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21 July 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Solberg and slew of Polo GTI R5s to take tarmac test at Rally di Roma Capitale

Polo GTI R5 pilot and young rallying superstar Oliver Solberg will make his full asphalt debut at the 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale event, over the weekend of 24-26 July. Winner of Rally Sweden Lockdown and son of ex-world champ Petter, Solberg Junior is a newcomer to tarmac stages, even though his Monster Energy-liveried Polo GTI R5 completed the 2020 Rallye Monte-Carlo, some stages of which are on asphalt.

But the eighteen-year-old has an ace up his sleeve: in 2018 the young driver sat alongside nine times world rally champion Sébastien Loeb to learn the ropes on tarmac. ‘To drive on tarmac is really different to the gravel or the snow,’ said Solberg, who will drive a PA Racing Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 on the opening round of this year’s FIA European Rally Championship. ‘OK, I did some dry stages in Monte-Carlo this year, but this is nothing to compare. For Rome, the set-up from the car will be stiffer, completely different.’

‘The time with Sébastien taught me so much. I was so lucky to spend this time with him and sitting in the car and watching what he was doing made things much clearer. He showed me lots about weight transfer, braking, all of these things which are crucial for getting the car into the corner and through the corner without sliding. On gravel, you slide the car more, but on tarmac, when you are sliding, you can hear you are killing the tyres and taking away the speed. This is what I have to remember when I am getting into the car in Rome.’

Competitive debut
Solberg and Italy have a good relationship. In 2017, shortly after his sixteenth birthday, he made his competitive debut in a World Rally Car at the Bettega Memorial Rallysprint in Bologna. Even though he had never driven a Ford Fiesta RS WRC before, the young Norwegian finished second overall, beating M-Sport Ford World Rally Team factory driver Teemu Suninen and only losing to Toyota Gazoo Racing star Kalle Rovanperä.

‘That was a fantastic event,’ he said. ‘I was driving with PA Racing then and it’s nice to be back with these guys again. They have lots of experience with the car and the rally, so we are really in a good place with them.’ PA Racing sports director Matteo Bottacin said he was delighted to see Oliver back in the team. ‘Oliver is one of the most promising young people in the world. I am sure that at the Rally in Rome, with the support of Pirelli and Volkswagen Motorsport, with Oliver we can get a good result. We are very happy to work with Oliver again,’ Bottacin said.

‘Smooth and progressive’
With the second half of the World Rally Championship season potentially featuring three asphalt events, Solberg wants to take as much tarmac experience as possible away from the Italian sojourn. ‘I want to learn as much as I can. My style of driving is quite smooth and progressive so I’m hoping I can find a way to drive on tarmac quickly. I will do some testing before the event and then work with PA Racing to make sure I understand everything from the car side. Co-driver Aaron Johnston and I will be watching a lot of onboards to understand what the stages are like. I have to say a big thank you to everybody from the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) and Eurosport for helping make this event happen for me,’ Solberg said.

As well as Solberg’s Polo GTI R5, reigning FIA RGT champion Enrico Brazzoli will also be lining up at the start in Rome, making his 2020 ERC debut. Also in a PA Racing-prepared Volkswagen, Brazolli and co-driver Maurizio Barone’s car will be backed by Allianz. ‘It’s great to go back to racing, we can’t wait, and it’s nice to do it on Italian roads with the Polo GTI R5 that Alessandro Perico’s PA Racing has made available to us,’ said Brazzoli.

In total, nine Polo GTI R5s will be in action on the 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale, including the car of three-time German rally champions Fabian Kreim and Frank Christian, and the MOL Racing Team machine of Norbert Herczig and Ramón Ferencz. The Italian event starts with a qualifying stage on Friday, 24 July. The competitors will take part in a parade through Rome before all the crews embark on 18 stages (128 competitive miles) over the next two days.

[Images: Oliver Solberg, fiaerc.com, and Volkswagen Motorsport]

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20 July 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen Das WeltAuto used car scheme now Volkswagen Approved Used

Delayed by the COVID-9 pandemic, Volkswagen’s Das WeltAuto used car programme has been officially renamed Volkswagen Approved Used. Now rolling out across the retailer network, Volkswagen states that the same reliability and quality values of the old scheme remain in place.

Another step in the manufacturer’s global rebranding programme, the cleaner logo reflects VW’s pared-back approach to its brand, aimed at simpler communications, particularly for digital platforms. The renaming follows the launch of a simpler Volkswagen roundel last September and the arrival of a new ‘R’ logo to denote high performance models.

142-point check
The one element of the official used Volkswagen scheme which hasn’t changed is the package offered. Skilled VW-trained technicians still carry out a thorough 142-point check and test drive of any Volkswagen Approved Used vehicles. Any faults are fixed with genuine Volkswagen parts, therefore qualifying for Approved Used status. Each Approved Used VW also comes with a 12-month, unlimited-mileage warranty, 12 months of roadside assistance, 12-month MOT cover and a 30-day/1,000 mile ‘no quibble’ exchange policy.

Barny Francis, National Used Car Manager at Volkswagen UK, said: ‘The simple clarity of the new Volkswagen logo and branding now extends to Volkswagen Approved Used – a simpler title that conveys the same assurance of quality, dependability and customer service. Volkswagen Approved Used is exactly what it says on the tin, and that reassurance is everything our used customers could want.’

Since its launch in 2011, Das WeltAuto won multiple awards for its exemplary used car service, including the 2014 ‘Used Car Programme of the Year’ from CarDealer magazine.

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15 July 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Polo GTI R5 results round-up: Černý and Černohorský take fifth place at Rally Bohemia 2020

It was a busy weekend for the Polo GTI R5 at the 47th Rally Bohemia which took place between 10-12 July. Three crews piloted 270bhp Volkswagen Polo GTI R5s at the Czech Republic event, the four-wheel drive rally cars driven by Jan Černý/Petr Černohorský, Tomasz Kasperczyk/Damian Syty and Vojtěch Štajf/František Rajnoha. Černý and Černohorský finished fifth against a host of strong and WRC-experienced competitors. Štajf and Rajnoha’s Polo came home ninth, and Kasperczyk and Syty’s VW crossed the line eleventh.

In Italy, Corrado (a very apt Volkswagen name reference!) Pinzano and Marco Zegna finished second overall at the Rally Lana 2020 in their strikingly liveried Polo GTI R5. Marco Gianesini and Marco Bergonzi’s Polo GTI R5 was sixth, and the VW of Marasso Massimo and Pieri Luca was 12 places behind them. Sadly, Ivan and Marina Carmellino’s GTI R5 crashed out on the Curino 1 stage.

Ferenc Kiss and his son Ferenc Kiss Jr were busy with back-to-back events in their rallying Polo. Third at the Bakonya Rallye in Hungary on 5 July, the pair completed the AMTK Rally Velenje 2020 in Slovenia the following weekend in fifth place. Further down the field, Peljhan Darko and Čar Matej’s fifth-generation Volkswagen Polo RN4 crossed the line eighteenth.

Czech duo Jaroslav Melichárek and Martin Tureček performed well at the MRC Kopřivnice 2020 event held on 4-5 July. The pair won five out of six special stages in their Polo GTI R5. A 10-second time penalty meant they missed the overall win by 0.8 seconds, finishing second. Finally, in June, Kacper Wróblewski and Jakub Wróbel won the Rally Ireco Motorsport in Poland ahead of their compatriots Tomasz Kasperczyk/Damian Syty, while Vojtěch Štajf/František Rajnoha finished the Test-Rally Sosnová 2020 in second place.

[Images: Volkswagen Motorsport]

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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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