This be-spoilered supermini is the new VW Polo R WRC, Volkwagen’s entry into the 2013 FIA World Rally Championship.
Unveiled today in Sardinia ahead of Rally d'Italia Sardegna, it's a 300bhp, four-wheel drive hot hatch that's going to take on Ford, Citroen et al on the world's toughest mud, gravel and snow Special Stages.
VW Polo R WRC, huh? What happened to those rumours that VW would enter the WRC with a Scirocco?
Just rumours, compounded by VW running a Scirocco course car on 2010’s Rally Deutschland. Instead, VW will enter its Polo supermini against Ford’s Fiesta, Citroen’s DS3 and Mini’s Countryman.
We won’t see a Polo up and running just yet though. Instead, Volkswagen Motorsport will start the development of the Polo R WRC using a Fabia derived from Skoda’s IRC-spec rally car, with the mule appearing at selected rallies towards the end of the 2011 season.
Extensive testing with the Polo R WRC proper will then begin in 2012, before VW finally enters the WRC in a fully fledged capacity in 2013.
What do we know about the new VW Polo R WRC?
The new cost-reducing WRC rules introduced in 2011 have cemented Ford and Citroen’s future in the rallying, and have encouraged both Mini and VW to enter. Tight regs mean 1.6-litre direct injection and turbocharged powerplants, perfect for manufacturers wanting to shout about the downsized engines in their road cars. Speaking of which...
'Clever downsizing at maximum levels of efficiency and sportiness are seen as popular fortes by Volkswagen customers worldwide,’ said VW R&D boss Dr Ulrich Hackenberg. ‘Building on this experience, Volkswagen is set on demonstrating the competitiveness of its products in front of a grand international audience. In return, we want customers to benefit from experiences we gain in the World Rally Championship.’
Reckon on around 300bhp and 260lb ft, sent to all four wheels via a sequential gearbox. The dry weight (sans fluids) will be the FIA-mandated 1200kg, while the blistered body accommodates wider tracks.
More intriguingly, the Polo R designation points towards a future hot hatch to sit above the Polo GTI. To take advantage of the marketing opportunity presented by the WRC, expect the Polo R to utilise the same four-wheel drive chassis being reading for the Audi S1. Bank on at least 210bhp, too.
What does this mean for Volkswagen’s Dakar entry?
Bad news – VW is pulling out forthwith. It's considering running a customer team in 2012 and has had plenty of expressions of interest, but no decision has been made.
As for VW's most famous Dakar driver, two-time World Rally champ Carlos Sainz, expect the fast Spaniard to be given a special advisory role in the new WRC programme.
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