29 March 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Motorsport announces new Polo R5 rally car testing plans

2015 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Portugal: Volkswagen Service

With the launch of the sixth-generation Polo imminent, Volkswagen has announced it plans to start testing the ‘R5’ rally version of its new supermini later this year. Coincidentally, this will most likely in September, around the time the road-going version of car makes its first public appearance at the Frankfurt motor show. The new rally challenger will be eligible for the WRC2 support category of the FIA World Rally Championship.

Four years of dominance
Focusing on customer activities after the withdrawal from top-flight WRC activities after four years of dominance with the Polo R WRC from 2013-2016, the R5 car will be built by Volkswagen Motorsport at its Hanover base. Development of the car is already underway and as well as a four-wheel drive chassis, the jointly-developed VW/Škoda 1.6-litre turbocharged engine from the successful Fabia R5 is expected to appear.

The outfit’s experience of twelve major title wins will also play a vital part in the new Polo R5’s make-up. Development of the 315bhp, four-wheel drive all-conquering Polo R WRC followed a similar path: pre-competition components were tested on a fleet of Škoda Fabia S2000s which contested the 2011 and 2012 World Rally Championships ahead of the Polo R WRC’s debut on the 2013 Monte-Carlo Rally. The current Škoda Fabia R5’s engine pumps out around 280bhp and is being further optimised for the new Polo R5, which will be available to customer teams in 2018, following a summer homologation.

Although the new car will mark Volkswagen’s return to the FIA World Rally Championship, autosport.com has reported that the Polo R5 will not be fielded by a factory team. Škoda enters its Fabia R5 in rounds of the European Rally Championship, as well as the WRC2 support series. Continuing his link with the stillborn 2017 Polo R WRC, Marcus Grönholm will continue to help develop the R5 machine.

‘Tried-and-tested’
With development of the full-fat 2017 Polo R WRC almost complete, the plug was pulled on Volkswagen Motorsport’s official works WRC programme in November, but director Sven Smeets has commented that plans for customer teams to run the 2016 version of the title-winning car are underway: ‘There is customer interest in running the tried-and-tested Polo R WRC at various rallies. Our to-do list is very full,’ he said.

That to-do list includes a focus on the Golf GTI TCR – the touring car version of the legendary hatchback which runs in the International TCR series – as well as supporting global and world rallycross series. The 2017 FIA World Rallycross Championship sees the outfit lend its technical support to Petter Solberg’s PSRX team, which, with the backing of Volkswagen Sweden, is fielding a pair of 570bhp Polo GTI Supercars in the twelve-round series: one each for Solberg himself and 2016 runner-up Johan Kristoffersson.

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