Making almost as brief an appearance at this year’s Tour as its stricken race director, Škoda gets its newest electric offering some valuable airtime.
Among the more familiar sights on each stage of the Tour de France is the presence of the race director’s red car (the colour is velvet red in case you’re wondering). This vehicle, in which the illustrious annual cycle race’s leading light holds court, (often with invited dignitaries aboard) leads the riders from the start line of whatever town or city has hosted that day’s stage, through the neutralised zone (where riders are not permitted to attack), before he emerges through the specially enlarged sunroof, and drops a white flag – at which point the inevitable, if predominantly doomed rider breakaways take flight.
The race director’s car carries six aerials, (four on the roof and two on the sides), a flag holder, a specially tuned horn, advertising banners, five radio circuits, and a number of other electrical installations, including power-operated beacons and a radio station, (race radio) through which he remains in contact with all important units of the race – which includes race commissaries, local officials and marshals, team support cars and both local and national police forces.
For some years now, Škoda, in its close partnership with the Tour organiser, Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), in addition to sponsoring the individual leader’s jerseys, has provided official cars, the MAVIC-sponsored neutral service vehicles (who will provide mechanical assistance to any rider, within race rules) as well as individual team support cars. The Czech carmaker, who began as a cycle manufacturer in 1895 has become virtually synonymous with the annual staging of the event, one of the largest and most logistically challenging in modern day sport.
Mostly, Race Director, Christian Prudhomme has been ferried about in a series of specially adopted Škoda Superbs, but this year, as a means of carrying out a soft introduction to what may well be Mláda Boleslav’s most commercially significant debutante, Proudhomme was to have used a new Enyaq iV for three stages of this year’s delayed lap of la République, one of which will include the Grand Finish on Paris’ Champs-Élysées.
But not quite. Because while the Škoda may well make all three of its scheduled appearances, Director Proudhomme himself has had to absent himself, having tested positive – not for performance enhancing drugs, as you might have been led to suspect, but for the all-conquering C-19 coronavirus.
Continuing for a moment with the often (if not necessarily this year) much discussed subject of le dopage, it does seem both unfortunate and rather remiss of Mlada Boleslav’s PR to place the Enyaq’s full name so prominently on its flanks – surely no fully cognisant TDF Director General would choose the initials iV to be emblazoned upon his official car? There is after all, such a concept as optics.
As to the Enyaq iV itself, it looks a fairly unremarkable and entirely predictable semi-crossover-estate EV, the single surprising aspect of its appearance (for this author at least) is that it not only appears better resolved than anticipated, but a good deal more so than its putative VW stablemate, if pre-release photos are to be believed.
That name however, remains an unconvincing presence – an eerily similar experience one feels when subjected to its alleged namesake’s aural outpourings. It’s probably too late now for a rethink, but from where I’m sitting (and watching the TDF), it’s the only thing (apart perhaps from that flag) that they appear to have dropped here.