Volkswagen may have concluded its top-flight works rally programme at the end of the 2016 World Rally Championship season, but it hasn’t left the rally scene entirely. Enter the Polo GTI R5 rally car, a model which will be sold to private rally teams and is eligible for entry into the WRC2 category this year.

Volkswagen Motorsport, the company’s arm for racing endeavours, plans for an initial run of 15 Polo GTI R5 cars, though all of these have already been spoken for. Most of these are going to Volkswagen importers who plan to enter the R5s into their respective national championships, says technical director of Volkswagen Motorsport François-Xavier Demaison.

The Polo GTI R5 is slated for its competitive debut on home ground in August this year, at the Rallye Deutschland round of the World Rally Championship. “By then, we’ll have been able to put the car through its paces – the next time will be in the UK and then in the snow of Scandinavia in January,” says Demaison.

Based on the sixth-generation Polo GTI, the R5 competition car is powered by a 1.6 litre turbocharged inline-four engine with direct injection producing 272 PS and 400 Nm of torque, paired to permanent all-wheel-drive and a five-speed sequential gearbox.

Cars competing in the R5 category are subject to a maximum price stipulation. The FIA has set the limit at €180,000 (RM867,829) currently, and will grow to €190,000 (RM916,145) for the 2018 season. Cost containment measures make sense for customer motorsport even though more challenges are posed to the engineers, Demaison said. For instance, select bodywork is made of less-expensive plastic, instead of carbon-fibre.

This year’s R5 season appears set for interesting competition. There’s the Polo R5 above, led by Demaison who was behind the all-sweeping Polo R WRC, fellow VW Group stablemate Skoda enters the 2018 season off the back of three consecutive WRC2 titles, and the Mellors Eliiot Motorsport-prepared Proton Iriz R5, which has seen competitive results from its initial outings.

GALLERY: Volkswagen Polo GTI R5