Four years of record-breaking success in the World Rally Championship garnered the Volkswagen Polo R WRC a place in history. Winning drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles in its first season, Volkswagen Motorsport, along with Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, successfully defended those championships for the following three years.
The Volkswagen Polo R WRC earned its place in history. But success on the stage means nothing when it comes to rallycross. Fortunately, Volkswagen Motorsport’s Hannover factory is a place packed with know-how and can-do, so turning a Volkswagen Polo R WRC into a Volkswagen Polo GTI Supercar was just another challenge to be met.
Volkswagen’s journey into motorsport began 52 years ago with Formula Vee, a single-seater racecar which utilised parts from the ubiquitous Volkswagen Beetle. Since then Hannover has toured the world and won. Won with a cast featuring motorsport titans such as Niki Lauda, Keke Rosberg, Carlos Sainz and Michael Schumacher.
Rallycross is nothing new to Volkswagen, Jochi Kleint drove a Golf in the European Rallycross Championship in 1978, but it was victory on the Paris-Dakar Rally for Volkswagen’s Iltis that put the Wolfsburg manufacturer on the motorsport map in 1980. The four-wheel drive racer was the forerunner to Audi’s game-changing quattro and that ground-breaking Iltis still forms part of Volkswagen’s DNA today.
Dakar success would, of course, be revisited 30 years on, when the firm became the first to win the marathon event with diesel power. Race Touaregs dominated Dakar for three years with Giniel de Villiers, Sainz and Nasser Al-Attiyah combining for an astonishing hat-trick of wins on arguably the world’s most technically demanding and arduous event.
Despite the recent shift in emphasis towards World Rallycross, Volkswagen Motorsport will retain its rallying links with the development of a Volkswagen Polo R5, a car which will sit alongside the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR as a commercially available product for customer racing.
The Wolfsburg-based firm has never forgotten its single-seater roots and continues to supply engines for Formula 3 cars, but an all-electric bid for success at this year’s Pikes Peak International Hillclimb in America is confirmation of a more diverse and sustainable future for Volkswagen Motorsport.