As of 2013, Volkswagen will line up in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), starting with the iconic Rally Monte Carlo (15 – 20 January). The driving crews, the final design of the 315hp rally Polo was presented to about 250 guests and journalists in Monaco this weekend. A good five weeks before its first competitive outing at the same location, the Polo R WRC developed for the World Rally Championship rolled over a symbolic starting ramp to huge applause in front of the famous Monte Carlo Casino, signifying the start of a new era for Volkswagen in motorsport.
“The launch of the Polo R WRC, which is now ready and raring to go, heralds a new era in motorsport for Volkswagen: the FIA World Rally Championship offers Volkswagen the opportunity to prove its sporty qualities in an environment, in which our cars have always been at home: on real streets,” says Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management responsible for development. “In doing so, we are not using extraordinary prototypes, but a Polo based on the standard production car. This proximity to the product and customer played an important role in our decision to commit to this form of global motorsport.”
“Volkswagen has prepared intensively for the World Rally Championship, and every single member of the team can hardly wait to finally get stuck into the competition with the Polo R WRC,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “The World Rally Championship is a new challenge for us, and one that we are confronting with a host of good ideas and a strong team. Whether Sébastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen or the team in the background, we have first-class personnel on board. 17 months of intensive development, testing and a lot of innovation have gone into the Polo R WRC. For what it’s worth, the Polo is also, in my eyes, a beautiful and spectacular rally car.”
A select driving line-up: Sébastien Ogier together with co-driver Julien Ingrassia (both France), and Jari-Matti Latvala and his co-driver Miikka Anttila (both Finland) will line up for Volkswagen with the Polo R WRC in the 2013 World Rally Championship. Ogier/Ingrassia and Latvala/Anttila will start the season on equal footing. Both have seven World Rally Championship race wins to their name. “After over a year and a half of preparations, I can hardly wait to pull up to the start of the ‘Monte’ with the Polo R WRC and see where we stand compared to the opposition,” says Sébastien Ogier, who was signed by Volkswagen in November 2011 and for whom the ‘Monte’ represents a home rally. His team-mate Jari-Matti Latvala, who finished third in the World Championship this year and is new to the Volkswagen team, adds: “For me, Volkswagen is the best option as I strive to close in on my personal goal: the World Championship title. The team has impressed me with its determination and the pleasant way in which everyone treats each other. Every individual is absolutely committed to helping the whole team be successful. I am really excited about the Monte.”
As of the Rally Portugal, the fourth round of the World Championship calendar, Volkswagen plans to run a third car. At the wheel will be two-time Intercontinental Rally Challenge (IRC) champion, Volkswagen Junior driver Andreas Mikkelsen (Norway, new co-driver: Mikko Markkula, Finland). “Volkswagen is a very goal-oriented team, which has developed beyond measure during the preparations for the World Rally Championship,” says Mikkelsen. “The team left nothing to chance during the ‘Dakar’ project, and demonstrated the right approach to motorsport. I can learn a lot here and achieve a lot in the future.”
As such, Volkswagen has assembled a driving squad that boasts both experience and ambition: at 28, 27 and 23 years of age, Ogier, Latvala and Mikkelsen are not only among the youngest, but also the fastest drivers on the rally scene.
An XXL challenge: the searing heat of Central America on the one hand, the icy temperatures of Scandinavia on the other – the FIA World Rally Championship not only combines climatic extremes in one motorsport world championship, but also throws up a diverse range of different surfaces, all of which must be taken into consideration when developing a car for the World Rally Championship. The surfaces range from asphalt, gravel, mud and scree to ice and snow. The series is held in high esteem: alongside Formula One, the World Rally Championship is regarded as one of the most important global series in automobile racing. Together with the Le Mans 24 Hours, the “Indy 500” and the Monaco Grand Prix, the Rally Monte Carlo is one of the most famous motorsport events in the world.
Volkswagen R GmbH lends its name to the Polo R WRC. The company is responsible within Volkswagen for the manufacture of exclusive, sporty cars, with an emphasis on performance, fittings and quality. The brand has demonstrated its close relationship with motorsport since 2010: R GmbH was also a title patron from the launch of the Volkswagen Scirocco R-Cup. Next phase of a close partnership: the large Red Bull logos on the Polo R WRC not only represent a sponsorship agreement, but an intense cooperation between Volkswagen and the energy drink manufacturer. Volkswagen and Red Bull share the same philosophy when it comes to the marketing and positioning of the sport – and have done for several years: the bulls were also a prominent feature on three victorious Race Touaregs during the “Dakar” project. Red Bull juniors “powered by Volkswagen” also line up in various Formula 3 racing series. Castrol is another long-term partner of Volkswagen in motorsport: after joint projects like the Rally Dakar, Nürburgring 24 Hours and Formula 3, the renowned British manufacturer of automobile lubricants is now also taking the next big step together with Volkswagen. As Tyre Partner, Volkswagen Motorsport works closely with Michelin – the French manufacturer has an enormous wealth of experience in the World Rally Championship.