30 October 2018 ~ 0 Comments

World class: ‘strong debut’ for Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 at Rally Spain

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally Spain: Camilli/Veillas

Volkswagen Motorsport described the first – and only – works outing for its new Polo GTI R5 rally car as a ‘strong debut’. Petter Solberg took a third place podium finish at the 2018 Rally Spain, while Eric Camilli led the WRC 2 category for much of the event before a defect in the gearshift linkage dashed hopes of a Volkswagen victory.

The new 270bhp four-wheel drive customer sports machine made a good impression on the Spanish gravel and tarmac event and proved it was competitive to other more long-standing rivals. That’s good news for the eight customers who have so far placed orders for the €190,000 (tarmac-spec price) WRC 2 weapon. The first cars will be delivered to their international teams over the coming weeks.

Best time
The Polo GTI R5 was impressive from the off in Spain, and scored a best time on the first special stage, a feat shared by its top-flight Polo R WRC predecessor on its debut in 2013. Camilli and co-driver Benjamin Veillas initially took the WRC 2 class lead, but on the second day, when the action switched to tarmac, the pair opted for a hard tyre choice and forfeited their lead, only to be chasing for it again later in the day.

With just three tenths of a second between the Frenchmen and the eventual winners Kalle Rovanperä and Jonne Halttunen, a defect in the shift linkage cost Camilli and Veillas their hopes of victory. However, on their return under Rally 2 regulations on day three, the Polo pair secured more best times, including that of the special stage on the revered ‘Riudecanyes’ section.

‘Very proud’
Camilli was upbeat, despite his day two retirement: ‘There’s one thing I’d like to say first, because it’s very important to me: I enjoyed every single minute in the Polo GTI R5 this weekend, it’s so much fun driving the car. We wanted to show that the Polo is fast in all conditions – I think that we demonstrated that with best times on gravel and tarmac. With a little bit more luck Benjamin and I could have celebrated a better result, possibly even the class win. I am very proud that I was privileged to be part of this special debut.’

Elsewhere, in car number 49, Solberg and co-driver Veronica Engan caused a stir with the best time on the most challenging and longest gravel stage of the rally on their return to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) after six years away, and finished the event in a strong third position.

Ex-WRC champion Solberg was delighted: ‘What a fantastic result after six years away! It was not an easy task with just two days of testing and totally new pace notes. Which is why I am very proud of what Veronica and I achieved. A podium result on the debut – things couldn’t have gone much better.

‘We avoided all risks, and always looked for a clean line. With a little bit more of an attack, no doubt we could have come away with more. But the most important thing is that I had an incredible amount of fun in the car, and when you finish on the podium with champagne, you start to mull things over. A quick word about Sébastien Loeb: it was simply fantastic what he did here. Congratulations on his exceptional win!’ he commented.

‘Strong debut’
Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director was happy, too. ‘We are really pleased with the Polo GTI R5’s debut and I think that we have completed our mission. Petter and Eric delivered top performances in very difficult conditions and helped the Polo GTI R5 make a strong debut, with both drivers getting best times.’

‘Leading the first rally ahead of strong competition and winning special stages on different surfaces is a clear sign that the new Polo GTI R5 is extremely competitive. At the same time, we know that the car has even more potential,’ Smeets disclosed.

‘The pace of the new Polo GTI R5 was good from the start,’ said Gerard-Jan de Jongh, Technical Project Lead for the Polo GTI R5. ‘Eric Camilli and Petter Solberg demonstrated that the car is competitive and fast in all conditions and with both drivers. However, a competition like the Rally Spain is always different from testing – which is why a minor defect had a major impact. But the problem with the shift linkage is an easy one to solve and eliminate before the car is delivered to customers,’ de Jongh assured.

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally Spain: Camilli/Veillas

Prospective Polo GTI R5 customers had the chance to view the car in the Rally Spain service park – especially during the transformation from gravel to tarmac spec which involved the switching of 1,025 parts in just 75 minutes – and there looks to be a number added to the 15 cars already sold. Due to be delivered by the end of the year, the first Polo GTI R5s are heading to teams in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Portugal, Paraguay and Sweden. The cars are being made at Volkswagen Motorsport’s Hannover base and the Ikarusallee crew has a goal to produce 30 to 40 Polo GTI R5s in 2019.

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