off repeatedly, politely requesting repairs.
The Germans blew him off and asked him to try writing to them “in an intelligible language” — a serious insult at a time when Bohemia had been trying to settle on whether to use Czech or German as its official language.
Supremely annoyed, Klement teamed up with another Vaclav, an engineer named Laurin, to launch a bicycle company — ostensibly to make better bikes than the Germans, and for less money.
Within a decade, bicycles had led to motorcycles and motorcycles had led to cars.
A workshop fire pushed Laurin and Klement to merge their business with that of Emile Skoda, an engineer who built bigger things than cars. The two men exited the venture in 1930, but their names live on in the Laurin & Klement badge that Skoda applies to its highest spec cars today.
Before that, both men did make their mark in cycling. The German bicycle company that annoyed Vaclav Klement eventually acknowledged the strength of Czech engineering — by licensing designs from Laurin & Klement.