Škoda’s motorsport history is more extensive than some uninformed observers might imagine. The Czech brand wasn’t only involved in rallying and Le Mans, but even in Formula racing cars. When in 1949 the Grand Prix of Czechoslovakia took place as the only international race for a long time behind the Iron Curtain, Škoda wasn’t yet at the start. Due to the political situation in the socialist and communist states of Eastern Europe, there was never race of the Formula 1, which was founded in 1950. Smaller formula racing classes, however, found their way to tracks like Brno time and again. Local teams built suitable cars according to international regulations with the simplest of means and also took part in events in Western Europe. From the late 1940s, there was the Formula 3, which initially relied on 500 cc motorcycle engines. A decade later, Italian teams introduced Formula Junior with engines up to 1.1 liters.
Entry into Formula 3
In 1964, new regulations for the Formula 3 category emerged, which clearly played into Škoda’s hands. Based on the Italian Formula Junior rules, new formula racing cars with a maximum displacement of one liter were created. With the 1000 MB, the Czech brand had a production car in the pipeline whose drive technology perfectly matched the required specifications. A new monoposto was therefore developed under the internal abbreviation Š 992, which made its debut in February 1964. It was based on a newly developed tubular steel frame with trapezoidal semi-axles at the front and a five-link rear axle. In order to influence the aerodynamics as little as possible, the engineers moved both the coil springs and the adjustable dampers inward under the body panelling. This design wasn’t yet widespread at the time, but gradually became established in international motorsport. Girling disc brakes were fitted behind the 13-inch wheels with Dunlop tires.
Directly behind the driver was a four-cylinder engine with 999 cc displacement, overhead valves and a triple-bearing crankshaft. Initially, 53 kW/72 hp was available, increasing to 66 kW/90 hp by 1966. To improve weight distribution, the Škoda engineers installed the engine at an angle of 12 degrees to the left. An interchangeable gear ratio was integrated between the clutch and the gearbox, allowing the car to be adapted relatively quickly to the respective track characteristics. The water and oil coolers were located in front of the driver’s feet, with the two 15-liter gasoline tanks next to him on both sides. Škoda went to a wind tunnel to design the bodywork. After the first example of the 992 was fitted with an aluminium body, the company soon switched to lighter bodies made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic. This also reduced the weight from 420 to 405 kilograms.
Numerous victories in Eastern Europe
In contrast to today’s artificial race tracks, the championships in the 1960s still used demanding traditional circuits. In some cases, they even went over inner-city cobblestones including low-lying manhole covers. This also applied to the Formula 3 Championship of the Socialist States and the national championship in Czechoslovakia, in which Škoda participated from 1964. Until 1968, works drivers Václav Bobek, Jaroslav Bobek and Miroslav Fousek scored numerous victories. Then more and more Western European cars, for example from Brabham, Lotus or Tecno, found their way behind the Iron Curtain. Nevertheless, the Škoda 992 F3s continued to hold their own in the field until the regulations were changed in 1971. Two of the three examples built have been preserved true to the original. The third car was converted into the Baghira Spider in the mid-1970s and is currently awaiting completion of restoration.