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Find the latest Polo news from around the world, past-model flashbacks, road tests, spotlights on selected models, as well as views from contributors here. If there is a Polo story that you would like to share or if you would just like to get in contact, email us at info@polodriver.com

02 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Polo R WRC is dead: Volkswagen exits the World Rally Championship

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC

In a shock move, Volkswagen has ‘reliagned’ its motorsport programme and pulled out of all future commitment to the World Rally Championship (WRC). Rumours started to circulate at the start of the week, ahead of a company board meeting yesterday. And today came the official announcement of the news we’d been dreading. After the final round of the 2016 season – Rally Australia – later this month, the Polo R WRC is no more.

‘Four historically successful years’
The company states that, ‘From 2017, Volkswagen will focus on new technologies and customer sport’, and that its involvement with top-level rallying will come to an end after ‘four historically successful years’. And what a ‘historical successful’ quartet of years it was: Volkswagen Motorsport and the Polo R WRC won twelve titles (Drivers’, Co-drivers’, and Manufacturers’ Championships) from 2013 to 2016, and have dominated the sport since the super-Polo first turned a wheel in anger at the 2013 Monte-Carlo Rally.

Talk about leaving on a high, though. The 318bhp four-wheel drive version of the German supermini competed in 51 international gravel and asphalt rallies and had an amazing 42 wins with 621 best times from over 900 special stages – a truly impressive feat making it the most successful car ever in the World Rally Championship. Just last weekend Volkswagen Motorsport scooped its fourth manufacturers’ title* at the 2016 running of Wales Rally GB.

New WRC technical regulations
Why a shock move? The motorsport outfit from Hannover had been quite far down the development road of the 2017 Polo R WRC, which would have been more powerful and more wildly-styled than the current car due to new technical regulations in the championship which come into force next year. Rumour has it that car will now be mothballed or crushed – we hope some examples of both it and the 2013 to 2016 machine are kept for historical purposes.

In front of 200 Volkswagen Motorsport employees in 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’. All employees’ jobs are guaranteed to be safe.

‘R5’-specification Polo in 2018
However, while the Polo R WRC is a sad and unfortunate casualty of today’s announcement, there is hope. Volkswagen Motorsport will refocus on customer racing, primarily with the Golf GTI TCR touring car racer and the Global Rallycross Championship Beetle. But, a new, less powerful, customer-focused rallying Polo is on the cards, too. The ‘R5’-specification Polo will be available for teams to buy in 2018 and will be based on the new sixth-generation car expected to be launched next year. It is said that the new car will benefit from the experience gained by the Polo R WRC’s dominance.

Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets commented: ‘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 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.’

*Subject to ratification of the results by the FIA.

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30 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen RX Sweden secures second place at World RX of Argentina

2016 Volkswagen Polo RX, World RX of Argentina: Kristoffersson

A consistent pace and a consistent season rewarded Volkswagen RX Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson a second place in the last round of the 2016 FIA World Rallycross Championship, the World RX of Argentina. The final and twelfth event of the season took place at the Autodromo Rosario circuit from 25-27 November, and that consistency also netted Kristoffersson second place in the Drivers’ Championship, just 32 points behind champion Mattias Ekström of Audi team EKS.

A brilliant drive
A brilliant drive in both the semi-final and final races in Argentina helped Kristoffersson improve on his third place in the 2015 Drivers’ Championship, and was ample reward for the young Polo RX Supercar racer, who had battled hard throughout the 2016 season. The Swede was delighted with his runner-up position, partly gained thanks to not taking risks: ‘After the semi-finals I knew I had to be first or second in the final to be second in the championship. The start went well, and we managed to avoid any contact.

‘I have to admit I was driving a little bit like a grandma, avoiding punctures and no drifting or anything, but it’s such a great feeling to be second in the race and the Championship. At the beginning of the weekend it didn’t feel like we were where we wanted to be, but everyone worked really hard and we finished one place better than last season in the points. I have to say it’s very tight, for there to be only one point between second and fourth in the championship after 12 events is just amazing,’ he continued.

Banished bad luck
Qualification in the semi-final and seventh overall for second Volkswagen RX Sweden driver Anton Marklund helped the team secure third overall in the 2016 Teams’ Championship standings. Despite challenging weather conditions, Marklund banished the bad luck which has affected him and his 600bhp Polo this year and proved that by securing a place the semi-final, he has the pace to challenge for podium results and pick up valuable team points.

‘The track was tough in Rosario and it was hard for everyone to have three qualifying races on Sunday morning, but after some small issues we got the car perfectly in shape for Q4 and a good result put me into the semi-finals,’ said the ex-2012 FIA European Rallycross Championship Touringcar winner.

‘Unfortunately I got crashed into in the first corner and was never able to recover for a top-three finish to make it into the final. The pace was definitely there – I was catching Robin Larsson – but we just ran out of laps. It’s great that Johan was able to finish second for himself and we both managed to finish third in the Teams’ Championship to take the bronze medal back to Sweden.’

‘We achieved it’
Team Principal Michael Schneider was delighted for the whole Volkswagen RX Sweden team that the weekend’s target had been reached. ‘Johan and Anton both performed so well this weekend. The way Johan drove in both the semi-finals and final was fantastic.

‘We had the chance to be second in the Drivers’ Championship and third in the Teams’ Championship coming here and we achieved it. I have to thank the team, sponsors, partners and team owner Jan Marklund. Everyone has worked so hard all season long and everyone deserves this,’ he exclaimed.

2016 FIA WORLD RALLYCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP,

DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 Mattias Ekström, Audi S1: 272
2 Johan Kristoffersson, Volkswagen Polo: 240
3 Andreas Bakkerud, Ford Focus RS: 239
4 Petter Solberg, Citroën DS3: 239
5 Sébastien Loeb, Peugeot 208: 209

2016 FIA WORLD RALLYCROSS CHAMPIONSHIP,

TEAMS’ CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS

1 EKS: 422
2 Team Peugeot Hansen: 387
3 Volkswagen RX Sweden: 316
4 Hoonigan Racing Division: 302
5 World RX Team Austria: 226

[Images: FIAWorldRallycross.com / Volkswagen RX Sweden]

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23 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen bids farewell to Polo R WRC with Rally Australia win

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Australia: Mikkelsen

Volkswagen Motorsport waved goodbye to four years of World Rally Championship domination with a final one-two victory at Rally Australia, the final round of the 2016 series. Volkswagen young-guns Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger lifted the trophy in Coffs Harbour, with four-time and 2016 World Champions* Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia in second place. The end-of-era win was the 43rd victory for the German team from Hannover which also tops the Manufacturers’ Championship* for 2016.

Exciting in-house battle
The Norwegians really did deserve the prize, as the pair led for over 94 per cent of the event’s 283.36kms of dusty and loose gravel stages. An exciting and closely-fought in-house battle with Ogier and Ingrassia proved a fitting send off for the record-breaking 318bhp four-wheel drive Polo R WRC, and ensured the car finished its service in the top-flight motorsport series on a high. Both Polo R WRC crews had unfavourable starting positions, too, given the ‘sweeping’ of the loose surface which was needed to clear a path through it.

Ogier and Ingrassia came top of the Shakedown pile, with their Norwegian team-mates close behind them. Mikkelsen and Jæger won five of the opening day’s eleven special stages to take an early lead, and finished in the top three on every stage to take a lead of 15.4 seconds. Ogier and Ingrassia produced a performance worthy of their world champion status to win four special stages, ending day one in second place overall.

Mikkelsen went on only to lose his lead once during the whole rally, when a bizarre incident almost cost him the event. His Polo R WRC’s clutch pedal bent and held down his brake pedal after the floor of his car was dented. A water bottle also wedged itself in the pedal area of his car, but the Norwegian solved these ‘interesting’ setbacks and claimed the third of his career wins and his first since Rally Poland back in July.

As magnificent as it was, Mikkelsen and Jæger’s final performance in the Polo R WRC sadly wasn’t enough to achieve second place in the 2016 Drivers’ Championship. Mikkelsen’s friend and rival Thierry Neuville finished the Australian event in third place, leap-frogging the second-placed Norwegian in the overall standings, finishing runner-up behind world champion Ogier. In the end, Neuville’s jump over his friend was narrow – just six points separated him and Mikkelsen – but for a driver who started his international WRC career at Volkswagen, it didn’t seem to matter.

> Read More

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08 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Comment: Volkswagen exits the World Rally Championship

After the 2016 running of Rally Australia, the Polo R WRC will be no more. PoloDriver.com editor Rich Gooding celebrates the Polo R WRC’s rallying success and analyses what Volkswagen’s withdrawal from the World Rally Championship means for the series in 2017, and what motorsport arena the company could have success in next

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Portugal: Latvala/Anttila

Even though Volkswagen’s exit from the World Rally Championship (WRC) from 2016 was officially confirmed last Wednesday, the shock announcement is still sinking in. Four-wheel drive, 318bhp rallying Polos have been part of my life for the past five years, since VW’s top-flight participation in one of the most exciting areas of motorsport was announced in Sardinia. It was then that the Polo R WRC concept car was also unveiled, signalling Volkswagen’s intent and desire to win.

Four-year dominance
And win it has. Massively so. It describes its four-year dominance of the sport as ‘four historically successful years’, and with twelve titles (Drivers’, Co-drivers’, and Manufacturers’ Championships) to its name since 2013, that’s quite a fitting description. Of the 51 international gravel and asphalt rallies the Polo R WRC had competed in, it took an amazing 42 wins with 621 best times from over 900 special stages. It remains the most successful car ever in the World Rally Championship.

Which makes the blow that there will not be a four-wheel drive super-Polo howling though the forests, sliding on the mud and dust-lined gravel tracks, and skimming across asphalt roads all the harder to take. It’s made all the regretful due to the fact that – at last – there may have been some road car correlation, too: the 2017 rally Polo was due to be badged ‘GTI’ or at least have the iconic three letters in its name.

Bulked-up looks, faster pace
With Audi’s withdrawal from the World Endurance Championship (WEC) racing series, the first seeds were planted for the cancellation of the WRC programme. But I for one, refused to believe it. The new Polo R WRC developed for 2017’s more exciting WRC regulations was far down the development road, even having been tested ahead of the 2016 Wales Rally GB just last month. Wrapped in its distinctive ‘zebra’ camouflage, its bulked-up looks, larger spoilers and faster pace promised so, so much.

2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC

Criminally, that car will now (or at least for the foreseeable future) never be seen and never turn a wheel in anger in public. At least two prototypes had been built. I would guess that they are now either due to be destroyed, or, I hope, tucked away for posterity. Decades later they may be re-discovered as a ‘what might have been’ car, just as has been the case with Audi’s Group S prototype this year. Rumour has it that nine complete 2017-specification machines were in the pipeline for next year.

It’s not known what will happen to the ‘series’ Polo R WRCs, too, although as they have been seen balletically dancing through global rally stages in front of fans, I’m more confident in their hideaway and keepsake fate being safe. Sources state that around 34 cars have been built, along with three ‘mock-ups’ for motor show appearances: that’s a lot of metal and composite to destroy.

> Read More

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05 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

‘Limited edition’ Polo GTI launched in India for Rs 25.99 lakh

2016 Volkswagen Polo GTI (India)

It’s been mooted for a long time, but finally the Polo GTI is available to buy in India. The car retails at Rs 25.99 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), but potential owners will need to be as quick as the 189bhp hot hatch – only 99 units will be available, as the car is a ‘limited edition’ for India. The car was first unveiled in February at the Auto Expo motor show in New Delhi, and differences for the Indian market include raised suspension and better dust-proofing.

16-inch ‘Salvador’ alloy wheels
The Indian-market hot Polo also comes with 16-inch ‘Salvador’ alloy wheels, one inch smaller than the European car. Also only available as a three-door, the high price is because the car comes only as a Completely Built Up (‘CBU’) model, which incurs higher taxes: Completely Knocked Down (‘CKD’) cars are cheaper, as parts of the finished vehicle are shipped to the the country of sale for assembly. Regular Polos for the local market are assembled in Volkswagen India’s Pune factory.

Performance is similar to its European sisters: the 1280kg Indian Polo GTI records a 0-62mph time of 7.2 seconds, while top speed is 146mph. Torque from its 1.8-litre turbocharged TSI engine is the same, too, at 184lb ft/250Nm. A seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox is standard. Equipment includes LED headlights, twin exhaust pipes, ‘XDS’ electronic limited slip differential, ‘Composition Media’ colour touchscreen infotainment system, multifunction steering wheel, and six airbags.

Marketed as ‘Volkswagen GTI’
The Polo GTI costs Rs 17 lakh more than its less hot 103bhp Polo GT sibling, which is priced at Rs 9.07 lakh. The Indian Polo GTI is marketed just as ‘Volkswagen GTI’, so Volkswagen India is clearly testing the water before launching any further performance models. The Indian Polo GTI’s closest rival is the 147bhp Rs 9.99 Abarth Punto. As well as Europe, the Polo GTI has also appeared in China: a 131bhp model was introduced in 2012 with a 1.4-litre TSI engine from the locally-made Lavida saloon.

Michael Mayer, Director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars India, said: ‘The GTI is one of its kind in the performance hatch segment and is designed for the petrol heads who are well versed with the GTI philosophy. It seamlessly blends power with comfort that guarantees performance and an adrenaline-packed driving experience. The one who drives a GTI need not to explain anything. He simply drives a statement. Volkswagen GTI remains the icon for all sporty cars and we are extremely proud to bring this phenomenon to India’.

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04 November 2016 ~ 0 Comments

Polo the seventh most popular UK car during October 2016

2016 Volkswagen Polo (UK)

The UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders has released its latest new car registration figures today and once again the Volkswagen Polo is in the top 10 most popular vehicle list. During October 2016, a total of 3519 Polos were registered, putting the car eighth in the top 10 table. For the year-to-date, the small VW sits one place higher, with 47,161 cars recorded.

Again, the Ford Fiesta tops both charts: 7806 cars were registered during September, while 103,945 small Ford registrations have been recorded during 2016 to this point. Overall, 180,168 new cars were registered in October 2016, which the SMMT states as ‘modest growth’ of 1.4 per cent. The UK’s top 10 most popular passenger cars during October 2016 and the year so far (sales figure and position in brackets) are as follows:

1 Ford Fiesta: 7806 (103,945, 1st)
2 Vauxhall Astra: 4985 (49,756, 6th)
3 Nissan Qashqai: 4945 (55,238, 5th)
4 Volkswagen Golf: 4520 (59,474, 4th)
5 Audi A3: 4,281 (37,521, 10th)
6 Ford Focus: 4096 (61,233, 3rd)
7 Vauxhall Corsa: 3906 (68,861, 2nd)
8 Volkswagen Polo: 3519 (47,161, 7th)
9 Nissan Juke: 3503
10 Kia Sportage: 3471

(The 2016 top 10 best-selling cars absent from last month’s sales figures are the eighth-placed Mini and the ninth-placed Mercedes-Benz C-Class with 39,913 and 37,918 cars registered respectively.)

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