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28 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Polo R WRCs on the podium: Ogier and Mikkelsen score at Rally Argentina

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Argentina: Ogier/Ingrassia

After an eventful three days, Volkswagen Motorsport’s Sébastien Ogier and Andreas Mikkelsen stood on the second and third steps respectively of the 36th Rally Argentina podium. Hyundai Motorsport’s Hayden Paddon emerged victorious after an incident-packed fourth round of the 2016 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), which ran around the gravel tracks surrounding Córdoba from 21-24 April.

Second-fastest time
After a six-week break, the Volkswagen team were all ready for the 364.68km Argentine event and, along with Hyundai, set the pace on Shakedown. Recording the second and third fastest times, the Hannover-based outfit Jari-Matti Latvala and co-driver Miikka Anttila were in the leading Polo R WRC, with Ogier and co-driver Julien Ingrassia third. Norwegians Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger were fifth.

Going into the action proper on the first special stage – a 1.5-km long spectator-lined spectacle in the centre of Córdoba – Volkswagen’s Ogier was keen to clinch victory as the South American round is the only one on the current WRC calendar the Frenchman is yet to win. It started well, with the Gap-born driver clocking the fastest time along with Hyundai’s Dani Sordo. Latvala finished twelfth, while Mikkelsen was just one place below his Finnish team-mate.

The first full day of action delivered action aplenty. Latvala and Anttila stormed ahead after 152 kilometres of stages to take the lead, leaving Ogier and Ingrassia trailing over seven seconds behind. Hyundai’s Hayden Paddon and John Kennard were an impressive third in the i20 WRC, one place ahead of Mikkelsen and Jæger.

Spectacular crash
Still on a high after their victory at Rally Mexico last month, Latvia and Anttila were on a charge. Sadly, it wasn’t to last. On stage 14 of day two, the Finns spectacularly crashed out after hitting a rock at the side of the road. The number ‘2’ Polo R WRC rolled several times, and the damage to the car was so severe, the pair were forced to retire. The Finns’ exit was great shame, as Latvala had finally seemed to have broken his 2016 start-of-season run of bad luck.

Almost unbelievably, Latvala’s departure handed the rally lead to young Paddon, who was 29.8 seconds ahead of world champion Ogier. Going into the last four special stages and 55.28 kilometres of the final day, it was a David and Goliath battle to play for. Mikkelsen and Jæger had kept up the pace, too, and finished the day 14.5 seconds behind Ogier and Ingrassia.

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18 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Sixth for Kristoffersson and Volkswagen RX Sweden at World RX of Portugal

2016 Volkswagen Polo RX, World RX of Portugal: Kristoffersson

The 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship kicked off on 16-17 April with the first round of the 2016 series, the World RX of Portugal. Volkswagen RX Sweden driver Johan Kristoffersson found himself in third place in the overall drivers’ championship by the end of the – very muddy – action at Montalegre. Victory at the Portuguese 1.52km circuit went to former WRC ace Petter Solberg.

Sixth place
However, qualifying heats round one (Q1) winner Kristoffersson was awarded the Monster Energy Super Charge Award, after beating his competitors to the first corner of one of the semi-final races. The Swede ended the event in overall sixth place, but points amassed through setting fastest times in both the qualifying heats and one semi-final saw him higher in the overall standings.

Kristoffersson failed to match his 2015 World RX of Portugal win following an on-track collision with Solberg when the current World Rallycross champion exited his joker lap. The smash broke one of the Swedish driver’s driveshafts on his Polo RX Supercar.

For the 2016 series, the four timed qualifying rounds previously known as heats – which determine each driver’s position at the intermediate classification – are now called Qualifying. This is to fall in line with other World Championships run by the FIA. The four rounds will be called Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4 for 2016.

Polo RX potential shown
Kristoffersson’s Volkswagen RX Sweden team-mate Anton Maryland took his 600bhp Polo RX through to one of the semi-final races but failed to qualify to the last race itself. However, with both drivers scoring highly, the potential of the latest 1.9-seconds-to-62mph Polo RX was shown in Montalegre. Volkswagen RX Sweden is currently second in the teams’ championship overall standings.

The next round of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship is the World RX of Germany, which takes place on 6-8 May at Hockenheim.

1 Petter Solberg, Citröen DS3: 29
2 Robin Larsson, Audi A1: 21
3 Johan Kristoffersson, Volkswagen Polo: 21
4 Toomas Heikkinen, Audi S1: 20
5 Andreas Bakkerud, Ford Focus RS: 20

1 EKSRX: 39
2 Volkswagen RX Sweden: 28
3 Peugeot Hansen: 26
4 Hoonigan Racing Division: 20
5 Ford Olsbergs MSE: 12

[Images: FIAWorldRallycross.com]

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13 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Motorsport reveal look and technology of 2017 Polo R WRC

2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC (illustration)

With the introduction of new World Rally Championship (WRC) technical regulations for 2017, the championship-winning Polo R WRC may age about to get even more dominant. The FIA Motor Sport Council want to make the next generation of rally cars faster, wider, more aggressive in appearance, but safer, too. The new, more powerful machines will debut next year.

380bhp, enlarged air restrictor
Volkswagen Motorsport has released this teaser image of how the new-for-2017 Polo R WRC could look (the final appearance may differ) as well as a few technical details about its new rally challenger. The 2017 Polo WRC will have around 380bhp (280kW) – up from today’s 318bhp – thanks to the enlargement of the engine’s air restrictor from 33mm to 36mm.

An electronically controlled centre differential will make a return on next year’s cars, while boost pressure will run at a maximum of 2.5 bar. The minimum length of the new cars is now 3,900 millimetres, while the minimum weight is reduced from 1,200 to 1,175 kilograms, around 25kg lighter than the current Polo R WRC.

More aerodynamic freedom
The 2017 Polo R WRC will draw upon the aggressive look of its two previous generations, and be even wilder. The FIA’s new regulations allow for more aerodynamic freedom and a ‘free zone defined around the body shell of the production car’ to create a maximum width of 1,875mm. The third-generation Polo R WRC is 50mm wider than its predecessors.

The most visually striking changes are the larger rear wing and broader front spoiler. The car in the illustration released by Volkswagen Motorsport also gets bumper air scoops in the style of VW’s all-electric ‘e’ models. The new regulations also allow for greater overhang front and rear: ‘[There is] greater freedom on the lateral parts of the front bumper, with potential for additional aero devices ahead of the front wheels.’ The larger rear wing will aid downforce.

‘Crucial phase’
Volkswagen Motorsport has been developing the next-generation Polo rally car since summer 2015, with key components having been tested in the current car’s chassis at locations in Europe, most notably the south of France. The Hannover-based outfit says that testing is now entering ‘a crucial phase’. We also believe it to be the final phase of development.

Outgoing Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito said: ‘‘The 2017 WRC regulations include many spectacular technical innovations for the World Rally Championship. The World Rally cars of the future will incorporate all the experience that teams have gained in recent years.

‘They will be considerably more dynamic, while at the same time being safer. As usual, we are working painstakingly on the development of the next generation of the Polo R WRC. The key between now and the start of next season is to achieve the best possible prerequisites to allow the 2017 Polo R WRC to be as successful as its two predecessors.’

No pressure then.

Volkswagen Motorsport currently tops the standings in all of the classifications in this year’s World Rally Championship, having won the first three rallies of the season. The team from Wolfsburg’s next outing is the fourth WRC round of the year – the Rally Argentina (21-24 April 2016). It can only hope the 2017 Polo R WRC continues the championship-winning tradition.

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06 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

On the rise: the Volkswagen Polo is the sixth best-selling car in the UK

2016 Volkswagen Polo BlueGT (UK)

The Volkswagen Polo once again appeared in the UK’s top 10 best-selling cars list last month, according to the latest figures released by the Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders (SMMT). March 2016 saw 10,279 Polos find new homes, while 15,162 small Volkswagens have been in 2016, also netting the car sixth place in the year-so-far charts.

The Ford Fiesta once again blitzed the competition. Topping the SMMT table, 23,467 Fiestas were sold last month, with the Vauxhall Corsa around 6,000 units behind. More than a third of all buyers preferred driving compact cars: the supermini was once again the best-selling car type.

The SMMT reported that the new car market grew 5.3 per cent in March, as more than half a million buyers took advantage of popular numberplate change. Overall, the wider picture showed that registrations increased 5.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2016, to 771,780 units.

The UK’s top 10 best-selling passenger cars during March 2016 and the year so far (sales figure and position in brackets) are as follows:

1 Ford Fiesta: 23,467 (36,327, 1st)
2 Vauxhall Corsa: 17,368 (24,579, 2nd)
3 Ford Focus: 14,002 (20,656, 3rd)
4 Volkswagen Golf: 13,401 (19,428, 4th)
5 Nissan Qashqai: 11,355 (18,680, 5th)
6 Volkswagen Polo: 10,279 (15,162, 6th)

7 Vauxhall Astra: 9,953 (14,764, 7th)
8 Mini: 8,915
9 Fiat 500: 8,304 (11,400, 10th)
10 Audi A3: 8,200 (13,046, 8th)

(The 2016 top 10 best-selling car absent from last month’s sales figures is the ninth-placed Vauxhall Mokka with 12,505 cars sold.)

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05 April 2016 ~ 0 Comments

New Volkswagen RX Sweden Polo RX for 2016 World Rallycross Championship

2016 Volkswagen RX Sweden Polo RX Supercar

It’s not only the World Rally Championship that sees mega-power Polos take to gravel tracks around the word. In case it has escaped your notice, rallycross has been back in a globally big way over the past three years and Volkswagen’s small hatchback also competes this this FIA-regulated championship, too – and the Polo RXs have twice as much power as their Polo R WRC counterparts.

Twelve-round championship
Announced at the start of the year, the Volkswagen RX Sweden team will campaign the ‘official’ Polo RX cars in the twelve-round 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship (those ‘cross’ / ‘RX’ words and letters are important) with Johan Kristoffersson and Anton Marklund as its young-gun principal drivers.

These two have form – Kristoffersson won the World RX of Portugal last year, while Maryland raced a Polo RX before switching to an Audi S3 RX. Oh, and his father, Jan Marklund ran Marklund Motorsport, a kind of satellite team of Volkswagen Motorsport which has contested the rallycross championship with Polo RXs for the past three years. The new team itself is a merger of Kristoffersson Motorsport and Marklund Motorsport.

Blue, cyan and white livery
The new 2016 Volkswagen RX Sweden Polo RX Supercar was unveiled recently and its livery now bears comparison with that of the Polo R WRCs prepared in Hannover – dark blue is the dominant colour, while the white rear half and cyan streaks bring to mind the German-prepared Polo rally machine, too. Volkswagen RX Sweden also cites the Swedish flag and sponsor colours as inspiration.

Volkswagen RX Sweden by team manager Michael Schneider is aiming high with his new team and his new 600bhp Polo RX: ‘It is with great pleasure that we present our car for 2016. Our competitors have not been standing still in progress and they continue to develop their cars – but so do we.

‘The best of both concepts’
‘We have spent a lot of time to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of last year’s cars from Marklund Motorsport and Kristoffersson Motorsport, and we have tried to combine the best of both concepts in the new car. The whole team has worked hard and I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved who has contributed to the construction of this car. We all have the same goal and we are willing to do our utmost to achieve it.’

Kristoffersson can’t wait to get started: ‘The new car looks absolutely stunning and I feel proud to see my name on it. I look forward to the start of the season, but for now the focus is on pre-season tests in order to get as much out of the cars as possible. I’ve driven six rallies during the winter, which has helped me find a focus, develop and find new ideas for the Rallycross Championship.’

‘Simple, sleek and aggressive’
Marklund meanwhile is pleased with both the team’s and the car’s progress: ‘The car is really good, the team has put a great job on every single detail and it has a look I really like. It is simple, sleek and aggressive at the same time. I’ve known Johan (Kristoffersson) from the rallycross championship and he is a fun and relaxed guy. Our different experiences of life and the racing will help the team moving forward.’

The Volkswagen RX Sweden team has worked hard over the winter at its base in Boliden to ensure that the Polo RX Supercar’s performance lives up to its new look, and to also be ideally prepared for the first round of the season in Portugal which runs from 16-17 April at Montalegre. The Polo RXs have always been strong performers on the World Rallycross Championship stage. Now, with official backing, that performance could be about to gain some extra muscle…

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