RAC Cars News


Volkswagen will quit World Rally Championship this year

By raccars Published

Polo R5

2016 will see the end of Volkswagen’s WRC programme as VW follows Audi's race-ending trend.

The dieselgate scandal is believed to have claimed another victim as Volkswagen announces that it will quit the World Rally Championship when this season ends. The news comes just days after Audi said that it was pulling out of endurance racing.

Wins have not been enough to keep Volkswagen in the WRC. Despite the brand having won an impressive 42 rallies out of the 51 it entered, Volkswagen will exit the sport after the final round of WRC 2016 in Australia this month.

Volkswagen has won the WRC’s driver and manufacturer prizes in each of the past four years. The latest trophies were won within days of the announcement when the team competed in the WRC’s penultimate round for this year in Wales.

Volkswagen focuses on the future

Dr Frank Welsch, Volkswagen’s board member for development, said that the brand was ‘facing enormous challenges’ and said that the company needed to focus its efforts on ‘future technologies’ in order to meet the demands of the upcoming electrification across the brand’s vehicle range.

He said that the company’s sporting goals had been ‘far exceeded’ in the WRC and now Volkswagen Motorsport was being realigned and the focus was being moved firmly to put future vehicle technology in the spotlight. Dr Welsche added that Volkswagen was also going to place more of a focus on customer racing and, together with rallycross’s Beetle GRC and circuit tracks’ Golf GTI TCR, VW will be committed to offering its customers some ‘top products’. It is also committed to the development of a new R5 regulation-compliant Polo.

The latter piece of news means that there will still be a Volkswagen rally car, although it won’t be a factory-supported R which regularly dominates the world stage. Instead, Dr Welsch has guaranteed employee security for workers at Volkswagen Motorsport, saying that their attention will move to customer racecar support and the development of the Volkswagen Polo R5.

It has not yet been confirmed what will happen to the Volkswagen drivers and their co-drivers. There is no doubt that there will be plenty of interest from other WRC teams in Sebastien Ogier, who won the WRC for the last four years in the driving seat of the Polo, when preparations start for the 2017 season.

Sven Smeets, the director of Volkswagen Motorsport, said that it was regrettable that the brand would be leaving the WRC; ending the brand’s most successful period in its motorsport history. He added that the team has ‘done great things’ but said that the company’s focus was on the future and that the challenges must be overcome by ‘the entire company’.

Smeets continued that the Volkswagen Motorsport employees wanted the realignment to help with the Volkswagen brand’s success. He said that the focus for the future would be on the customer sports range and up-coming motorsport technologies.

Audi leaves Le Mans and WEC

Last month, meanwhile, Audi announced that it would be ending its 18-year history in endurance racing after deciding to concentrate on Formula E. The news came even though Audi has never failed to secure a place on the Le Mans podium. The firm has only failed to win the 24-hour race five times out of a total of 18 outings. It was the first team ever to win with hybrid and diesel cars and from 185 races it has secured 94 fastest laps and 106 wins.

Audi chairman Rupert Stadler said that the company would be moving its focus to Formula E’s all-electric racing. The brand’s Formula E campaign will start in 2017 and this WEC season will be its last. It will continue to be involved in the DTM German touring car series and there may be plans for further rallycross involvement with an electric power element to any entry.

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