“The task at-hand is to properly prepare for the task ahead. We need to learn a whole new discipline of the sport. Whilst building the Polo R WRC, we will be working very quickly and thoroughly, since we are not deluding ourselves in thinking our rivals will stop their development to wait for us. I look forward to the sporting competition with our competitors – Citroën, Ford and MINI.”
Volkswagen motorsport director Kris Nissen offered more insights into the exciting new initiative, endeavouring to shed some light upon recent speculation about the budget being apportioned to it, revealing that the new Polo will take limited inspiration from the current SWRC-spec Skoda Fabia S2000 and seeking to stress that none of the drivers who have been mentioned in connection with the project so far have yet been contacted.
Assuring that 'one day we will also find a good young German driver', he underlined that for the time being, the priority is to secure the services of the best available competitor, with speed rather than nationality the principal criterion.
“Our rally programme is a five-year programme,” explained the former touring car star. “We are spending the next two years developing the engine, car and team, and then we will enter the World Rally Championship with the Polo from 2013 to 2015 – but that does not mean we will stop after that. Volkswagen have a lot of ideas, and I think it's very strong that we can be here and commit to five years.
“Motorsport costs money and there have been some rumours about an incredible amount of money, but these are not true. We are definitely able to run under the new regulations on the technical side and logistics side for the same amount of money as we have spent on the Dakar.
“We will be able to run a car by the end of this year, ahead of a full testing programme in 2012 – not only for the engine and car, but also for the team. We have a wonderful team, a fantastic team – to win the Dakar three times in a row is a big job – but still the team needs to adapt to the WRC. We have a good co-operation with Skoda, and will shadow them on some rallies this year and next year so that we are able to come to the first round in 2012 and start at a very high level.”
Nissen also reiterated that following 'a fantastic time' on the Dakar Rally over the past few years, there will categorically be no factory-supported Volkswagen entry on the gruelling, uniquely punishing event in 2012 – thereby making Al-Attiyah's 2011 triumph the official valedictory appearance – but he conceded that having received a number of approaches from interested parties, 'it looks very much like we might be able to set up a customer programme', even if no final decision has yet been taken.
Back on-topic, though, as VW prepares to return to the World Rally Championship for the first time in more than two decades – with its last victory having come courtesy of Kenneth Eriksson and Peter Diekmann with the Golf GTI 16V on the 1987 Rallye Côte d'Ivoire – one man with a clear 'passion' for the series is FIA President Jean Todt, who competed against the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer during his stint at the helm of Peugeot's WRC effort in the mid-1980s. The last word, then, goes to the Frenchman.
“You can be sure of my total commitment,” he urged, “and this announcement by Volkswagen is great news for all those who believe this sport has great potential. We are strongly committed to taking the WRC to be amongst the pinnacle of world motorsport, and I welcome the arrival of Volkswagen as a manufacturer with a history of great success in different categories of motorsport.
“I'm convinced Volkswagen will do everything in its power to make the WRC even more exciting, entertaining and world-class – and I wish the company the best of luck and success in its new adventure.”