vw-2016-wrc-champs

It has been decided. Volkswagen confirmed its exit from the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) yesterday following a board meeting where the issue was discussed.

This follows sister brand Audi’s pull out from the FIA World Endurance Championship and Le Mans racing last month, but unlike Audi, VW will be leaving on a high – the team has just clinched its fourth consecutive manufacturers’ title at Rally GB, and star driver Seb Ogier wrapped up his fourth straight drivers’ championship in Spain. Four in four since 2013 for both man and team, with 42 wins from 51 rallies – total domination. Motorsports fans can blame Dieselgate for the high-profile exits.

“With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies. We far exceeded our sporting goals in the WRC, now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus,” said Frank Welsch, Volkswagen’s board member responsible for technical development.

vw-rally-gb-1

“I want to give our heartfelt thanks to our drivers and co-drivers for their outstanding achievements,” said Welsch, who added there was a guarantee of employment for the 200 Volkswagen Motorsport staff.

While the factory WRC team and already-developed 2017 Polo R WRC will be no more, Wolfsburg will start development of a new race car based on the next-gen Polo. It will be eligible for the WRC 2 category and will be available for customers to buy from 2018, it was revealed.

“Volkswagen is going to focus more on customer racing. As well as the Golf GTI TCR on the circuit track and the Beetle GRC in rallycross, we also want to offer customers top products and will develop a new Polo according to R5 regulations,” Welsch said.

vw-wrc-rally-espana-01

“Of course, we regret the departure from the WRC very much as 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,” said team director Sven Smeets, who will oversee the team’s final appearance at Rally Australia this month.

“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,” he added.

With VW’s departure, next year will see the 2017 Hyundai i20 WRC, Ford Fiesta WRC, Citroen C3 WRC and the returning Toyota with its Yaris WRC battle for honours without the target they set out to dethrone.