Archive | Motorsport

16 March 2020 ~ 0 Comments

2020 Oettinger Polo Cup: Busi and Oates triumph at season-opener

The 24th season of Volkswagen South Africa’s one-make Polo racing series got underway at Zwartkops Raceway on 12-13 March. Dario Busi and Darren Oates emerged as winners in Pretoria, with Busi leaving the first round of the 2020 Oettinger Polo Cup with the championship lead.

Competitive times
Three practice sessions in the rain on the 1.5-mile circuit did little to dampen the drivers’ spirits, and a field of competitive times ensured the racing would be tightly exciting. Newcomer Jean-Pierre van der Walt and Capetonian Jurie Umpie Swart proved to be the ones to watch – Swart went fastest in two of the day’s three sessions. Following qualifying, the Superpole flying laps session determined the starting order of the fastest six drivers, and Capetonian Dario Busi clinched his maiden pole position, setting a time of 1:11.386. Three tenths of a second faster than Justin Oates, Clinton Bezuidenhout was third. Swart was fourth.

Busi was flying from the start of race one, with the chasing pack of identical 197bhp racing Polo GTIs staying close and tight. There was little jostling for position, and as he charged towards the checkered flag, Busi opened up a gap. He crossed the finishing line 4.9 seconds ahead of his rivals. Justin Oates’ Polo was the second to pass under the flag with Bezuidenhout claiming the final podium position. Busi was overjoyed with his first ever win. ‘It was a great race and a fantastic feeling to control it from the front. This must be the best-handling car I’ve ever driven. Let’s see if we can get another podium in the next race,’ he said.

Fierce attack
A draw determined the starting order for the second race, with Darren and Justin Oates taking first and second places on the grid respectively. Busi started from row two, alongside Van der Walt with Arnold Neveling and Swart completing the top six. The Oates brothers almost collided shortly after the lights turned green which allowed ‘master’ (a category for those aged over 35) driver Van der Walt to make the most of the situation. The Johannesburg businessman fought off a fierce attack from Darren Oates and Busi, and a small mistake halfway through the race saw him slip down to fifth.

Darren Oates led the pack of 20 cars, and despite being under pressure from Busi, defended his advantage to cross the line first. Neveling crossed the line in fourth ahead of Swart and early race leader Van der Walt. When the times for both races were added to determine the day’s overall results, Busi was at the top of the standings ahead of Justin Oates and Bezuidenhout, and left Zwartkops the championship leader.

‘The guys at the front of the field gave us two very competitive and for the most part also clean races,’ said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen South Africa Motorsport. ‘They all drove well and set the scene for a very competitive season ahead. The Oettinger Polo Cup is also all about developing future stars and there were also a few noteworthy results, albeit from a little further down the order,’ he added. ‘It’s dangerous to make any predictions in motorsport and with so many fast and talented drivers all staking their claim so early on it’s impossible to predict how this year’s championship will end. But one thing is for certain: it’s going to be very exciting.’

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06 March 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Oettinger Polo Cup gears up for the 2020 motorsport season

South Africa’s most successful racing series enters its 24th consecutive season in 2020, and gains a new name for a new decade. Previously known as the Engen Volkswagen Cup and the Volkswagen Polo Cup South Africa among other names, the series has a new title sponsor for 2020 and will be known as the Oettinger Polo Cup.

Replacing Falken as the headline sponsor, the Oettinger brand is officially returning to South Africa thanks to the efforts of Universal Healthcare’s team owner and driver Dr Johan Pretorius who acquired the South African rights to the revered tuning brand late in 2019. Falken, Ferodo and Total will remain sponsors supporting the eight-event series which kicks off at Zwartkops Raceway in Pretoria.

Showcase for young driving talent
A total of 25, technically identical 197bhp Polo GTIs will line-up on the starting grid at the first round on 14 March, all piloted by the country’s best up and coming young drivers. A showcase for young driving talent for the past 23 years, the 2020 series continues that long commitment. ‘The Oettinger Polo Cup is extremely competitive where fractions of a second could mean the difference between winning and losing,’ said Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport South Africa.

‘In such an environment, it is crucial that the elements that make up a race car work seamlessly together. With that as a backdrop, we are delighted that quality brands such as Oettinger, Falken and Total choose to partner with Volkswagen to showcase their products and brands. It will also ensure that each round of the Oettinger Polo Cup remains a highlight on the racing calendar,’ he continued.

‘Over the years, the Oettinger Polo Cup has been a successful proving ground for South Africa’s best drivers to develop their talents and racecraft and hone their skills,’ said Rowe. ‘When these drivers move on, space opens up to accommodate a new wave of youngsters who will become the next generation of champions. This is why Volkswagen as a company and as a responsible investor in the markets in which we operate is extremely proud of what the Polo Cup has achieved in terms of development over the years, and we are excited that the new-look Oettinger Polo Cup will continue to do so going forward,’ he added.

‘Synonymous with Volkswagen’
‘Oettinger has been famous for tuning Volkswagens for more than 70 years. The brand is synonymous with Volkswagen and it’s a pleasure for us to bring it back to South Africa,’ said Dr Pretorius. ‘For us, it was the perfect fit to get involved with the country’s most competitive racing series which happens to consist of 25 Volkswagen Polo GTIs and we hope that by us and Volkswagen joining forces, the Oettinger Polo Cup will continue to go from strength to strength,’ he added.

Falken Tyres, the 2019 title sponsor will continue to support the series as the official tyre partner and all the competing Polos will be shod with the company’s slick racing rubber. ‘We are excited to continue our mutually beneficial relationship with the Oettinger Polo Cup,’ said Riaz Haffejee, CEO of Sumitomo Rubber SA (Sumitomo Dunlop), the company responsible for the Falken Tyres brand in South Africa. ‘The series provides us with the perfect platform to showcase these quality products and we expect to see more of the same this season.’

All the race-ready Polo GTIs will not only sport identical rubber, but will also be powered by the same fuel courtesy of Total and its Excellium brand. ‘Motorsport is about creating a winning image, but it also provides an opportunity for real-world testing. To see so many performance Volkswagen Polos performing at their peak is exactly what we want to see at Total and we’ll continue to follow the series with great interest in 2020,’ said Sanjeev Sheosanker, retail fuels sales manager at Total SA. Stopping power will once again be provided by brake component manufacturer Ferodo who continue its long-lasting relationship with the series.

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05 March 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Motorsport fine tunes Polo GTI R5 with a package of updates

Despite its recent announcement to focus its motorsport strategy on electric mobility, Volkswagen Motorsport has revealed plans to technically fine tune the Polo GTI R5 rally car over the course of the next 12 months. The 270bhp, four-wheel drive special stage star has over 125 podium finishes to its name up to the end of 2019.

Following on from the multi-championship-winning Polo R WRC, the latest rallying Polo is sold by Volkswagen Motorsport as part of its customer sport programme, and has been overwhelmingly successful around the world. Findings from these global events have fed back into the updating of the car, and the Polo GTI R5 will be the recipient of upgraded suspension components in the spring 2020, with other modified parts to follow over the course of the year.

Package of improvements
Several cars have already been delivered to teams with new chassis components, but a larger package of improvements will be added over the next 12 months. These detail changes will be homologated for use in competitions including the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), FIA European Rally Championship (ERC), and other national championships. As well as the improved mechanical upgrades, production of the rallying Polo is also being stepped up to meet the huge demand – 20 per cent more Polo GTI R5 than initially planned will now be built in 2020. Production will also continue beyond 2020.

‘The success story of the Polo GTI R5 is overwhelming. In customer hands, it has claimed more than 75 victories and 125 podium finishes up to the end of 2019,’ said Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets. ‘However, it is not only the success of our customers that is important to us, but also their experience in a wide range of conditions – whether on asphalt, gravel, or ice and snow. Our engineers use this feedback to make detailed improvements to the Polo GTI R5. Our goal is to ensure that the Polo GTI R5 remains successful.’

‘Comprehensive feedback’
‘If you are not moving forward, you are always moving backward in the world of motorsport,’ said François-Xavier Demaison, technical director at Volkswagen Motorsport. ‘As such, it is hugely important to be constantly working on ideas for improved performance and durability. Thanks to the comprehensive feedback we receive from our customers, we have been working on updates for the Polo GTI R5 since 2019 and the first detailed improvements are already being delivered to customers.’

To facilitate the updates, Volkswagen Motorsport states that ‘countless amounts of feedback’ from teams and drivers currently running the Polo GTI R5 in series from locations as far and wide as the Arctic Circle to Africa, and North and South America to Europe, have been collected and analysed. A professional feedback system now makes the process simpler and more direct.

Despite the statement that ‘a clear emphasis on fully electric racing cars will be backed up by the farewell to factory-backed commitments using internal combustion engines’ which Volkswagen Motorsport released in November 2019, the Polo GTI R5 remains, for now at least, an integral part of Volkswagen Motorsport’s customer sport offering. In the same statement, the Hanover outfit said it will still be responsible for continued customer support, spare parts supply and the competitiveness of the rallying Polo, it was just factory-backed competition entries with the GTI R5 that will no longer go ahead.

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07 February 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Motorsport India unveils new 2020 Race Polo

Volkswagen Motorsport India is celebrating 10 years of its one-make racing success in 2020 with the return of its competition Polo. The Polo burst onto India’s motorsport scene with the Volkswagen Polo Cup back in 2010 and at the Auto Expo 2020 event in New Delhi, Volkswagen India took the wraps off the newest version of its race Polo. The new racer will power onto circuits later this year, and replace the Ameo Cup.

Showcasing TSI technology, Volkswagen Motorsport India’s 2020 Race Polo is powered by a version of the fifth-generation Polo GTI’s 1.8-litre petrol engine delivering 210bhp and 236lb ft (320Nm) of torque, with a push-to-pass option which unleashes an extra 20bhp. Mated to a six-speed sequential gearbox and limited slip differential, the new Race Polo – which is based on the fifth-generation car, still the most current model in India – also features an electronic shift actuator for speedy gear changes and adheres to international standards of motorsport safety.

Sirish Vissa, head of Volkswagen Motorsport said: ‘The Polo continues to be the most loved hatchback among Indian customers. We are thrilled to bring the race version of the Polo back to the Indian racing circuit, enabling our Indian drivers to experience this powerful hatch. As a brand, we relentlessly make efforts towards providing the best of technologies to our Indian drivers.’

‘Fun-to-drive experience’
Unveiled alongside the all-electric ID Crozz, Steffen Knapp, director, Volkswagen Passenger Cars said: ‘We, at Volkswagen, take immense pride in showcasing our best technology to the Indian customers through the ID Crozz and Race Polo. The two are symbols of Volkswagen’s ground breaking and innovative technologies that continue to offer Volkswagen’s core DNA of safety, build quality and fun-to-drive experience.’

The 2020 Volkswagen India one-make Polo series has already had its driver selection process, with over 1,300 applications for the 11th edition of the championship. A series of tests including assessments for aptitude, driving skills, and fitness took place in January. ‘It is a proud moment for us to mention that with a decade’s presence in India, Volkswagen continues to be the only OEM directly involved in motorsport. With the eleventh edition of this championship, Volkswagen would like to reiterate its continued commitment in promoting motorsport in India,’ Vissa noted.

Ten years of success
The Volkswagen Polo Cup India was launched in 2010, and featured 1.6-litre, diesel-powered Polo racers. In 2012 the championship switched to TSI petrol power and changed its name to the Volkswagen Polo R Cup India. DSG gearboxes were also introduced. The Polo’s saloon sister, the Vento was tested for the first in the Indian Touring Cars (ITC) Championship, and the one-make baton was passed to the Vento in 2015. The Volkswagen Vento Cup India bowed out to the Ameo Cup in 2017, which used racing versions of India’s Polo-based sub-compact saloon, the Ameo.

[Images: Volkswagen India]

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28 January 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Solberg and Polo GTI R5 slide into impressive Rallye Monte-Carlo debut



Norwegian up-and-coming rally star Oliver Solberg took on the 2020 Rallye Monte-Carlo in a Polo GTI R5 and although his participation was just to gain experience during his first tarmac event, the son of rallying and rallycross ace Petter Solberg posted hugely impressive times in his Monster Energy-backed Volkswagen.

The 18-year-old is a seasoned Polo GTI R5 helmsman, having contested numerous European Rally Championship events last season. Along with co-driver Aaron Johnston, Solberg took a hat-trick of titles in 2019 (Latvia Rally champion, the Baltic Rally Trophy and an Estonian class win) aboard the Polo GTI R5. The pair also took on Wales Rally GB, their first World Rally Championship (WRC) event.

A measured approach
For the 189-mile Monte test (23-26 January), a measured approach was the order of the day. Safe tyre choices and sensible lines translated into gained knowledge and experience, but there were still respectable pace. The Monster Energy Polo posted a third fastest R5 class time on the second run at the Cubans – Venterol test, but later clipped a kerb with the left-rear wheel, the ever-eager Solberg revelling in his and Johnston’s first running of the legendary event. It was one of the event’s lessons given to the young driver.

‘Even when I hit the kerb, at literally walking speed, I learned so much. I used the handbrake to rotate the car, but on the ice it slid too far. The wheel hit the kerb at a really low speed, but at the wrong angle. We broke a bolt in the suspension and had to stop and make the repair ourselves. I always said I wasn’t coming here for the race, I was coming here to learn and I have learned so much!’ As well as the knowledge the duo took away, they finished 16th in the WRC2 class and 25th overall.

A particular highlight was the stage over the infamous Col de Turini. ‘Like every rally fan, for my whole life I watched cars coming over this incredible mountain road and to be there, to drive through that atmosphere with so many fans was just unbelievable. I’ll never forget it.’

‘Just incredible’
The Norwegian superstar-in-waiting really enjoyed his first Monte, which took place in a range of ever-changing weather conditions. ‘Everything everybody told me about the Monte was true. It is such a difficult rally. So difficult! Everything we did on this event was new. I’ve never competed on tarmac before, everything we had done in the previous years had been getting ready for gravel rallies – which are the ones we will be doing most. We had a test before this event, but when we came to these conditions it was just incredible.

‘Everybody said we would be on the wrong tyres for a lot of the time and this was exactly how it was. We were on the ice tyres for a long time on Saturday morning, doing these huge slides as the studs have no grip on the dry asphalt. All the time I was thinking: “Is this right?” And then you come to the full ice and snow and the tyre is perfect. Then you think: “Yes! This is right!”

‘It was a real compromise of everything, but you have to come here to learn that and if you go to the ditch on the first day then you learn nothing. Sometimes I was maybe wanting to push a little bit harder, but I knew there was too much at risk. The problem is, I can’t wait another 12 months to come back – I want to go and do it all again now.’

Solberg Junior will pilot the Polo GTI R5 on more rallies during 2020, but will also slip behind the wheel of a works Škoda Motorsport-supported Fabia Rally2 evo for three of the season’s rounds. The Norwegian’s Fabia-ulous WRC assault starts at Rally Sweden on 13 February. ‘We will still drive the Polo on some rounds,’ said Solberg, who made his WRC debut at Wales Rally GB in October 2019. ‘The main thing for me now is to try to make experience on as many WRC rounds as possible this year.’

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