The first driver duo has been confirmed for the debut of the GTI R5 – Volkswagen will compete at the Rally Spain (25th–28th October) with Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F). The 200 kW (272 PS) 4x4 will celebrate its rally debut at the only FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) race to take place on asphalt as well as gravel. This is the sole works appearance scheduled for the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5, before it begins to participate in domestic and international championships for customers.
When deciding on the driver line-up for the first of two cockpits for the Rally Spain, Volkswagen chose to rely on familiar resources. The Camilli/Veillas duo played a significant role in the development of the rally car, based on the new Polo, and the two drivers are held in high esteem by the four-time world championship-winning team thanks to their detailed feedback and analytical approach. Camilli/Veillas are no unknown quantity in the WRC 2 category, where the Polo GTI R5 will be competing in Spain: they were runners-up in the 2017 world championship with three podium finishes, including victory at the Rally Germany. In total, Camilli/Veillas have chalked up 31 stage wins in this category.
“Eric Camilli and Benjamin Veillas are an experienced team and did a valuable job during testing with the Polo GTI R5,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “It is the logical next step for them to take their WRC 2 experience into this competitive debut. Having Eric and Ben in the cockpit puts us in an excellent position.” The driver/co-driver line-up for the second Polo GTI R5 will be announced at a later date.
Eric Camilli: “When Sven Smeets and R5 project lead Jan de Jongh gave me the good news, it was a lovely, belated birthday present. I was delighted and am proud to be part of the team at this important premiere. After an intensive year of testing, it is great to be competing in the first rally with the Polo GTI R5 and I have plenty of motivation to do well. Ben and I will prepare diligently for the Rally Spain and hopefully we will be able to start the R5 Polo on its career path with a good result.”
Eric Camilli and the Polo – a long history
The intensive testing and the upcoming debut with the Polo GTI R5 do not represent Eric Camilli's first meeting with the compact car. The Volkswagen Polo played an important role in the private life of the 31-year-old from an early stage. “My second car was a Polo. A used 2005 Polo IV Trendline with 64 PS, in silver,” explains Camilli. “Volkswagens are such reliable cars. And I like the design.”
Camilli/Veillas drove around one third of the approx. 10,000 test kilometres with the Polo GTI R5. “The Polo GTI R5 has an impressive history and reacts very precisely when you are driving. I think that it is a very good R5 car – but we will only know for certain after the Rally Spain and the first head-to-head comparison with the very strong competition.”
Benjamin Veillas – return to the four-time world championship-winning team
The Rally Spain marks the return of co-driver Benjamin Veillas to the four-time world championship-winning team from Volkswagen. In the WRC era, the 40-year-old Frenchman was part of the spotter and weather crew for world champion Sébastien Ogier. Veillas has formed a team with Camilli since the Rally France on Corsica in 2014, celebrating six podiums in the WRC 2 category and one best stage time in the WRC top category thus far.
After the works debut: eight customer teams will receive 15 Polo GTI R5s
Customers, over to you: the competitive debut at the Rally Spain will be the first and only competitive appearance for the Polo GTI R5 before delivery of the customer sport racer begins at the Volkswagen Motorsport location in Hanover, from November onwards. In 2018/2019, 15 cars will be handed over to eight customer teams, who are planning to compete in numerous international and domestic rally championships according to R5 regulations.
Career in fast-forward – that’s Eric Camilli
Date/place of birth: 06 September 1987 in Nice (F)
Hobbies: Sport, especially running and trials
2017: 2nd place in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC 2), 1 win
2016: 11th place in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2014: 2nd place Volant Peugeot, 1 win
WRC 2 Successes: 17 rallies, six podiums (including one win), 31 stage wins, 144 championship points