Volkswagen has promised to do its bit to help to reinvigorate the World Rally Championship with 'fresh ideas' following the announcement that it will join the fray in 2013 with its aggressive new Polo R WRC – a car that has been described as 'the hottest Polo ever'.
Volkswagen officially confirmed the move on the eve of last weekend's Rally Italia Sardegna with a lavish and well-attended media launch in the port of Olbia, in the presence of two of the company's ambassadors – motorsport legends Jacky Ickx and Carlos Sainz, with the latter set to play an integral role in the development of the new Polo R WRC [see separate story – click here
] – and 2011 Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah, who was presented with a baby-size race suit in celebration of the recent birth of his son.
It was, indeed, a very special and emotional day for Volkswagen all-round, as the German manufacturer reflected upon its long and successful history and tradition in motorsport, evidenced most recently, of course, by its tremendous undefeated run of three consecutive Dakar victories with the Touareg stretching back to 2009.
Not only is rallying therefore a perfectly natural fit for the marque, but Sardinia, too, was an entirely apt backdrop, being the same location as had staged the international launch of the current road-going Polo 6R two years ago. Such symbolism was not lost on marketing director Luca de Meo.
“The World Rally Championship is for sure one of the most important global platforms, which is a very important reason why we – from a marketing point-of-view – support this project,” underlined the Italian, calling VW's new WRC entry 'the hottest Polo ever' and quipping that there are 'a lot of motorsport freaks' in his department of the company. “There are 13 events over four continents – just think of the enormous media impact from that. More than five million people are enthusiastic about the WRC.
“Rallying is real. The drivers are accessible, and they are the virtuosos of driving, the artists. Our customers can make the connection between the rally car and the showroom car. This gives us chance to make innovations. Motorsport is about the future, and we think we have the chance from a marketing point-of-view to use this to make something new. We will do our part to promote this discipline with fresh ideas.”
Those sentiments were echoed by prominent VW management board member Dr. Ullrich Hackenberg – another self-confessed 'petrol head'. With the firm aim that of making the Polo the most successful small car in world, the German confessed that after it was prestigiously named 'Car of the Year' in 2010, 'we are hoping this is something we will also be seeing in the WRC in the foreseeable future'.
“Our results in South America (on the Dakar Rally) are a demonstration of Volkswagen's performance in motorsport,” he underlined. “In the past, we celebrated our success in motorsport in the desert, and in 2009, we became the first manufacturer to win the Dakar with a diesel engine. In the future, we want to try to be successful not only on sand.
“Due to the changes made to the [WRC] regulations in recent years, we are finding challenges in this motorsport environment which we have to tackle on the production side as well. They have given us the opportunity to compete with the Polo R WRC. We will be entering a car that can be recognised as a Polo even in rally trim, where the relationship between motorsport and the production vehicle is still evident.