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02 July 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa unwraps Golf 8 GTI Global Touring Car

PoloDriver.com may centre on Polos, but we’re big fans of other racing Volkswagens, too. And when it looks like this, the latest VW-badged racer from Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa piqued our interest. Ladies and gentleman, say ‘hello’ to the Golf GTI Global Touring Car.

That’s right, Global Touring Car (GTC). Different to the Golf GTI TCR which is raced in Europe, the GTI GTC has a chassis and running gear which is also common to other GTC racers. Other strict control measures include a single, shared ECU, tyres, suspension and other components. The GTC series was introduced in 2016, and is South Africa’s premier circuit racing series, and includes both the main GTC Championship (GTC1) as well as the second-tier GTC2 class. Five manufacturers will line up on the 2020 starting line when motorsport comes out of hibernation following the COVID-19 pandemic.

First motorsport-prepared Golf 8 GTI
Perhaps more significantly, the Golf GTI GTC is the first motorsport-prepared eight-generation Golf, and beats the road car to South Africa by at least six months. Reports state that the GTI GTC has around 500bhp and 442lb ft of torque from its highly-tuned ‘EA888’ engine, which has improved con-rods and pistons. ‘New features in the Golf 8 GTI racing car include an all-new chrome moly-tubular chassis which is much stiffer and lighter than the previous GTC Jetta,’ commented Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport at the car’s virtual unveiling today.

‘For the past four years we have been racing with the Jetta. Since the Jetta is no longer offered in right-hand drive markets, we had to find an appropriate successor, and that is where the idea to use the Golf 8 GTI came from. Even though the Golf 8 GTI will only be officially launched and available from South African dealers in 2021, we wanted to use this opportunity to showcase the Golf 8 GTI’s performance attributes ahead of the local market introduction,’ said Martina Biene, head of the Volkswagen Brand.

Newly developed SupaCup Polo
Two Golf GTI GTCs will compete in GTC1, driven by defending 2019 champion Keagan Masters and Daniel Rowe, winner of GTC2 in 2016. Volkswagen Motorsport will also be represented in the SupaCup, which replaces the GTC2 classification. The 2016 Driver Search winner and 2017 Polo Cup Rookie winner, Jonathan Mogotsi will be racing the SupaCup Polo, which is a newly developed car for the second tier class, producing 200kW and fitted with a locally sourced six-speed M-Trac sequential gearbox.

‘Even with five manufacturers competing in the GTC, it is one of the most premier circuit racing series in South Africa due to its competitive nature. It is a tough championship to win, consistent scoring of points at every round is very important,’ said Rowe. ‘Due to the COVID-19 pandemic we have not been permitted to race. All the motorsport fraternity is hoping that by August we can get the cars on the track, although it will most likely be without any spectators.’

The start of the official 2020 South African Motorsport circuit racing season is still unconfirmed, but it is hoped that motorsport events can resume in August 2020 and the first round will likely start at Zwartkops Raceway in Johannesburg.

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10 June 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Oliver Solberg opens the door to victory at Rally Sweden Lockdown

Day-to-day life has changed immeasurably under the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, and motorsport has seen a continual cancellation or postponement of events, with calendars notably shortened. No clear indication of when races will restart has left fans and drivers in limbo, but there are signs of a slow resurgence. Oliver Solberg, son of 2003 World Rally Champion Petter, won the maiden Rally Sweden Lockdown event, held in the afternoon of Sunday 7 June.

Co-driven by his mum Pernilla, 18-year-old Solberg Junior placed his Polo GTI R5 first ahead of some of the biggest names in Swedish motorsport at the Torsby-based event, the first real-life outing for the youngster and his VW since Rally Mexico back in March. The Torsby Sprint test – made famous because of its use at the end of Rally Sweden’s Power Stage – event was streamed live by broadcaster SVT1 with additional footage on WRC+.

Stringent regulations
Run under some of the most stringent regulations ever, with social distancing and coronavirus awareness at the forefront of everybody’s minds, the event was praised by officials for getting the sport up and running again. To keep everyone safe, the event was run behind ‘closed doors’ with no spectators permitted.

Young Solberg edged ahead of his former WRC 2 and Asia Pacific Rally Championship-winning cousin Pontus Tidemand by 1.2 seconds over the 2.6km stage, his Monster Energy-backed Polo GTI R5 also beating 2016 World Rallycross champion Mattias Ekström. Pernilla played her part in the victory by calling the pacenotes, the first time the mum-and-son team have competed together.

But, much as Oliver and Pernilla were delighted with their debut victory, they were both even happier to be competing again, and very, very grateful to the organising team who pulled the event together in some of the strangest circumstances in history.

‘A really tight fight’
‘It was a really tight fight at the end,’ said Oliver, ‘but to win is something special for me and my mum. It’s been a long time out of the car and I want to say a very big thanks to everybody who made this happen – the organisers and, of course, SVT for the television coverage. They have done an amazing job. It’s easy to sit at home and think: “I wish we could go rallying again…” but these guys stood up and made it happen. Thank you.

‘To drive behind these Monster Energy colours again was fantastic. It was great fun. The road was pretty rough in the end and that was tricky because we were having to push hard to stay ahead of Pontus. The competition has been amazing and so much fun!’ he exclaimed.

The lockdown event saw Pernilla maintain her outstanding Swedish record of success, having won four from the last five Rally Sweden Historics. ‘This was the first time I co-drove for Oliver, and I have to say, I was very impressed with how he listened and committed to the notes. Like Oliver said, we have to thank so many people for their efforts today. Of course SVT and the organisers, but also all the marshals and the Torsby community for making this happen and pulling this amazing Sunday afternoon off,’ she said.

‘I’m so proud to be Oliver’s mum today. He was fantastic and driving really, really well. ‘Now we want to look forward to the second half of the 2020 rallying season and hope we have more events to come. Rally Sweden Lockdown has been fantastic, but I hope this is the only time we need to run an event like this!”

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21 May 2020 ~ 0 Comments

21 May 1990: the first Polo rolls off the line at Volkswagen’s Zwickau factory

Now the jewel in Volkswagen’s electric vehicle production crown, the company’s Zwickau factory is home to the first model in the era of ‘new Volkswagen’, the ID 3. However, three decades ago, the first Volkswagen to roll off the production line at the former East German factory in the Mosel region was a Polo.

The DM17,410 Alpine White Polo CL ‘DDR’ (Deutsche Demokratik Republik, East Germany) built on 21 May 1990 was the first of 2,525 Zwickau-assembled Polos that year. Initial Polo production got underway at the rate of 50 units per day, built from ‘knock-down’ kits. Fitted with a catalytic converter and a 1272cc, 55bhp four-cylinder engine, a total of 17,978 Polos were built at Zwickau until February 1991, when the car’s place on the production line was replaced by the second-generation Golf.

Communist-era car
A former Trabant factory, Volkswagen’s takeover of the Zwickau plant was completed in on 26 September 1990. The little communist-era German car born in 1957 had enjoyed a more modern engine during 1989-1990 with the fitment of the 1093 cc unit from the second-generation Polo, and so Volkswagen thought it made sense to build the small Volkswagen in East Germany, too. The cleaner-powered ‘Trabi’ began to banish its noisy, smoky, and two-stroke reputation in favour of a more environmentally-friendly image. Before the Trabant chapter in the Zwickau story, there are more links back to the Volkswagen Group was we know it today. Horch founder August Horch settled in the city in 1904, and brought with him the brand that bared his name, as well as Audi, DKW, and Auto Union.

The second-generation Polos built at Zwickau were identical to those coming off the lines at Volkswagen’s ‘home’ plant in Wolfsburg. Based on the first-generation Polo’s chassis, a very different body ensured that there was no mistaking the new car for the old. Styled like a small estate car, the second-generation Polo had improved engines, more practical features, and increased comfort. Clever ‘Formel E’ versions pioneered some of the BlueMotion technology enjoyed by more recent Volkswagens.

All-electric offensive
Fittingly, the factory which once produced a much cleaner range of Polos, is not spearheading Volkswagen’s all-electric offensive. The new ID 3, the company’s first purpose-designed, electric hatchback goes is available to order now, and the first examples silently emerged from the plant in November 2019. Marked by a lavish opening ceremony attended by German chancellor Angela Merkel, the factory now solely produces fully electric vehicles. The ID 4 SUV will be the next new car to roll off the lines.

Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH, as the factory is now known, now employs over 10,000 people at three locations, a massive increase on the 500 staff when that first Polo was built there in May 1990. A phased €1.2 billion e-mobility manufacturing transformation of the Zwickau factory will see a total of six all-electric models produced at the plant from 2021, with cars from Audi and SEAT added to the pair of ‘new era’ VWs.

Highly automated production lines
A total of 330,000 vehicles will be produced annually by the highly automated production lines, and it won’t be the first time other Volkswagen Group cars will have been made at the Mosel factory: bodies and chassis of Bentleys have been made there since 2001, with those of the Lamborghini Urus joining them in 2017. The luxurious Phaeton also had its bodies built at the historic former East German plant. The Polo may have played a small part in the Volkswagen Zwickau story, but being the first car to roll off the line wearing the fabled VW roundel, its role was a very important one. It helped established a vital grounding for what will now be a blueprint for Volkswagen factories of the future.

Update: the Zwickau factory produced its final internal combustion-engined car on 26 June 2020. Since 1990, a total of 6,049,207 Volkswagen cars have been produced at the plant, and the final petrol-engined car was an Oryx White Pearl Effect Golf R Estate. As well as the Polo, Golf, Golf Estate, Passat and Passat Estate models have also rolled off the Zwickau production lines. The ID 3 which replaces all of them at the factory, will also be produced at Volkswagen’s Transparent Factory in Dresden from 2021.

MOSEL MILESTONES: THE LIFE AND CARS OF ZWICKAU

1904
10 May
August Horch moves his company to Zwickau, and establishes A. Horch & Cie. Motorwagenwerke AG.


1957
Trabant production starts at the Zwickau factory, now named VEB Sachsenring Automobilwerke.

1990
21 May
First ‘GDR’ Volkswagen produced.
August Trabant production ends (Trabants fitted with Volkswagen Polo engines from 1989).
26 September Ground broken for new automobile factory.
12 December Volkswagen Sachsen GmbH formed.

1991
15 February
Volkswagen Golf production starts in a new purpose-built factory.
October 20,000th Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

1992
23 July
Third-generation Volkswagen Golf production begins.
September 100,000th Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

1993
September
Volkswagen Golf Ecomatic production starts exclusively at Zwickau.

1994
February
All-electric Volkswagen Golf CitySTOMER production begins.
August 250,000th Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

1996
Volkswagen Passat joins Golf on the production line.

1998
Annual production capacity reaches 250,000 vehicles.

1999
9 July
One millionth Volkswagen produced at Zwickau.

2001
Bentley and Volkswagen Phaeton bodies enter production.

2003
One millionth Volkswagen Passat produced at Zwickau.

2005
Zwickau Volkswagen Golf production reaches one million.

2016

Volkswagen Phaeton body production ends, Bentley Bentayga body production starts.

2017
Lamborghini Urus body production starts.

2018
Transformation to an e-vehicle production hub begins, with a 1.2 billion euro investment. From 2022, 330,000 electric cars will be produced at Zwickau, including six models for three brands: Volkswagen, Audi and SEAT.

2019
4 November
Volkswagen ID 3 pre-production begins, with the build goal of 1,500 units per day.

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11 May 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Polo and Vento TSI Editions offer sports-inspired value

With looks inspired by the Golf GTI TCR, limited run Polo and Vento TSI Editions have been launched by Volkswagen India. Based on the Highline Plus versions of both models but with added sporty flourishes, the Polo TSI Edition costs Rs 7.89 lakh, the Vento TSI Edition Rs 10.99 lakh.

Powered by a 108bhp, BS6-compliant turbocharged 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine, both the new limited edition Polo and Vento are offered with a six-speed manual gearbox. Outside, special Golf GTI TCR-like honeycomb body decals lift the now 11-year-old fifth-generation Polo design. A 6C Polo GTI bumper and honeycomb grille also inject some pizazz, along with ‘TSI Power’ graphics, gloss black mirror caps, and a gloss black roof and rear spoiler. A set of 16-inch alloy ‘Portago’ wheels borrowed from the Indian-market Polo GT also feature.

High level of equipment
Based on the Polo and Vento Highline Plus, the TSI Editions share the a similar high level of equipment. Standard kit includes an auto-dimming interior mirror, Climatronic automatic air conditioning, cruise control, electrically-operated and folding door mirrors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a ‘Moonstone’ centre console finish, rain-sensing wipers, and a touchscreen infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity. When compared to the Highline Plus models, the Polo TSI Edition is priced at Rs 13,000 less, while the Vento TSI Edition represents a saving of Rs 1 lakh over the Vento Highline Plus.

A brochure can be downloaded here, and both the Polo and Vento TSI Editions are available to order now. Bookings can be made via the Volkswagen India website.

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24 April 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Pirelli named official exclusive tyre supplier for the Polo GTI R5

Italian tyre manufacturer Pirelli has been appointed as official exclusive supplier to the Polo GTI R5. Volkswagen Motorsport states that from 2020, its customer sports rally car will be delivered exclusively with Pirelli competition tyres, and that its new partner will also now supply the car’s rubber for testing sessions.

Since the start of the year, the 270bhp four-wheel drive rallying Polo has been fitted with 235/40 R18 (size 20/65 18) asphalt Pirelli rubber. Official fitments will now be the P Zero RA for asphalt surfaces – in hard, medium, soft and supersoft compounds – the Scorpion K for gravel, and the Sottozero Ice and Sottozero Snow for events in winter conditions.

‘Great success in rallying’
‘We are delighted to welcome Pirelli as an official supplier of the Volkswagen customer rallying project,’ said Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets. ‘Pirelli is synonymous with great success in rallying and is very prevalent in international and national series held in accordance with R5 regulations. This way, our customers receive top-class and extremely successful tyre technology with the delivery of their Polo GTI R5.’

‘The technology contained within our rally tyres is born from a long experience at the top of motorsport,’ said Terenzio Testoni, Pirelli’s rally activity manager. ‘Our latest collaboration with Volkswagen on the Polo GTI R5 highlights the close collaboration that Pirelli enjoys with the world’s leading car makers to develop the best possible interaction between cars and tyres, delivering maximum performance in competition.’

A celebrated partnership
Since its debut at the 2018 Rally Spain, the Polo GTI R5 has celebrated four titles, 75 overall victories and class wins, as well as 150 podium results in the hands of customer teams. Fifty cars were delivered up to the end of 2019. Volkswagen’s motorsport association with Pirelli dates back as far as 1976, when the Italian tyre maker was the exclusive supplier for the first VW one-make series, the Scirocco-starring Volkswagen Junior Cup. In rallying, Pirelli and Volkswagen were crowned Group A world champions together in 1986. More recently, Pirelli, VW Motorsport and the Polo GTI R5 won titles in Estonia and Latvia with Oliver Solberg and Aaron Johnston.

Pirelli’s motorsport history stretches back over 110 years, and the Milanese firm has celebrated notable successes on the race track and rally stages. It debuted in the inaugural season of the World Rally Championship in 1973, and subsequently won 25 world championship titles and 181 race wins, with the P7 and P Zero among its roll-call of successes. Among its most acclaimed victories include WRC wins with Richard Burns/Robert Reid in 2001, Petter Solberg/Phil Mills in 2003, and Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena in 2008. Pirelli will also supply the top most category in the WRC for the coming season.

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