In the ‘80s, Skoda wasn’t a brand of Volkswagen rebadges, it was a little automaker from a Communist country that kept its motors in the back and its cars on the rally stage, even if they were never big contenders. I like that attitude. I like it a lot.
In 1981, Skoda sent its rally team to the Rally Acropolis in Greece, then one of the biggest contests on the World Rally Championship calendar, with a camera crew. the brand’s 130 wasn’t the newest car competing. It wasn’t the most powerful, the most advanced, or the quickest either. But it was competing and the team was doing its all to support the little rear-engined machines, especially when that drivetrain put the car a little more sideways than it bargained for.
The program the Skoda team’s camera crew captured features some excellent coverage of the scenery and terrain that made the Rally Acropolis so exciting to watch and compete in. They had to, because the team’s prospects against stars like Michele Mouton in her Audi Quattro and race winner Ari Vatanen in his Escort RS 1800 weren’t great.
But even if the Skodas didn’t pull off a win on the Hellenic hillsides of the Rally Acropolis, they still put on quite a show. The rear-engined, rear-wheel-drive 130s were more than prone to oversteer and the camera crew was more than eager to capture plenty of footage of the cars going sideways.
These days, the Rally Acropolis is no longer a WRC event, and even if it were, it wouldn’t hold a candle to the event’s Group B heyday. Skoda is out of the top tier of rallying as well, but at least they managed to build off their performance in the early ‘80s and perform rather well for a period in the early 2000s. Those cars were good, but they weren’t great and they were certainly a lot less interesting than the Communist-era cars the team fielded back in the ‘80s.
It was a different era of motorsport back then when even teams from Czechoslovakia and East Germany could at least join the giants on the course. Right now, WRC is composed of only three manufacturers now that Citroën is gone. Perhaps when rallying. comes back we’ll have a chance for things to open up again. I know I’d like to see it.