After rumours were rife that Volkswagen would quit the World Rally Championship at the end of the 2016 season, official confirmation has come through. Volkswagen has released a statement where they say that they will now realign their motorsport programme in order to focus on new technologies and customer sport. Having won four titles in the World Rally Championship (12 if you include the co-driver and manufacturers’ titles) the team will pull out of the WRC at the end of the 2016 season. Which means Rally Australia is the last event that the team will compete in.
Addressing approximately 200 Volkswagen Motorsport employees at Hannover, Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management responsible for technical development said “The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges. 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.”
He went on to say that the new focus of Volkswagen Motorsport would be the customer sport racing programme, which included the development of the Golf GTI TCR for circuit racing, and the Beetle GRC for rallycross. In addition, Volkswagen will develop a new Polo according to R5 regulations, which will be available to customers from 2018 onwards.
βI want to give our heartfelt thanks to our drivers and co-drivers for their outstanding achievements. They are not only unbelievably quick, but also extremely effective ambassadors for the Volkswagen brand. The whole team built around Motorsport Director Sven Smeets has created the basis for this success with the enormous commitment of each individual. We want to continue working with this excellent team and bring about the realignment. In the same way, we will expand the close cooperation between production development and motorsport, which has always shown benefits to both sides in recent years. There is a guarantee of employment for the Volkswagen Motorsport employees,β said Welsch continued.
Meanwhile, Sven Smeets, director of Volkswagen Motorsport said,Β βOf course, we regret the departure from the WRC very much β 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. 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.β