Volkswagen Motorsport have officially announced that they will leave the World Rally Championship at the end of the 2016 season, with the final round at Rally Australia marking the end of the team’s wildly successful four-year run in the World Rally Championship.
In that time, Volkswagen secured four consecutive Manufacturers’ championships and Sébastien Ogier claimed four Drivers' titles.
The move away from the WRC is apparently to allow Volkswagen to focus on “new technologies and customer sport”.
This was the most successful chapter in the Volkswagen brand’s motorsport historySven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director
“Of course, we regret the departure from the WRC very much,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “This was the most successful chapter in the Volkswagen brand's motorsport history. The team has done great things. At the same time, our vision is firmly ahead, because we are aware of the great challenges facing the entire company.
"We want our realignment to contribute to the success of the Volkswagen brand. From now on, the focus is on upcoming technologies in motorsport and on our customer sports range, where we will position ourselves more broadly and attractively.”
Since making its debut on the 2013 Rallye Monte-Carlo, Volkswagen’s Polo R WRC has become the most successful rally car in the sport’s history, racking up 42 wins from the 51 rallies it has contested to date. There have also been 85 podiums and 622 stage wins.
Speaking to RedBull.com just ahead of Volkswagen’s announcement, Sébastien Ogier paid tribute to the Polo R WRC when asked about his favourite rally car of all time: “I must mention the Volkswagen Polo, because I've achieved so much with it… that’s the car that will remain in my heart forever.”
Volkswagen’s decision means that their hotly-anticipated 2017-spec Polo, which has been tested extensively by all three drivers as well as double WRC champion Marcus Grönholm and VW test driver Dieter Depping, won’t get a chance to compete in its current form.
However, Volkswagen confirmed that they will develop an R5 version of the Polo – eligible for the WRC2 category – which will be available to private customers from 2018.
Volkswagen’s 2013-2016 WRC career in numbers (as of Wales Rally GB 2016)
Victories – 42 out of 51 (31 for Ogier, nine for Latvala, two for Mikkelsen)
Podiums – 84 (40 for Ogier, 25 for Latvala, 19 for Mikkelsen)
Stage wins – 622 out of 980
Drivers’ titles – Four (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Co-drivers’ titles – Four (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
Manufacturers’ titles – Four (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)
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