29 January 2018 ~ 0 Comments

An icy inquest: Petter Solberg tests 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 in Sweden

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

Volkswagen Motorsport’s new rally weapon, the Polo GTI R5 has taken to the roads again. This time the frozen tracks of Sweden provided the new 272bhp rally machine with a stern test, the car out through its paces by no fewer than three world champions: World Rallycross Polo RX pilot Petter Solberg, 2000 and 2002 title holder Marcus Grönholm and junior and WRC2 champion Pontus Tidemand.

The latest four-wheel drive Polo GTI R5 assessment took place near the town of Kall, north-west of Östersund. Temperatures were as low as -15 degrees Celsius on the 4km-long route. Solberg had Veronica Engan – who usually reads pace notes for his son Oliver – relaying back the route commands.

‘Fantastic to drive’
Solberg was impressed by the new car: ‘It was just fantastic to be back behind the wheel of a rally car again and to help out the Volkswagen family. It was a really fun day. The team has done such a great job and the car is fantastic to drive. I didn’t want to get out at the end of the day!

‘We covered almost 300 kilometres in one day – very different to what I’m used to in the World Rallycross Championship, but I used my extensive rallying experience to work with the engineers on small changes to the car,’ the Norwegian rallycross and rally star added.

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24 January 2018 ~ 0 Comments

A successful sell-out: fifteen orders confirmed for new Polo GTI R5 rally car

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

As the series production car is gaining sales momentum in Europe and South America, Volkswagen Motorsport has confirmed the first customers for the new Polo GTI R5, based on the new sixth-generation Volkswagen Polo, launched last autumn.

Fifteen paying customers have been confirmed for the first batch of the new Polo-based rally car, which means the first run of motorsport machines is now sold out. The 272bhp, four-wheel drive rallying Polos will be delivered in the second half of the year, with both European and South American customers eagerly awaiting delivery.

Baumschlager Rallye & Racing GmbH in Austria will take three cars, headed up by Austrian rally champion Raimund Baumschlager, who won the 2017 Austrian Rally Championship with a Polo R WRC previously campaigned by four-time Polo champion Sébastien Ogier. Belgium also sees three cars head there: two for BMA and one for THX Racing.

A pair of GTI R5s will end up at Printsport Oy in Finland, while another duo will head to Italy for HK Racing. One car will go to Portugal, and previous World Rallycross hi-fliers Kristoffersson Motorsport has also ordered one GTI R5.

A trio of cars will also undergo the longest journey of cars in the initial batch: a Paraguay Volkswagen importer 11,000km away from the Volkswagen Motorsport workshops in Hanover, Miguel Carrizosa/DIESA S.A., will contest national events in the country.

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

‘Customer demand is enormous’
‘We are overwhelmed by the positive feedback on the new Polo GTI R5*,’ said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. ‘The customer demand is enormous. We are pleased about this, and it is an additional motivation to provide the teams with the best possible rally car.’

‘We assemble each car by hand in our workshop in Hanover,’ said Juliane Gründl, head of sales and distribution at Volkswagen Motorsport. ‘We are on schedule. However, we are still in the process of structuring production, and in the aftersales implementation phase. We obviously want to be ideally positioned in time for the sales launch.’

FIA regulations have determined part of the car’s make-up said Volkswagen Motorsport Technical Director François-Xavier ‘FX’ Demaison: ‘The air restrictor regulation is one of the cost-reducing measures in the R5 category, and engineers’ hands are also tied by R5 regulations in other areas. For instance, many technical components must come from a production vehicle, while standard parts are required in other areas.

‘The Polo GTI R5 uses the gearbox and four-wheel drive system of suppliers who also supply the competition. Working with our technical development colleagues in Wolfsburg and the ŠKODA motorsport staff, whose R5 vehicle has been competing since 2015, was a great help,’ elaborated Demaison.

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

‘The price limit is a challenge’
For 2018, the FIA-sanctioned price for an R5-category car will be €190,000. ‘The price limit is a challenge for every development department. We inevitably have to make compromises because you can’t simply choose the optimal solution in terms of performance which would probably also be the most expensive. It has to be affordable,’ explained Demaison.

‘But engineers are used to conforming with guidelines, whether they’re technical or financial. And because the R5 category is about customer motorsport, these cost containment measures make perfect sense,’ he added. Therefore, the wider wings of the Polo GTI R5 are not made from ultra-lightweight, expensive carbon fibre, but rather from affordable plastic.

Development of the latest Volkswagen Motorsport rally Polo began at the start of 2017, ahead of the launch of the sixth-generation Polo road car. Testing began in December in France, the UK, and Germany, and the plan is for the car to have its official homologation and subsequent debut on the 2018 Rally of Germany in the summer.

272bhp, 0 to 62mph in 4.1 seconds
Whereas the production Polo GTI** has a 197bhp, 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, its rallying relative is capped to 1.6 litres, but 272bhp and 295lb ft / 400Nm of torque is sent through a five-speed sequential gearbox to all four wheels for maximum grip on any surface. A weight of just 1,230kg (the Polo GTI road car tips the scales at 1,355kg) sees the new Hanover rally racer rocket to 62mph from rest in just 4.1 seconds, 2.6 seconds faster than the road car.

It all sounds very promising, and we can’t wait to see the new car in angry action. We also excitedly await the Polo GTI R5 writing the next chapter in Volkswagen’s rich rallying story.

* Polo GTI R5: the concept vehicle has not gone on sale, and therefore Directive 1999 / 94 EC does not apply.

** Polo GTI (147kW / 197bhp) fuel consumption in l/100 km: urban 7.7 / extra-urban 4.9 / combined 5.9; CO2 emissions (combined) in g/km: 134; efficiency class: C.

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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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28 November 2017 ~ 0 Comments

2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 breaks cover in first test

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

The latest Polo rally car has officially broken cover, and has undergone its first testing session in France. The 2018 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 was driven by Volkswagen Motorsport test driver Dieter Depping and Swedish World Rally Champion pilot Pontus Tidemand around a 3.85km asphalt route in Fontjoncouse.

Based on the new sixth-generation Polo, the Polo GTI R5’s brakes, cooling system, engine and tyres were all tested for durability on the dry asphalt surface. Testing then moved to gravel tracks to further push the chassis and suspension. The testing location was familiar to rally Polos, as the venue was where the first Polo R WRC tests took place in 2011. The recipe was honed from then on: Volkswagen Motorsport’s all-conquering car went on to win four consecutive World Rally Championship titles from 2013 to 2016.

‘A special feeling’
Depping was the test driver of that original Polo R WRC, too: ‘It is a special feeling to be back here, where the Polo embarked on its first rally adventure roughly six years ago,’ he said. ‘It is now about achieving the best possible set-up for the new Polo GTI R5. This first test was primarily about getting a lot of kilometres under our belt, in order to give the engineers as much data as possible. I can tell you one thing now: The R5 Polo is also very good, very quick and precise. I immediately felt right at home!” he added.

‘A successful first test is a good sign and great motivation,’ commented a pleased Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. ‘After the many hours and weeks spent working on our latest customer racing project on the computer, in both the design process and the workshop, the Polo GTI R5 can now finally show what it is capable of, and we can gain valuable data for the further development of the car.’

Three-day test
The three-day testing programme marked the start of the punishing development regime for the latest 270bhp four-wheel-drive rally Polo, which will be sold to professional customer teams and drivers to compete in national, global and the WRC2 class of the FIA World Rally Championship from the second half of 2018.

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07 November 2017 ~ 0 Comments

Volkswagen releases first details of Polo GTI R5 world rally challenger

2017 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5

Teased at the time of the demise of the multi-title-winning Volkswagen Polo R WRC last December, Volkswagen has today announced the first details of its ‘customer’-specification replacement, the Polo GTI R5.

The new 270bhp rally machine will take to the stages in the second half of 2018, and will be available to professional teams as well as ‘aspiring drivers’, and will be eligible for the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) in which its full works factory-backed car won four driver and manufacturer championships.

Based on sixth-generation Polo
The new tarmac and gravel car is based on the sixth-generation Polo (so we suspect it will share the road car’s five-door silhouette) and has been developed by Volkswagen Motorsport in Hannover, who also built the 318bhp Polo R WRC. Volkswagen Motorsport Technical Director – and ‘father’ of the Polo R WRC – François-Xavier ‘FX’ Demaison is responsible for leading the development of the Polo GTI R5.

Dutchman and former race engineer for Sébastien Ogier, Gerard-Jan de Jongh is the Polo GTI R5 senior project engineer and also brings his expertise from the Polo R WRC programme: the Frenchman won the World Rally Championship drivers’ title with Volkswagen four times in a row. Initial test drives of the Polo GTI R5 will place later this year.

‘First-class racing machine’
‘Before the first race outing next year, we will subject the Polo GTI R5 to rigorous testing to make sure it is prepared for the extremely varied track conditions around the world, commented Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. ‘With the Polo GTI R5 we are hoping to transfer our expertise from four WRC titles to customer racing successfully, and offer a first-class racing machine for countless rally championships from national series to the WRC,’ he continued.

One interesting correlation is the naming of the new car ‘GTI R5’. Already forging a link to the road-going Polo with the 2017 World Rallycross championship Polo GTI RXs run by PSRX and Volkswagen Sweden, the new car will also bear the legendary Volkswagen three letters to draw links to, and promote, the new 197bhp Polo GTI which will be launched at the end of this year.

Turbocharged, four-wheel drive
Like the new hot-shot Polo, the GTI R5 has a direct-injected and turbocharged four-cylinder engine. There is also four-wheel drive – surely now that’s reason enough for a 300bhp Polo R, Volkswagen? – as well as a five-speed sequential racing transmission. A comprehensive safety package features, too.

The R5 category was introduced by the FIA in 2012 and enables importers, privateers, and teams the opportunity to compete in regional as well as international rally championships. The Polo GTI R5 will form an important second pillar for Volkswagen Motorsport’s new and realigned customer-focused portfolio: the Golf GTI TCR touring car has been winning circuit events and titles since its introduction in 2016.

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