04 December 2017 ~ 0 Comments

‘The rally sports car’: 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 rally car officially revealed

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

In somewhat of a surprise reveal (although we should have seen it coming), the new Polo GTI R5 rally car was unveiled tonight in Mallorca, at the official media driving presentation of the new production Polo GTI. The new motorsport version of the sixth-generation Polo has already been out testing and has been designed to compete in the WRC2 class of the FIA World Rally Championship from the second half of 2018.

While the car seen in the official release images is a mock-up (the black-tinted windows were a trick employed at the 2011 Polo R WRC reveal to mask a non-finished interior) Resplendent in Volkswagen’s red, white and grey ‘bar and block’ livery used on to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Golf GTI last year, the GTI R5 looks ready for action, and even though it wears the five-door clothes of the production car (all sixth-generation Polos have five door openings), with its enlarged front bumper and wheel arch extensions, it looks tough in a similar way to the four-time world championship-winning Polo R WRC.

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

1.6 litres, 272bhp, four-wheel drive
Power has been confirmed at 272bhp, and the GTI R5 is four-wheel drive, unlike the road car, which is front-wheel drive only. But, like the road car, the GTI R5 uses a four-cylinder turbocharged engine with direct fuel injection. However, in the R5, it has a capacity of 1.6 litres – the production GTI has a 2.0-litre unit – to comply with FIA regulations.

Maximum torque is 400Nm / 295lb ft, and the power is put down through a five-speed sequential racing gearbox. A 1,320kg weight means the GTI R5 sprints to 62mph from rest in just 4.1 seconds, a whole 2.6 seconds faster than the production Polo GTI. The steel body is made in Pamplona alongside regular Polos, and is strengthened with a roll cage and a first-class safety package. Development of the new Volkswagen rally challenger was helped by the know-how from the Polo R WRC programme, which resulted in a car which dominated top-flight rallying from 2013-2016.

Work on the Polo GTI R5 started at the beginning of 2017, with initial tests in mid-November on asphalt and gravel tracks at Fontjoncouse, France. Great Britain is next on the GTI R5 testing list, with time scheduled in for later this month. Volkswagen Motorsport Technical Director François-Xavier ‘FX’ Demaison and Project Manager Jan de Jongh are taking the reins for the GTI R5 programme. There’s no doubt the GTI R5 is in experienced hands: Jongh, as race engineer, cared for world champion Sébastien Ogier’s Polo R WRC.

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

‘A magnificent moment’
‘The Polo GTI R5 came through the initial tests without any problems. The feedback from the test drivers was very positive,’ said Demaison. ‘It is obviously beneficial to call upon an experienced team of engineers and mechanics, who helped to develop the Polo that won the world rally championship. And it goes without saying that, as we have in the past, we are also taking advantage of the close and excellent cooperation with the colleagues in the technical development department in Wolfsburg, as well as our Škoda colleagues, who have been offering their customers an R5 car since 2015,’ he continued.

‘Presenting the new VW Polo GTI R5 to the public was a magnificent moment,’ said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. ‘The close relationship to the road-going Polo GTI is unmistakable. In the rally Polo, the GTI family has another spectacular ambassador. Our team and our colleagues at Volkswagen Design in Wolfsburg deserve credit for this. Over the coming months, the Polo GTI R5 must prove itself in a series of tough scenarios, in order to ensure that it can build on the success of its predecessor in customers’ hands.’

Homologation and debut in 2018
Homologation of the new Hanover motorsport machine will take place next summer, before the first cars are delivered to customer sports teams. The first time the GTI R5 will turn a wheel in competitive anger is likely to be the autumn. The FIA’s R5 regulations first applied in 2012, and cover rally cars aimed at customer teams, privateers and young drivers. Over 400 cars have since been built by five manufacturers for competition in national and international series all over the world.

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

The new Polo GTI meanwhile, is available for pre-sale ordering in Germany from 5 December 2017, and is priced from 23,875 euros. Powered by a 2.0-litre TSI engine with 197bhp, standard sport running gear features on the latest member of the GTI family, and buyers have a choice of optional Sport Select running gear, too. A six-speed DSG gearbox will be standard initially, with a six-speed manual to follow. UK availability is yet to be revealed, but we’re already excited!

And whether the Polo GTI R5 will continue the success of the Polo R WRC we’ve yet to find out. The coming months will answer some initial questions, but with a championship-winning and hugely successful team as well as proven ingredients behind it, we expect it to be a major WRC2 player at least…

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