03 January 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Al-Attiyah confirms no Polo R WRC
in 2017 FIA World Rally Championship

2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC

With the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) due to get underway with this month’s Rally Monte-Carlo on 19 January, it has been confirmed that there will be no Polo R WRCs on the entry list. Rumours circulated at the end of 2016 that 2015 Dakar Rally winner Nasser Al-Attiyah was looking to enter the car privately as almost all of the development work has already been completed by Volkswagen Motorsport.

Lack of time
Lack of time proved the ultimate stumbling block however, as the 2017 iteration of the world championship-winning Polo was close to homologation. Al-Attiyah commented to motorsport.com that ‘time was very limited’, and that despite his plan – which was backed by the Qatari sovereign wealth fund which owns 14.6 per cent of the Volkswagen Group – sadly the deal just did not happen in an acceptable timeframe.

It had been reported in the Finnish press before Christmas 2016 that around 15m euros would have been pumped into the project by the Qatari fund, and that each 2017-specification Polo R WRC would cost in the region of 10m euros. Now that the car will not run this year, the focus has now switched to ensure that all-conquering rallying Polo is back to contest the 2018 series.

Unconfirmed rumours also suggested that VW may have been eligible to enter a pair of Polos into the 2017 WRC series to ensure that the homologation process – which was already underway – was complete. However, the overall cost of the 2017 programme would have had to be met privately and not by Volkswagen itself.

Nasser Al-Attiyah

Two-car squad
Current and four-time world rally champion Sébastien Ogier was mooted to make up a two-car squad with Al-Attiyah (above), but again, time wasn’t on the now departed VW driver’s side. The Frenchman had a limited period in which to make up his mind to secure a seat for the Monte-Carlo event, after VW’s shock announcement in November that 2016 would be its last year of WRC participation. Ogier has since signed for M-Sport, and will start his 2017 season on the start ramp in Monte-Carlo behind the wheel of the new Ford Fiesta WRC.

Even though the 2017 Polo R WRC may not compete, there may be hope for the already proven 2016 machine. A new WRC Trophy class has been created especially for 2016-specification cars, with drivers scoring points on a maximum of seven rallies, with the best six results counting towards drivers’ and co-drivers’ titles. There was talk of Al-Attiyah competing in a 2016-spec Polo R WRC before the collapse of the 2017 car deal, but there has been no confirmation of the current rallying Polo’s inclusion.

At the end of November, Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets hinted to wrc.com that a slew of ex-championship Polos would be available for customer use in 2017: ‘I am happy to announce that we can rent out the 2016 cars next year. It’s something new for us, and we have had some contact already because news and interest spreads quickly. After the 2016 Rally Australia we will take this up on a first-come-first-served basis’.

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