WRC HISTORY: VOLKSWAGEN WITH A WORLD CHAMPION’S TRADITION
Wolfsburg, 05 May 2011
Volkswagen’s comeback to the World Rally Championship marks the brand’s turning of a full circle. As early as in the 1970s Volkswagen started to develop rally vehicles based on the first-generation Golf which clinched national rally titles, such as in Germany. The major breakthrough was achieved with the second generation of the top seller. At the wheel of the Golf GTI 16V Kenneth Eriksson/Peter Diekmann (S/D) in 1986 won the title in the newly incepted Group A world championship. The media would often focus their attention on the ‘David’ in the 200bhp Golf that challenged the ‘Goliath’ Group B class with its more than 500bhp prototypes and world champion Volkswagen no doubt achieved a breakthrough with a production-based rally vehicle. Group B was abolished and, in 1987, Group A introduced as the mandatory class for all WRC entrants.
Glorious names and grand sporting duels
Since 1973 the FIA has been inviting entrants to compete for a manufacturers’ title and since 1979 also for a drivers’ title with which particularly prominent names in the history of motorsport are associated. They include Walter Röhrl, for example, who was driving for the Volkswagen Group for a long time and fought spectacular duels in the 1980s with French rally racer Michèle Mouton. In 1980 and 1982 Röhrl became world champion – the only German to have claimed this title to date. The legendary Finns Ari Vatanen (1981) and Juha Kankkunen (1986, 1987, 1991, 1993), both of whom were subsequently involved in Volkswagen’s cross-country rally programme with the Race Touareg, won the WRC, as did Carlos Sainz, the winner of the 2010 Dakar Rally with Volkswagen. Sainz, in 1990 and 1992, was the first Spaniard to secure the WRC crown twice.
Since 1997 an abbreviation has been shaping the FIA’s only automobile world championship besides Formula 1: ‘WRC’ mainly stands for ‘World Rally Championship’ but it is also the abbreviation for ‘World Rally Car’. To this day, it has been the leading car class in rally sport, which evolved from the Group A.
The rounds of the World Rally Championship feature a degree of variety that is unrivalled by any other racing series. Special stages on gravel and snow as well as tarmac on the four continents of America, Australia, Asia and Europe stand for extreme diversity and global presence of what is arguably the most spectacular motorsport discipline. It is in this tradition that Volkswagen will start to contest the WRC in 2013, aiming to demonstrate to a worldwide audience that the Polo R WRC in the World Rally Championship has got what it takes to become a future world champion – just like the Golf GTI did in 1986.
[Source: Volkswagen Motorsport]