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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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11 March 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Polo rises two places in UK’s most popular new cars chart

The Volkswagen Polo was the seventh most popular car in the UK during February 2020, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). With 1,451 Polos finding new homes, the small Volkswagen is eighth in the year-to-date top ten rundown – a total of 3,787 have been registered since the start of 2020.

The Volkswagen Golf topped the chart with 3,457 registrations, just as the eighth-generation model starts to appear in UK retailers, with the Ford Fiesta in second place. Longstanding chart stalwarts Ford Focus, Vauxhall Corsa and Mercedes-Benz A-Class rounded out the top five.

Overall, UK registrations fell 2.9 per cent in February to 79,594 units, as demand from private buyers declined again. It was a good month for battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars, though, with 4,566 joining the UK roads but at just 5.8 per cent, their market share remains low. The UK’s top ten most popular new cars during February 2020 and the year-to-date (sales figure and position in brackets) were as follows:

1 Volkswagen Golf: 3,457 (7,484, 3rd)

2 Ford Fiesta: 3,123 (9,210, 1st)
3 Ford Focus: 2,784 (8,051, 2nd)
4 Vauxhall Corsa: 1,871 (6,244, 4th)
5 Mercedes-Benz A-Class: 1,648 (4,862, 6th)
6 Vauxhall Grandland X: 1,540 (3,801, 7th)
7 Volkswagen Polo: 1,451 (3,787, 8th)
8 Mini: 1,339
9 Nissan Qashqai: 1,293 (5,901, 5th)

10 BMW 5 Series: 1,286

(The 2020 year-to-date top ten most popular cars absent from February 2020’s UK registration figures were the ninth-placed BMW 3 Series and the tenth-placed Kia Sportage with 3,648 and 3,386 units recorded respectively.)

Polo Vivo is registration champion
Once again, the Polo Vivo topped the new car registrations charts in South Africa, with 2,417 cars rolling out of retailers. The latest National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (NAAMSA) figures state that the sixth-generation Polo was again in second place with 2,120 units sold, with an additional 10,409 exported from Volkswagen South Africa’s Uitenhage plant. The Polo-based T-Cross registered a total of 463 cars, while 540 traditionally styled Polo Sedans left the forecourts.

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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 268bhp, 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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28 February 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen makes it official: first details of new Polo sedan released

Following on its Volkswagen’s recent design sketches, the company has released the first official images of the new Russian and international-market Polo sedan. The car’s Skoda Rapid-based origins are obvious, and the car will be built at Volkswagen’s Kaluga factory in Russia, alongside its Czech stablemate.

Appearing less sleek than the car depicted in the sketches, the Skoda heritage of the new Polo sedan is most obvious in the side profile. The car bears a resemblance to the 2012–2018 SEAT Toledo, too, which was also based on the Skoda Rapid. However, the front does have the Jetta-inspired grille as shown in the preliminary sketches, which also borrows cues from Volkswagen’s newest batch of SUVs. LED headlights are standard as is VW’s new style of roundel badge. At the rear, the tail lights take current VW design forms, as does centred ‘POLO’ badging. A pair of fake exhaust finishers add a finishing touch.

Interior update
Inside, the car has had more of an update. Volkswagen’s 10.25-inch Active Info Display digital instrument set-up is optional, and the car’s colour touchscreen infotainment systems are available in 6.5 or 8.25-inch sizes. A steering wheel which borrows style from the new all-electric ID 3 is also emblazoned with VW’s new corporate logo, while the air conditioning controls are also different from the sixth-generation Polo, which is based on the ‘MQB’ platform. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a USB-C port will take the new Polo notchback into the digital age. The new model sits on the Volkswagen Group’s older ‘PQ25’ chassis which also underpinned the fifth-generation Polo and it’s Vento-based saloon sister.

Three petrol engines power the new Polo sedan. As expected, a naturally-aspirated 1.6-litre four-cylinder gives outputs of 88 and 108bhp, mated to a five-speed manual gearbox. A six-speed automatic can be specified on the higher-output version. A 1.4-litre, turbocharged TSI model has 123bhp and is allied to a seven-speed DSG gearbox as standard. The wheelbase and length of the booted Polo has grown with the introduction of the new model, up by 49mm and 93mm respectively. Luggage space has grown by 90 litres to 550 litres. On sale in the summer, the new Polo sedan will arrive in four trim levels for the Russian market: Origin, Respect, Status and Exclusive.

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