13 January 2022 ~ 0 Comments

Johan Kristoffersson to drive VW in 2022 World Rallycross – will it be a Polo?

Four-time FIA World Rallycross Champion Johan Kristoffersson is returning to the series in 2022, with his sights set on a fifth Drivers’ prize. Three of those four series wins were at the wheel of a Polo RX, and the 33-year-old has confirmed that for 2022, he will be back in a Volkswagen. So, will it be a Polo?

Kristoffersson’s association with the rallycross Polo is legendary, so we can only hope that as the fire-breathing cars in the top-tier series are based on small hatches, there’s a good chance a Polo could make an RX return. But, what we do know is that if Kristoffersson’s machine does have ‘POLO’ on its backside, it won’t be like any other Polo, because it will be electric.

Electric powertrain
Yes, that’s right. Kristoffersson Motorsport (KMS) is fielding three Volkswagens in the World RX’s inaugural electric campaign. Alongside Kristoffersson will be two team-mates, and underpinning the cars will be the Kreisel Electric-developed RX1e electric powertrain. With a pair of motors, up to 500kW – equivalent to 680bhp – and 880Nm of torque available instantly will mean the cars will have acceleration faster than an Formula 1 car.

The idea of an electric motorsport isn’t so outlandish. Baumschlager Rallye & Racing GmbH has been event testing Kreisel’s similar RX-E1 electric drivetrain in rally situations, using a Skoda Motorsport-prepared Fabia, so the concept isn’t new – and the Fabia is a Volkswagen Group product – but it will be interesting to see the technology into another discipline. Ideally suited to RX because of its short spring race format, Kristoffersson is energised by the move to electric. As in 2020, KMS will run under the Volkswagen Dealerteam BAUHAUS banner.

‘Really inspiring’
‘It’s really inspiring to be part of rallycross’ new electric era right from the outset,’ he stated. ‘The last time we undertook a project on a scale of this kind was in 2014, when we built our own cars for the first season of the World Rallycross Championship. The big difference is that back then, I was completely inexperienced in rallycross – whereas things are a little different now..

‘There are a lot of unknowns when everything is so new. In recent years, we have all followed proven concepts, so the development steps have been comparatively small – but there is much greater potential with these new cars,’ Kristoffersson continued. ‘Electric is the future for both motorsport and the automotive industry in general, and helping to drive that development is, for me, one of the most fascinating aspects of the sport. I expect an incredibly tough, competitive season ahead, and I’m excited to get started!’

‘Wealth of knowledge’
‘This will be the largest project in KMS’ history,’ said Tommy Kristoffersson, team manager of Kristoffersson Motorsport. ‘A small family business building and developing three new cars in accordance with a new concept clearly comes with great personal responsibility, but we can rely upon a team of extremely skilled individuals, and a wealth of knowledge and experience from Germany and within our own workshop in Arvika.’

‘Johan Kristoffersson is one of the biggest motorsport names Sweden has ever known,’ stated Sten Forsberg, CEO, Volkswagen Sweden. ‘Four FIA World Rallycross Championship titles is an outstanding accomplishment, and we wish him all the best now that he is taking the step into the sport’s new electric era – most importantly, with a Volkswagen emblem on the front of his car.’

The action will get underway at the Swedish rallycross track Höljes on 2-3 July, but details of the car itself and the remaining pair of drivers are expected to be announced soon. We’re keeping everything crossed for a Polo-shaped return to the premier rallycross series, and an exciting step into its possible electric future…

 

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26 January 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Polo GTI R5 results round-up: Gryazin fifth in RC2 at 2021 Rallye Monte-Carlo

Hot in the tyre tracks of Niclas Grönholm and Antto Linnaketo’s sixth place at the 2021 Arctic Lapland Rally, Nikolay Gryazin and his co-driver Konstantin Aleksandrov took their Polo GTI R5 to fifth place in the RC2 class at the 2021 Rallye Monte-Carlo. The Russian duo’s strikingly liveried Movisport SRL Polo also clocked up the quickest RC2 time on the Power Stage at the 21-24 January event.

By the close of day one, the pair were third in RC2, but dropped a couple of places after day two’s 12 stages. In the overall results, Gryazin and Aleksandrov’s Polo was the highest-placed GTI R5, in 12th place. Three other versions of the 272bhp four-wheel drive rallying Polo were also to be found on the ‘Monte’ stages. Ex-Škoda and Volkswagen driver Kevin Abbring and co-driver Pieter Tsjoen’s number 26 car finished 12th in RC2 and 20th overall.

At the 89th ‘Monte’, the #52 machine of Olivier Burri and Anderson Levratti scored 10th in RC2 and 18th overall, and the number 60 GTI R5 of Philippe and Christophe Roux crossed the RC2 line 26th. The Swiss pair finished 46th in the overall rankings.

[Image: Volkswagen Motorsport]

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17 January 2021 ~ 0 Comments

Polo GTI R5 results round-up: Grönholm and Linnaketo score sixth at 2021 Arctic Lapland Rally

Volkswagen Motorsport may have closed its doors, but the rally monster that is the Polo GTI R5 can still be seen out on the stages. At least 15 of the 272bhp four-wheel drive rally machines were made before the end of 2018, its debut year, and the rally GTI has tasted victory in the hands of famous names, including Oliver Solberg, son of world champion Petter Solberg.

Another celebrated rallying name is now associated with the GTI R5. Niclas Grönholm, son of two-time WRC title holder and former Volkswagen test driver Marcus Grönholm took the wheel of a MRF-tyred Polo for the 2021 Arctic Lapland Rally. The Finnish event ran from 15-16 January and Grönholm’s ALM Motorsport-prepared car came home in tenth place overall at the end of the seven-stage event. The result puts the young Finnish rallycross driver and his co-pilot Antti Linnaketo sixth in the 2021 Finnish Rally Championship.

‘Very challenging’
‘It was great to have two cars wearing MRF Tyres inside the top 10. The stages were in good condition, but there was a lot of loose snow, and it was very challenging,’ reported Grönholm.

Other Arctic Lapland Rally Polo GTI R5 runners included the pairings of Egon Kaur and Silver Simm for Kaur Motorsport; Georg Linnamäe and Tanel Kasesalu in another ALM Motorsport car; and Jussi Keskiniva and Mikko Kaikkonen in a Printsport-liveried Polo. Keskiniva finished 18th overall, with Linnamäe 21st and Kaur 30th. The 2021 event isn’t the first at which Polo GTI R5s have been seen in action: in 2019, Emil Lindholm and Mikael Korhonen helmed their small VW to victory.

There is more Polo GTI R5 action next weekend, as four cars are scheduled to take part in the 2021 running of the legendary Rallye Monte-Carlo.

[Images: MRF Tyres / Volkswagen Motorsport]

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01 December 2020 ~ 0 Comments

Official racing Polo activity halted as Volkswagen motorsport programmes end

Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH, the Hanover-based outfit behind the four World Rally Championship title-winning Polo R WRC, and the current Polo GTI R5, is being integrated into Volkswagen AG. The 169-strong workforce will be offered employment at Volkswagen AG, as the company ceases all motorsport activities and realigns itself with the age of electromobility.

Successful run
Production of the sixth-generation Polo-based GTI R5 will finish at the end of 2020, though spare parts will be ‘ensured in the long term’ to service teams who run the 270bhp four-wheel drive machines in national and international championships. An end to the Polo’s successful run which began in 2013, it sadly spells the final curtain on the Polo’s officially backed role in motorsport.

In addition to the quartet of World Rally Championship titles Volkswagen Motorsport scored with the Polo R WRC from 2013-2016, the Polo RX won a trio of rallycross world championship titles in 2017, 2018 and 2020, most notably through a pairing with Petter Solberg. Up-and-coming driver Johan Kristoffersson also formed an unbeatable and winning bond with the rallycross Polo.

2017 PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Polo GTI Supercar, World RX of Hockenheim: Kristoffersson

VW states it is “pooling its strengths for the transformation into the mobile electric age” as part of its wide-ranging refocus. ‘The Volkswagen brand is on the way to becoming the leading provider of sustainable electromobility,’ stated Dr Frank Welsch, Volkswagen brand Board Member for Development.

‘We are pooling our strengths and have decided to discontinue our own motorsport activities for the Volkswagen brand. The workforce will subsequently be integrated into Volkswagen AG.’ Welsch also explained that the ‘in-depth technical expertise’ of the Volkswagen Motorsport employees and the knowledge gained from the ID R electric racing car project will feed into the development of the incoming ID range of cars.

‘Significant sporting successes’
‘The Volkswagen Motorsport GmbH team has had significant sporting successes for the brand over the decades. My sincere thanks go to all employees for the many victories, titles and records around the world and their personal commitment,’ said Wilfried von Rath, Volkswagen brand Member of the Board of Management, adding that the Hanover workforce will be offered employment at Volkswagen AG in Wolfsburg, and will be integrated into the company over the coming months.

2016 Volkswagen Polo R WRC, Rally Great Britain: Ogier/Ingrassia

As well as the components for the Polo GTI R5, spares for the Golf GTI TCR will also be safe in the long term. The 335bhp track machine secured a pair of TCR International titles in 2016 and 2017. Both machines are customer sports propositions, Volkswagen Motorsport not running any ‘factory-backed’ teams itself.

Five-decade history
Volkswagen Motorsport’s history goes back five decades, starting with Formula Vee in the 1960s and 1970s. Subsequent participation in Formula 3, national and World Rally Championships (with both second and third-generation Golf GTIs, as well as the Polo R WRC), circuit racing series and three Dakar Rally events show it was a company to be reckoned with in the world of motorsport.

More recently, the electric ID R single-seater successfully showcased Volkswagen Motorsport’s technical skill. The EV racer holds five international records, including the overall fastest hill climb times at Pikes Peak and the Goodwood Festival of Speed, as well as the quickest electric car lap on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife.

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28 July 2020 ~ 1 Comment

Solberg and Polo GTI R5 storm 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale on full asphalt debut

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Solberg

Oliver Solberg celebrated his FIA European Rally Championship (ERC) return at the 2020 Rally di Roma Capitale (24-26 July) by driving his PA Racing-backed Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to third place. The 18-year-old’s full asphalt debut saw him run in third from the fifth stage until the end of the 123-mile event.

‘For me, this is a little bit like winning,’ said the son of triple World Rally Champion (WRC) Petter Solberg. ‘Before the start, I didn’t know anything about where my speed would be. I drove Rallye Monte-Carlo which is a little bit of a tarmac rally, but the set-up for the car is quite different.

‘Competition is tough’
‘People were asking me before I started where I could finish, and I hoped to be in the top 10. The competition here is tough, there are a lot of drivers who have been driving on asphalt for all of their careers. When I posted a second fastest time on SS5, it was fantastic,’ the young driver continued. Oliver is no stranger to strong performances on the European Rally Championship – he became the youngest-ever winner of an ERC round after victory at the 2019 Rally Liepāja, aged 17.

‘The first day was a really tough one: the roads were so twisty, so technical and complicated – but it was actually Sunday where I was thinking it would be more difficult. On Sunday the roads were faster and wider, which meant there were different lines to take into the corners.’ Solberg Junior also lost his glasses and hit a rock on SS2, which cost him some time. But he made up for it during SS10, where he was fastest through before the rally leaders cars’ arrived.  

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Solberg

‘So much fun’
Oliver praised the work of his father in helping him fine-tune his pacenotes. ‘Dad was helping Aaron (Johnston, co-driver) and me with the notes while we were watching the onboards. That gave me good confidence, and when we started on Sunday I was really enjoying it. I drove the same tyres for two loops to give me more experience of how it feels to have the car moving around beneath me when the tyres are wearing more; honestly, I really, really enjoyed it. It was so much fun,’ Oliver enthused.

‘I know I have a lot more to learn, but I can really say now that I love driving on asphalt. I understand some of how the car and tyre combination works – it’s so different to gravel, but it’s very cool. I have to say a big thanks to the whole team at PA Racing and, of course, to Pirelli – having Terenzio (Testoni, head of rally and off-road competitions) helping me this weekend has been fantastic.’

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Basso

Away from Solberg’s performance, a total of eight other Polo GTI R5s contested the Rome event, which re-started the international rallying calendar following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Polo of Giandomenico Basso and Lorenzo Granai kicked off the rally with the fastest time on the qualifying stage, the 2019 event winners completing the 2.6-mile Fumone stage in 2m11.350s. The Italian pair went on to finish second, ahead of Solberg, just behind the Russian duo of Alexey Lukyanuk and Dmitry Eremeev in their Citroën C3 R5.

2020 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, Rally di Roma Capitale: Herczig

Other Polo GTI R5 finishers included the ninth-placed Volkswagen of Rudy Michelini and Michele Perna, the VW of Marco Signor and Francesco Pezzoli that crossed the line in 14th position, and the Fabio Angelucci and Massimo Cambria car which came home 24th. The BRR-prepared Polo of Norbert Herczig and Ramon Ferencz finished 53rd, while both the rallying VWs of Fabian Kreim/Frank Christian and Enrico Brazzoli/Maurizio Barone retired. 

[Images: Oliver Solberg, ERC, and Josef Petru (Herczig)]

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