French Rally Championship
1-2 victory for the Polo GTI R5 at the season opener.
Things could hardly have gone better for the Polo GTI R5 on asphalt at the first round of the French Rally Championship: Nicolas Ciamin and Yannick Roche (F/F) won the 59th Rallye Le Touquet ahead of their brand colleagues Quentin Gilbert and Christopher Guieu (F/F). After 201.42 classified kilometres, Ciamin, in the four-wheel-drive Polo from THX Racing, enjoyed a 13.7-second advantage over Gilbert. “This is a really special moment for me,” said Ciamin at the finish. “It is my first ‘big’ victory and certainly the best rally I have ever driven.”
The second-placed Quentin, who won six out of 14 special stages, was nevertheless satisfied at the end of the rally. “We gave it everything one more time in the closing kilometres, but in the end it was not enough for first place. At the same time, we were conscious of taking too many risks on the slippery roads, so as not to jeopardise second place. A big thanks goes to the team,” said the Frenchman, who drove a Polo GTI R5 from the HK Racing team. William Wagner and Kévin Millet (B/F), however, had no such fortune. Having set a best time in SS7, the Belgian put the car in a ditch in the subsequent stage and had to retire.
Things get going again in the French championship on asphalt with the 2019 Rallye Lyon-Charbonnières Rhône. The second round of the season will take place on 19 and 20 April.
FIA Middle East Rally Championship (MERC)
Al-Attiyah celebrates first victory with the Polo GTI R5 in Qatar.
Nasser Al-Attiyah (Q) has once again set the benchmark in the FIA Middle East Rally Championship. Together with his co-driver Matthieu Baumel (F), the 48-year-old won the season opener in impressive fashion. At the Qatar International Rally, Al-Attiyah won all eleven special stages and, after 203.72 classified kilometres, held a lead of 3m 29.6s over second-placed Abdulaziz Al-Kuwari (Q, Škoda). This was victory number 14 in the Qatar International Rally for the 14-time MERC champion Al-Attiyah, as well as his 70th overall win in the MERC.
This triumph from Al-Attiyah, who won the Dakar Rally with Volkswagen in 2011, is also the first overall victory for the Polo GTI R5 in an FIA competition. “The first victory for the Polo in the Middle East is something completely special,” said Al-Attiyah, exactly 134 days after the new customer racing rally car from Volkswagen celebrated its debut at the Rally Catalunya. “The Polo GTI R5 and my entire team were outstanding. We have learnt a great deal and actually had lots of fun along the way. Now we prepare for Jordan.” Here, the second of a total five rounds of the 2019 MERC will take place from 25 to 27 April.
Finnish Rally Championship
The Polo GTI R5 tops its class again in Finland.
Emil Lindholm and co-driver Mikael Korhonen claimed their second class win in the Finnish Rally Championship with the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. The Finnish duo actually held the overall lead for much of the third round of the championship, which was held around Joensuu in eastern Finland. After six special stages, they eventually lost out to Takamoto Katsuta and Daniel Barritt (J/GB) in their more powerful WRC car by just 0.8 seconds. “It was more important for us to get the class win, so I did not want to take any risks on the final few kilometres,” said Lindholm. “There was a lot of snow on the roads and the conditions were extremely difficult. As such, I just wanted to avoid making any mistakes – I think that was the right decision. There is no shame in missing out to a WRC works car by such a small margin.”
After three of seven rounds in this season’s Finnish Rally Championship, Lindholm currently lies second in the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. After taking victory in the Arctic-Lapland Rally, he missed the second event, as he was competing in the Rally Sweden, which took place at the same time. The Finnish Rally Championship now takes a spring break, before it resumes from 24 to 25 May with the Riihimäki Rally. The season ends in September.
Sandviken Motor Show
Visitors to the Sandviken Motor Show were treated to some spectacular rally action: 16 drivers contested a rally sprint in the packed Göransson Arena on Friday evening. Among those in action was Johan Kristoffersson (S), who drove flawlessly at the wheel of the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 to take a commanding victory in the class for four-wheel drive rally cars.
Belgian Rally Championship
Next victory for the Polo GTI R5.
Perfect start to the season for the Polo GTI R5 in the Belgian Rally Championship. Reigning champion Kris Princen and his co-driver Peter Kaspers (B/B) took victory at the first attempt on their debut in Volkswagen’s new customer rally car. Princen was unbeatable at the Rally van Haspengouw in a Polo GTI R5 run by the BMA Autosport team, winning the rally for the fifth time in his career.
Princen and Kaspers finished 17.6 seconds ahead of Cédric Cherain and Sibille Pierre (B/B) who were second in the THX Racing Polo GTI R5, making it a Volkswagen one-two. All 12 special stages were won by Polo GTI R5 drivers, with Princen and Cherain taking six stage wins apiece.
French Rally Cup
SLR put the new Polo GTI R5 through its paces.
Perfect start: Sébastien Loeb Racing used the opening round of the French Rally Cup to put the new Polo GTI R5 through its paces. William Wagner and his co-driver Kevin Millet (B/F) were unbeatable at the Rallye National des Routes du Nord. The duo won 11 of the 15 special stages and finished more than three minutes clear of the opposition after 82 kilometres against the clock.
WRC Rally Sweden
One-two-three in its class for the Polo GTI R5.
The Volkswagen drivers enjoyed a perfect result at the Rally Sweden: Ole Christian Veiby and Jonas Andersson (N/S) took victory in the WRC 2 category with the Polo GTI R5 at round two of the World Rally Championship. The Nordic duo took the lead in their class as early as the third special stage and never looked back. The Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 ran like clockwork on ice and snow all weekend. Veiby/Andersson finished an impressive ninth overall.
Flying Finns Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen finished runner-up in their Polo. Johan Kristoffersson/Stig Rune Skjærmoen (N/S) also showed good pace. Two-time world Rallycross champion Kristoffersson guided his Polo GTI R5 to third place in the WRC 2 category, making it an all-Volkswagen podium. The Polo was the fastest WRC 2 car on ten special stages, with eight stage wins going to Veiby and two to Kristoffersson.
Win number two for Solberg junior.
Oliver Solberg (N) won round two of the Latvian Rally Championship in the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. The 17-year-old son of former world rally champion Petter Solberg took his place on the top step of the podium again at last weekend’s Rally Sarma. “It was far tougher than the first rally. There was generally less snow on the route and the gravel was poking through the surface far more,” said the Norwegian, referring to the opening round of the championship – the Rally Alūksne, which he won in commanding fashion alongside co-driver Aaron Johnston (GB) on the third weekend in January.
Bizarre fact: Solberg won just one special stage on his way to victory at the Rally Sarma. Russia’s Nikolay Gryazin (Ford) initially led the rally, but dropped back as a result of a blocked radiator and eventually had to settle for third place behind Estonia’s Georg Gross (Ford).
Veiby warms up for the Rally Sweden with a win.
Ole Christian Veiby and Jonas Andersson (N/S) took victory at the Rally Hadeland with the Polo GTI R5. The duo won round two of the Norwegian Rally Championship, finishing 18 seconds clear of the former WRC duo of Mads Østberg/Torstein Eriksen (N/N).
The rally proved a stern test, right from the word go: Veiby believes the opening stage in southeast Norway is the toughest he has ever driven on snow – extremely narrow, slippery and with a lot of snow. Veiby won six of the special stages.
This victory gives the 22-year-old a confidence boost ahead of his next challenge in the World Rally Championship: after the successful season-opener, which saw him finish third in the WRC 2 class at the Rally Monte Carlo, he next lines up at the Rally Sweden in two weeks.
More information www.rally-hadeland.no
Kristoffersson crowned Swedish champion on back of win.
Johan Kristoffersson and Stig Rune Skjærmoen (S/N) won the winter sprint in Sundsvall (S) to secure the title of Swedish Rally Sprint Champion. Kristoffersson, in the Polo GTI R5, proved unbeatable in the two qualifying runs and the two final rounds, ultimately winning with a 7.7-second advantage of Patrik Florin/Göran Bergsten (S/S).
This was Kristoffersson’s third victory in Volkswagen’s new customer rally car, having previously won the Romsjulsrally and Bergslagen Rally. The 30-year-old is also enjoying life away from the track: at the Swedish Motorsport Athlete of the Year ceremony, Kristoffersson picked up five awards – including Rallycross Driver of the Year and Racing Driver of the Year.
World Rally Championship (WRC)
Volkswagen Rally drivers accepted into FIA Hall of Fame.
Following in the footsteps of all the Formula 1 world champions, the 17 world rally champions have now also been inducted into the Hall of Fame of the International Automobile Federation (FIA) in a ceremony in Paris. They included three living legends who all tasted success at the wheel of a Volkswagen at one point or another during their career. As well as Sébastien Ogier (F), who was crowned world rally champion four times with the Polo R WRC, Carlos Sainz (E, winner of the 2010 Rally Dakar in a Volkswagen Race Touareg) and Petter Solberg (N, Rallycross team world champion in 2017 and 2018 with the Polo R Supercar) were also inducted.
More information www.fia.com
Artic Lapland Rally
First outing, first win: Lindholm and the Polo GTI R5 start with a win in Finland.
Wins on five out of ten special stages and overall victory by nearly 50 seconds: Emil Lindholm/Mikael Korhonen (FIN/FIN) made a winning start to the Finnish Rally Championship with the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. The success came at a rally steeped in legend: the Arctic Lapland Rally. The list of illustrious winners on the snow and ice in northern Finland includes world rally champions Marcus Grönholm, Tommi Mäkkinen, Hannu Mikkola, Timo Salonen and Ari Vatanen. Lindholm/Korhonen also had to overcome notable opposition on the 243.78-kilometre route, including Formula 1 start Valtteri Bottas and his experienced co-driver Timo Rautiainen (FIN/FIN) in a World Rally Car.
Rally Monte Carlo
“OC” Veiby claims podium finish with the Polo GTI R5 at the “Monte”.
Third place at the fiercely-contested Rally Monte Carlo – Ole Christian “OC” Veiby/Jonas Andersson (N/S) earned a spot on the WRC 2 podium with the Polo GTI R5. However, Veiby/Andersson also suffered a set-back at the iconic “Monte”, which lived up to its reputation of presenting the competitors with an ever-changing combination of dry tarmac, damp, wet, ice, slush and thick snow. The bonnet and lights had smashed the windscreen of their car, as a result of them not having fastened the locking mechanisms correctly. The new Polo GTI R5’s debut at the “Monte” turned out to be a successful one: Nicolas Ciamin/Yannick Roche (F/F) won five of the 15 special stages at the wheel of the four-wheel drive car from Wolfsburg. The French pair ended the rally in fifth place in the WRC 2 class..
Johan Kristoffersson/Stig Rune Skjærmoen (S/N) won the 127.3-kilometre Bergslagen Rally in southern Sweden. The duo, who presented Volkswagen’s new customer rally car with its maiden success before the turn of the year, won four of the eight special stages to take victory at the opening round of the Swedish Rally Championship. More information: www.rallysm.se
GP Ice Race
Horsepower fireworks on ice.
Any relaunch always faces the same challenge: to successfully recapture the magic of the original – a hurdle, at which many fall. However, if the superlatives being used by participants and visitors to the 2019 Ice Race are to be believed, organisers Vinzenz Greger and Ferdinand Porsche achieved precisely that.
Despite the bitter cold, with temperatures as low as 15°C, roughly 8,000 people flocked to the 600-metre racetrack, which was bathed in glorious sunshine. Perfect conditions for a festival of horsepower on ice, at which there was a little bit of everything on offer. For two days, more than 130 participants with race cars spanning eight decades of motorsport history drifted their way round the track, amazing the spectators time and time again.
“Ice racing is motorsport up close and personal”
The ice race in the township of Zell am See in the Salzburg region can look back on a long tradition. From 1937 to 1973, the event was held on Lake Zell, before going into hibernation – until Nuremberg-born Vinzenz Greger and his friend Ferdinand Porsche, great-grandson of Porsche founder Ferdinand Porsche, had a chance idea: “About a year and a half ago, we found a spiked tyre in the garage next to my father Wolfgang’s Porsche 550 Spyder – we simply had to follow that up.” Shortly after, the idea to relaunch the ice race was born.
“Then, like now, ice racing was motorsport for everyone – motorsport up close and personal,” says Ferdinand Porsche. “There is an open pit lane and everyone has access to everywhere. The event should bring people together, that is the whole point of motorsport!” As the lake seldom freezes, the organisers opted for an artificial ice rink at the nearby airfield. This certainly did not dilute the enthusiasm for the event.
Romain Dumas takes on the ice
Among the big-name drivers, including Walter Röhrl and Mark Webber, is one Romain Dumas. The Frenchman, who set a new all-time record for the Pikes Peak hill climb in the fully-electric Volkswagen ID. R in 2018, was entering unfamiliar territory in Zell am See. “The last time I took part in an ice race was at the Trophée Andros ten years ago,” says Dumas. “But this is great fun, particularly because I get to drive the new Polo GTI R5 for the first time.” The 41-year-old cannot not stop singing the event’s praises. “This is a great event, superbly organised, and the driving is really good fun!”
The results confirm how much fun Dumas was having: up against experienced rally aces and Škoda drivers Jan Kopecký and Julian Wagner, Dumas hurtled over the ice in pursuit of fast times. The R5 rally cars only race against the clock, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm. “In the R5 class, the atmosphere was even more boisterous than usual – absolutely bombastic,” says a delighted Ferdinand Porsche. “That truly was a spectacular display of driving.”
The drivers in other classes also put on a great show, including Michael Gross and his son Christopher in their 1955 Beetle. “We bought the car in the USA in 2016,” explained Michael Gross, who allowed his son behind the wheel on Sunday. The Beetle took part in and completed the Carrera Panamericana in 1996.
“The most valuable things are the doors,” says father Gross, laughing. “They still have their original stickers from the Panamericana on them. If anyone drives into them, I will not be happy,” he warns the opposition, tongue in cheek. He has nothing but praise for the relaunched ice race. “This is a great event. Thank you to everyone who made it possible!”
As well as the Beetle, the Gross family also travels with a 1956 Karmann Ghia, which attracts at least as much attention. The coupe, with its 90-PS Porsche Super 90 engine, was used in ice races in the USA between 1957 and 1969, and has only belonged to the Gross family for two months. Michael Gross jr. is at the wheel this weekend, making his father proud. “This is a real father-son bonding weekend,” he says, giving his son a few final tips before he heads out onto the ice.
Another man having plenty of fun is Mario Minichberger, who did not just come to Zell am See for the fun of it. The head of Minichberger Motorsport, who can usually be found tearing it up on the hill climb circuit, is using the Ice Race for training. He normally competes in the Internationaler Allgäu-Alpen-Pokal with his 900-kilogram Golf III, and really put pedal to the metal in Zell am See. Powered by a two-litre naturally aspirated engine generating 211 kW (287 PS), Minichberger’s lap times were not far off those of the Polo GTI R5.
Jochi Kleint at the double
Jochi Kleint has nothing to do with the race against the clock this weekend. The demonstration drives with the Golf II Pikes Peak and the Golf II GTI are actually more of an early birthday present, as the rally ace turns 71 on 24 January.
Behind the steering wheel, the foot is already twitching on the accelerator pedal. “My first ice race with Volkswagen was a long time ago. I drove the Golf I GTI in Chamonix in the 1980s,” recalls Kleint. With Jochi Kleint at the wheel, entertainment is guaranteed. “I threw the car into the corners a little bit more and gave the odd spectator a little snow shower,” he says, grinning.
While Kleint is able to shake off the flu over the course of the weekend, Dumas ends the event with podium finishes to his name. “I feared that I would be last in the class,” admits the endurance expert. “Second on Saturday and third on Sunday is a great result. For me, this outing was a nice present, as I was primarily in Zell am See on a different mission.”
Next record attempt: the ID. R on the Nordschleife
During the event, Volkswagen announced its plans for the ID. R this year. Dumas is targeting a new record for electric cars on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife with the fully-electric race car in the summer of 2019. There is always the risk of a follow-up falling flat. In this case, however, it looks like living up to the hype – just like the 2019 GP Ice Race.
GP Ice Race
Volkswagen thrills with Romain Dumas and the Polo GTI R5 at the GP Ice Race.
A special debut: Romain Dumas (F) finished third to claim a spot on the podium at the GP Ice Race in Zell am See. At the return of the iconic event in the Austrian ski resort, at which motorsport was transformed into winter sport for the first time since 1973, Dumas ended Saturday in second place behind WRC 2 world champion Jan Kopecky (CZ, Škoda) and finished third behind Kopecky and Austrian rally whiz kid Julian Wagner (A, Škoda) on Sunday. This was sufficient to earn Dumas third place in the overall standings.
Crowds flocked to witness the return of the GP Ice Race, which took place in ideal conditions, with bitter cold and glorious sunshine. Two vintage Volkswagen race cars emerged as real crowd favourites: the twin-engine Golf II Pikes Peak from 1987 and the Golf II that won the Group A world championship in 1986, both driven by rally legend Jochi Kleint (D).
First Kristoffersson, now Solberg – win number two for the Polo GTI R5.
The Polo GTI R5 has claimed its second rally victory: Oliver Solberg/Johnston Aaron (N/GB) won the Rally Alüksne on their debut in Volkswagen’s customer sport car. The opening round of the season in the Estonian and Latvian rally championships saw 17-year-old Solberg jr. win five of the ten special stages at the wheel of the same Polo GTI R5 that his father Petter Solberg drove at the 2018 Rally Spain. The Polo GTI R5’s first success came courtesy of Johan Kristoffersson/Stig Rune Skjærmoen (S/N) at the Romsjulsrally in Norway at the end of December. Kristoffersson and Solberg – that sounds very familiar to Volkswagen fans after two successful years in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX).
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Number 003 is alive.
The Polo GTI R5 gives an exclusive glimpse behind the scenes.
Allow me to introduce myself, my name is W09598202JHV16003, but my friends simply call me 003. Those are the final three numbers of my ID. Or perhaps I should say, my vehicle identification number? Anyway, I am the third member of the growing Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 family.
I only met my brothers, 001 and 002, briefly. In the Volkswagen Motorsport factory hall in Hannover. They both looked pretty tired. They had probably just arrived back from work. I picked up that it had something to do with Spain, a trophy and champagne.
Whatever, that was before I was born. Let’s turn to my career. Three guys from Volkswagen Motorsport spent about a week assembling me out of many individual parts. I’m not one to brag, but I do look pretty good – and not just on the outside. Steel tubes run back and forth through my body. This is to offer the necessary protection, should anything go wrong. At that point, I still had no idea where my journey would take me. Nobody had breathed a word about it. Top secret, and all that.
Marriage before the birth
One major event was the so-called marriage – the moment they gave me my heart. An epic event, but the mechanics rather unromantically just referred to it as installing the engine. Ok, it’s hard to imagine something generating 200 kW (272 PS) as a heart. But then, it is also rather odd to describe something as a marriage before you have officially been born …
No sooner was the engine in place than we got down to business. They pushed me out of the lovely warm hall. First into a dark trailer. Shortly after that, into the cold, late autumn air in Lower Saxony.
I need to get used to uncomfortable working conditions, so the guy in the cockpit said. That was Dieter Depping. Test driver and, before my time, multiple German rally champion. And that’s not all. He seems to be the man for all occasions at Volkswagen. Rarely does a car leave the yard in Hannover without him first getting behind the wheel.
I did not know him up to that point, but he seems a nice guy. And he can drive, too. At least, he did not put me in any ditches during the test drive. Or overrev the engine. Or get the gears in a twist.
I have to say, that first warm-up was great fun. My circulation is now in good condition and all my joints have been lubricated nicely. I never knew what fine form I was already in. I am particularly good when it comes to sprints. That is the advantage when you are four-wheel drive, and the power does not all go through one axle.
I would have loved to have headed straight to my first job. Instead, they sent me back to the hall, where I was given another thorough check-up and then cleaned until I looked spick and span. Then there I sat, illuminated by bright spotlights in a corner of the workshop that had been cleaned up and adorned with official-looking logos on the wall. Unfortunately, they then cast a sheet over me. Apparently this was to increase the anticipation for my future head of operations.
Family spread across the whole world
The next morning, things livened up. Unfortunately, the cover prevented me from seeing anything, which meant everything played out like a radio drama for me at first. I recognised Gerard-Jan de Jongh’s voice. He is what you might describe as my spiritual father.
I had already heard from discussions between the mechanics that he was responsible for my construction, as technical project manager. They said something about a two-year development period. And 10,000 kilometres of testing, which my brothers already had in their wheels. Wow, that is quite a distance.
I also heard a female voice from under my polyester cover. That must have been Juliane Gründl, head of sales at Volkswagen Motorsport. She spoke about the high hopes they had for me. As the first representative of an entire family. Over the next few weeks, I am due to receive ten brothers. Then another 30 to 40 next year. That is one heck of a lot of relations.
Organising a family get-together could be tricky. Especially as Ms. Gründl let slip that my brothers will emigrate all over the world, even as far as Paraguay … wherever that is. It sounds a long way.
Then they finally removed the cover from my bodywork and I was able to take a look around. I didn’t recognise some of those present. I immediately noticed from their dialect that they were not from Hannover. Occasionally I heard the word ‘Austria’. Right at the front, amid the flashes of photographers, stood a man who introduced himself as Raimund Baumschlager. My brothers, 001 and 002, had told me about him. He seems to be a good friend of the family.
My first home: Austria
Mr. Baumschlager was then presented with my birth certificate – in truth, it was quite a thick DIN A4 folder. His staff from the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing team then gave me another thorough check-up. They even crawled into my boot. But that is fine. At least, I didn’t hear any protests from either Ms. Gründl or Mr. de Jongh.
At the end of the official hand-over, my future team carefully loaded me into a trailer. It was nice of them all to handle me with such care. Once I was loaded, I could not see anything for a while again. The next few hours were tough. The trailer shook about quite a lot. I would have preferred to have driven myself. After all, that is what I do best. Apparently, however, my new owner wanted to go easy on me. That will surely change soon, as I belong on the road.
The trailer was only opened when we arrived in a place where everyone – absolutely everyone – speaks in the same way as my new owner. I guess that must be Austria. It did not look bad at all. Very green. Beautiful mountains. Micheldorf was written in large letters across a sign. This is a good place to live.
After a few more inspections, I was back on my travels again just one week later. I did not understand the language spoken by the people at the destination. Thank goodness a colleague with a feathered arrow on its radiator grille was able to help me. Prague. Czech Republic.
It was here, at the Prague Rally Sprint, that I was to show what I was capable of in competition for the first time. And it went really well: Vojtěch Štajf and Karel Janeček narrowly missed out on victory with me in the first start. In the end, we finished fifth overall in the Rally Sprint, just 6.1 seconds behind the winning duo of Martin Koči and Radovan Mozner jr. – not too bad for the beginning!
I have some exciting weeks behind me, but I am sure there is plenty more excitement in store. Mr. Baumschlager mentioned that I would soon meet up with another two of my brothers in Austria. It is always good to have your family around you. That pretty much guarantees more material for new stories. To be continued.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Within a whisker of victory: Štajf/Janeček fifth with the Polo GTI R5.
The Polo GTI R5 enjoyed a strong result on its debut in customer hands: Vojtěch Štajf/Karel Janeček (CZ/CZ) narrowly missed out on victory in the first start for Volkswagen’s new customer race car at the Prague Rally Sprint. Competing as Racing 21, Štajf/Janeček, in the car run by the BRR Baumschlager Rallye & Racing team, finished fifth in the Rally Sprint, just 6.1 seconds behind the winning duo of Martin Koči/Radovan Mozner jr. (SK/SK, Škoda). Going into the final special stage, Štajf/Janeček had opened a lead of over 13 seconds and looked set to claim the first win for the Polo GTI R5. However, they were forced to give up on this dream when a mistake saw them hit a kerb, costing them valuable time. Štajf/Janeček also came close to claiming a first stage win for a Volkswagen customer team on stage four, finishing just four tenths of a second off the top time on what, at 10.86 kilometres, was the rally’s longest stage.
A little over a week after the delivery of the first car, the Prague Rally Sprint represented the first competitive outing for a Polo GTI R5 in customer hands. The Polo GTI R5 had previously demonstrated its speed on gravel and tarmac at the Rally Spain in October, at which Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (N/N) and Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F) both won special stages.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
First delivery of the Polo GTI R5 for customer sport.
Roughly one month after the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain, Volkswagen Motorsport delivered the first customer car to the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing (BRR) team in Hannover. Team owner Raimund Baumschlager was personally involved in the development of the 200-kW (272-PS) Polo GTI R5, as a test driver, and was there in person to receive his new car.
“The Polo GTI R5 heralds the start of a new chapter for Volkswagen Motorsport,” says Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “After the homologation by the International Automobile Federation FIA and the successful competitive debut in Spain – complete with a podium result for Petter Solberg – the delivery of the first car to a customer marks the next major milestone.”
Juliane Gründl, Head of Sales at Volkswagen Motorsport, adds: “The handing over of the first Polo GTI R5 takes the new customer sport project at Volkswagen Motorsport into the next phase. Not only are we currently working hard on the production of more cars, but the logistics required to distribute spare parts all over the world are also in place.” A further ten cars are scheduled to be delivered to customers from Belgium, Italy, Finland, Paraguay, Portugal and Sweden by the end of 2018. The production and global distribution of between 30 and 40 cars per year is planned as of 2019.
Rally debut before the end of the year
The BRR team plans to focus its activities with the Polo GTI R5 on the FIA European Rally Championship (ERC), which consists of eight rounds in 2019. The R5 cars form the top category in this championship. They are actually the mandatory class of car in the U28 competition. “Two Polo GTI R5 are already earmarked for the ERC. We have at least a handful of potential interested parties for the third car,” says Baumschlager, looking ahead to future outings. “We have had a lot of enquiries from customers who enjoy a close association with Volkswagen and are very pleased that this manufacturer is now also offering a rally car.” BRR’s first Polo GTI R5 will make its debut at the Prague Rallysprint (Pražský Rallysprint) on 01 December.
Because the events in the European Championship are held on tarmac and gravel, Baumschlager also ordered the appropriate components for both set-ups for his Polo GTI R5 – for example, different chassis. “For us, it is important that the supply of spare parts also works perfectly,” adds the 14-time Austrian national rally champion, who celebrates his 59th birthday this Saturday. “I have every faith in Volkswagen Motorsport in this regard too.”
The Polo GTI R5, which has a 1.6-litre turbo engine with direct fuel injection, generating 200 kW (272 PS), and four-wheel drive, is a rally car developed by Volkswagen Motorsport for the R5 class. The R5 cars, which are relatively close to their production counterparts, are approved in the WRC 2 category of the world championship and also represent the highest class in regional championships, like the FIA European Rally Championship, and in many national championships.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
At the Rally Spain, the new Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 celebrated a strong rally debut – and in doing so proved its competitiveness at the highest level from the word go in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (N/N) finished third in the WRC 2 category. Here you can find the highlight video.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Rally Spain: Strong debut for the new Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
Volkswagen celebrated a strong rally debut with the Polo GTI R5: At the Rally Spain, the new customer sport car made a good impression with best times on both gravel and tarmac – and in doing so proved its competitiveness at the highest level from the word go in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (N/N) celebrated a podium finish in third place, Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F) led for much of the rally. At the only works appearance, Volkswagen achieved their self-defined objective of demonstrating the performance of the latest customer sport car. After its sporting debut, the next phase gets underway for the 200 kW (272 PS) Polo GTI R5: In the coming weeks, the first cars will be delivered to international customers – in South America and throughout Europe.
“We are really pleased with the Polo GTI R5’s debut and I think that we have completed our mission,” said Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. “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 Polo GTI R5 is extremely competitive. At the same time, we know that the car has even more potential.”
Successful test in competitive conditions
The best time on the first special stage – what its “big brother”, the Polo R WRC, achieved on its WRC debut in 2013, the Polo GTI R5 can now also claim. Volkswagen duo Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F) initially took the lead in the WRC-2 category during the test in competitive conditions. Their team-mates at the first outing for the Polo GTI R5, Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (N/N), 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), and finished the rally in a strong third position in their class. And that was despite the weather and tyre choice making things tricky for drivers and teams – conditions in which experiences with the car and well-established driver/engineer relationships are an advantage.
And the Polo GTI R5 demonstrated its pace on asphalt on day two and three as well. While making too conservative a tyre choice and opting for too hard a setup saw Camilli/Veillas forfeit their lead in the first section on Saturday, they were already snatching at first place again in the afternoon – with just three tenths of a second between them and the eventual winners Kalle Rovanperä/Jonne Halttunen (FIN/FIN, Škoda). However, a defect in the shift linkage cost Camilli/Veillas their hope of victory. On their return under Rally 2 regulations on Sunday, the French duo secured more best times, including on the special stage on the famous “Riudecanyes” section.
“The pace of the 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 easy to solve and eliminate before the car is delivered to customers. All in all, we are extremely pleased with the debut.”
Delivery of the first Polo GTI R5s will commence shortly
The completion of the Polo GTI R5’s successful debut at the Rally Spain sees the next phase in Volkswagen’s new customer sport project get underway. The first 15 models have been sold to eight customer teams and are due to be delivered before the end of 2018. And the Rally Spain showed signs that sales won’t remain at 15 Polo GTI R5 for the markets of Paraguay, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Finland, Austria and Portugal: Prospective buyers were beating down Volkswagen’s proverbial door in the Service Park.
Manufacturing of the customer cars is now underway in Hannover – which sees a transformation for Volkswagen finally take place in motorsport since the end of 2016. The Polo GTI R5 is the first customer sport car to be produced and delivered entirely at the motorsport location in Ikarusallee. Volkswagen have set themselves the goal of delivering an additional 30 to 40 Polo GTI R5 to customers next year. In addition to the rally programme, Volkswagen is involv Petter Solberg (N), Volkswagen Polo GTI R5ed in customer sport on the racetrack with the Golf GTI TCR.
Quotes from Rally Spain
Eric Camilli (F), Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 #47
“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. All in all, I am very pleased with our performance. And I am very proud that I was privileged to be part of this special debut.”
Petter Solberg (N), Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 #49
“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 here. A podium result on the debut – things couldn’t have gone much better. We avoided all risks at the rally, 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 to finish: It was simply fantastic what he did here. Congratulations on his exceptional win!”
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Latest news from the Rally Spain.
For Volkswagen kicked off the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5 with the fastest time, courtesy of Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (N/N), and second place for Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (F/F). The much-anticipated first showdown with the strong opposition on the Shakedown at the Rally Spain saw the new customer rally car lead the way: the two 200-kW (272-PS) Polos ended the ‘free practice’ 1.3 seconds clear of the WRC 2 field. The Shakedown was held on a two-kilometre mix of gravel and tarmac.
“It is obviously fantastic to start a new project with good results,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “However, we should not read too much into what is undoubtedly a positive Shakedown result. We are looking forward to the first real head-to-head with the opposition. Everyone in the team is very motivated – especially as we have been given such a warm welcome by the WRC family after two years away and it brings back a lot of fond memories of four strong years up to 2016.” Besides the racing, here is an overview what else been going on regarding Volkswagen’s only works outing with the Polo GTI R5:
It is going to be tricky – Silke Hansen predicts a wide range of weather at the Rally Spain
She was an integral part of the successful Volkswagen team that dominated the world championship between 2013 and 2016: Silke Hansen, whose main job sees her present the weather forecast for TV station ARD (Erstes Deutsches Fernsehen). Hansen is also in action at the only works outing of the Polo GTI R5 – and is predicting tricky weather. Sunshine on Thursday, followed by cooler temperatures and cloud on Friday, which could produce significant rainfall on Saturday. And what about Sunday? “It will be interesting to see where and when it rains,” says Hansen. What makes rallying so special for the weather presenter is the direct feedback from the team – with short-range forecasts for the coming hours, combined with an outlook for the entire rally, which is important for strategy. Buzzword: tyre selection.
Wow factor in the service park: Volkswagen’s GTI outing makes an impression
Volkswagen is heralding a new era in customer sport with the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain. The GTI brand is not only synonymous with sporty road vehicles, but also the company’s customer sport programme. The red honeycombs typical of the GTI brand have produced plenty of oohs and aahs in the service park in Salou – for example, the overalls sported by Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas and Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan. The Polo GTI R5 itself, which also bears the striking hexagonal design, also received great praise from the fans.
Family get-together in the WRC – Ogier and Mikkelsen pay Volkswagen a visit
A reunion at the scene of shared successes: two former Volkswagen team members did not waste any time before stopping by to say hello at the Rally Spain. On Wednesday evening, the team received a visit from Sébastien Ogier (F, M-Sport-Ford), four-time world rally champion with Volkswagen, and Andreas Mikkelsen (N, Hyundai), who started out as a Volkswagen Junior before becoming the last driver to win a rally with the Wolfsburg-based manufacturer. Cue plenty of backslapping and hugging.
15 titles – world champion trio of Solberg, Loeb and Ogier meet up in Spain
The past three world rally champions, with a total of 15 titles between them, in one rally: Sébastien Ogier (F, M-Sport-Ford), Sébastien Loeb (F, Citroën) and Petter Solberg (N, Volkswagen) were competing together in Spain. While the two Sebs went head to head in the top category of the WRC, Solberg lined up in the WRC 2 category with Volkswagen. In 2003, Solberg became the last Nordic driver to win the world championship. Loeb then won the next nine titles in a row, followed by five back-to-back titles for Ogier.
Media guide with all you need to know about the Polo GTI R5
To mark the return of Volkswagen Motorsport to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), the 52-page media guide “Polo GTI R5 – With the World Rally Champion's genes” has been produced. The comeback marks the next step in customer sport – after the TCR project with the Golf GTI TCR on the racetrack, the Polo GTI R5 is Volkswagen’s second customer racing programme.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
The Polo GTI R5 project heralded a new era.
For Volkswagen Motorsport the R5 project represents a return to the field of customer racing in rallying. Not the successful outing in the FIA World Rally Championship from 2013 to 2016 has been the first outing in this business. From the year 2000 onwards, Volkswagen has built and sold the Polo approximately 180 times for entries in the Group N category – followed by more for the S1600 category. From now on, customer sport rally cars are again not only designed and developed at Volkswagen’s motorsport hub, but they are also assembled, delivered and then supplied with spare parts there.
To make sure that everything is working properly, a gradual transformation and upgrading of the location, specialists and processes started immediately after Volkswagen called time on its factory programme in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2016. The goal is to gradually extend production and logistics. “Our aspiration is not to sell as many cars as possible,” says Juliane Gründl, Head of Sales at Volkswagen Motorsport. “Our aim is to offer our customers the best service possible. As well as the actual sale itself, that also includes aftersales and spare parts logistics.”
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets adds: “When the decision was made to focus more on customer sport in the future, the R5 project was seen as a logical consequence. Our expertise in rallying allowed us to focus fully on efficiency – even if the alignment towards customer sport did mean a considerable restructuring at the site in Hannover.”
First Polo GTI R5 to be delivered after Rally Spain
The Rally Spain represents the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5. Immediately after the cars first rally on the final weekend in October, work begins in Hannover on assembling and delivering the first 15 R5 Polos. A further 30 to 40 are set to follow in 2019. “We want to deliver the first 15 Polo GTI R5s by Christmas,” says Smeets. “There is far greater demand than we can meet. We are overwhelmed by the huge interest.” The first cars will be delivered to Austria, Belgium, Finland,
Italy, Paraguay, Portugal and Sweden.
The International Automobile Federation, FIA, set a maximum price for an R5 car that is ready for use. This currently stands at 190,000 euros plus VAT per car in its tarmac trim. On request, however, more performance-related options can be ordered for the Polo GTI R5 – such as lighter seats. As well as the gravel conversion kit, possible options include performance, mobility, lighting and data packages.
Simply put: along with alternative side windows and nets, available options also include front window heaters and jack, night faces for night-time rallies and more comprehensive data collection. If required, customers can book Volkswagen Motorsport engineers and mechanics for their rally outings. “It remains to be seen how high demand for that part of the business actually is,” says Gründl.
Polo GTI R5 assembled in 295 working hours
The cars are assembled within 295 working hours by teams with alternating crews of mechanics. Once assembled, before being handed over to the customer, the car is put through a carefully done shakedown at the Volkswagen test facility in Ehra-Lessien – the final and most important quality check.
With the delivery, the customers receive the extensive individual documentation that accompanies their Polo GTI R5 – as well as the necessary documents, this also includes a 140-page handbook and ‘How To’ guides for set-up and servicing. “Four to six mechanics are permanently entrusted with assembling the R5 cars,” says Juliane Gründl. “The supply of spare parts and storage logistics are also ensured by specially trained employees, some with additional qualifications. Furthermore, engineers are also permanently entrusted with the project.”
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
The Polo GTI R5: A customer sport car with a winner’s genes.
The FIA regulations for R5 rally cars impose strict limitations on the creativity of engineers. However, there is still room to develop technical ideas. A challenge relished by the Volkswagen engineers and project leader Gerard-Jan de Jongh for the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. The sixth generation of the Polo, which was launched in 2017, forms the basis for the R5 Volkswagen.
However, development work on the rally version began well before this: in November 2016. The Volkswagen engineers found that the bodyshell provided them with a good starting point. For example, the dimensions of the engine compartment, which opened up possibilities with regard to the positioning of the engine, or the fundamental rigidity of the chassis, which made it easier to determine the size of the obligatory safety cage. “The Polo is based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, which gave us a lot of options in the engine compartment,” says de Jongh. “It is a chassis that already offers us a really solid basis in many critical areas.”
Basic EA888 provides ideal starting point
At the heart of the Polo GTI R5 lies the 1.6-litre engine, which can also be found in the 2.0-litre version of the Polo GTI1, the Golf GTI2 and the Golf GTI TCR. The straight-four engine with turbocharger, transversally mounted in front of the front axle, is based on the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 engine. This engine is also used in the R5 Fabia of sister company Škoda and, at first glance, the engines may appear identical. However, other developments were integrated in the Polo GTI R5 – such as the cooling and exhaust concept.
The Polo GTI R5 was developed according to the same philosophy as the extremely successful Polo R WRC. While no individual components of the world championship-winning Polo were adopted in the R5 customer sport car, the experience gained with the car behind twelve world championship titles was incorporated in the new Polo. The mandatory sales price of the basic car, in its tarmac trim, of 190,000 euros required different solutions. “Basically, behind every single detail of the R5 lies the same philosophy as in our World Rally Cars. However, the technical R5 regulations impose significantly more restrictions,” says de Jongh.
Customer sport car demands new approaches to development
The fact that the Polo GTI R5 was developed for customer sport demanded a broad approach to development: as well as the main test drivers Dieter Depping (D), Eric Camilli (F), Raimund Baumschlager (A) and Pontus Tidemand (S), world rally champions Petter Solberg (N) and Marcus Grönholm (FIN) were also employed in the process. “The diverse feedback allowed us to develop a rally car that can be driven at the limit with various different driving styles,” says de Jongh. “Working with many drivers helped us to avoid thinking in just one direction.”
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Dawn of a new era: Polo GTI R5 set for its WRC debut in Spain.
After about two years of development and over 10,000 kilometres of testing, the wait is over: the Polo GTI R5 will make its competitive debut in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) at the Rally Spain (25 to 28 October). The 200-kW (272-PS) Polo GTI R5 will be driven by the Norwegian duo of Petter Solberg/Veronica Engan (car number 49) and Frenchmen Eric Camilli/Benjamin Veillas (car number 47). The Volkswagen Motorsport team, which won a clean sweep of titles in the highest class of the World Rally Championship on four occasions between 2013 and 2016, will run the new customer car when it makes its only works outing in Spain.
“Two years after Volkswagen’s last WRC title, we are all looking forward to the Rally Spain, even if it is only a one-off comeback for our team and the Polo GTI R5 will be run by customer teams in the future,” stresses Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “With 21 competitors, the WRC 2 category has a large and a strong field – that makes us all the more determined to get a good result.” Solberg and Camilli will not be competing for overall victory in Spain, as the new Polo GTI was developed and prepared according to R5 regulations. Cars in this class have roughly 100 PS less than World Rally Cars. They are aimed at customer teams and privateers. Furthermore, their technology is based far more closely on production technology and is also significantly more affordable.
Unique combination of gravel and tarmac stages
In total, the Rally Spain comprises 18 special stages and a total distance of 331.58 kilometres. The combination of gravel and tarmac is unique within the world championship. “This is another reason why we selected the Rally Spain for the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5,” explains Gerard-Jan de Jongh, technical project leader for the Polo GTI R5 and former race engineer for world rally champion Sébastien Ogier.
Round twelve of the 2018 WRC season kicks off on Thursday with a spectacular special stage around the Montjuic area in the heart of Barcelona. The first full day on Friday takes in some very tough and dusty gravel routes, while the stages on Saturday and Sunday are held on winding and smooth tarmac roads in the mountains to the south of Salou. This represents a special challenge for the mechanics: at the end of the gravel day, they have just 75 minutes to convert the complete car from gravel to tarmac set-up at the evening service. “Among other things, we swap the chassis, brakes and gearbox,” says de Jongh, explaining the complicated challenge awaiting the mechanics.
The comeback: Former world champion Petter Solberg returns
It could be the comeback of the motorsport year! 43-year-old Norwegian Solberg won 13 rallies during his time in the World Rally Championship. He then switched to Rallycross with his own team in 2013, since when he has twice been crowned world champion (2014 and 2015). Three titles in two different disciplines governed by the International Automobile Federation FIA is a unique achievement in the world of motorsport. Solberg’s PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team currently runs two Polo R Supercars in the World Rallycross Championship (WRX). This season, the team successfully defended the Team title it won in 2017.
“Spain was the venue of my last WRC rally in 2012,” says an emotional Solberg. “It feels great to be heading back there now. Particularly with this car and this team. The combination of gravel and tarmac will be a big challenge for me. After all, it is six years since I drove in a WRC rally. However, one way or another, it will be a fantastic weekend – with old rally friends and passionate fans out on the route.” Solberg, one of seven test drivers, took the Polo GTI R5 out for the first time on ice and snow in Sweden at the start of the year. Back then, however, he was not planning a comeback. The second test came just last week in Spain, together with team-mate Eric Camilli.
From test driver to race driver: Eric Camilli
Like Solberg, Camilli is one of the test drivers who was heavily involved in the development of the Polo GTI R5 for Volkswagen Motorsport – as well as Raimund Baumschlager, Emil Lindholm, Dieter Depping, Pontus Tidemand and former world champion Marcus Grönholm. The 31-year-old Frenchman is also one of the most experienced drivers in the R5 class. In 2017 he finished second in the WRC 2 class at the end of the season. Since making his world championship debut in 2014, Camilli has competed in 37 WRC rallies.
“It is a great honour for me to be involved in Spain. I have completed a lot of test kilometres and am really looking forward to finally getting to drive the Polo GTI R5 at a rally,” says Camilli. “The first outing with a completely new car is always very special, and you have to be ready for anything. However, I know that we have prepared as well as possible and do not believe that we need to fear our more established opponents.”
First 15 Polo GTI R5 already accounted for
Immediately after the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5, work will begin in Hannover on assembly of the first 15 customer cars ¬– a further 30 to 40 are to follow in 2019. “The first Polo GTI R5 will be handed over to customers after the Rally Spain,” says Smeets. “There is far greater demand than we can meet. We are overwhelmed by the huge interest.”
Figuratively speaking, the Polo GTI R5 is the “big brother” of the Polo GTI1. Although the road-going version of the Polo may look more reserved than its rally counterpart, there are still many parallels. For example, the engine, which stems from the basic EA888 engine in both the production Polo and the Polo GTI R5.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Married... with Motorsport.
Petter Solberg’s last appearance in the World Rally Championship came back in 2012. At the end of October, the 2003 champion returns – in a Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. As always, he can count on the support of his motorsport-mad family.
Motorsport as a family business is something of a tradition in Scandinavia. However, even by Nordic standards, the Solberg family from Norway is rather exceptional. The main protagonists are brothers Petter and Henning. Petter has been world champion in two disciplines – rallying (2003) and Rallycross (2014 and 2015) – something only the 43-year-old has ever achieved. Henning, his elder by two years, is a five-time Norwegian rally champion with 128 WRC starts to his name. Then you also have Pernilla, Petter’s wife, who, like her father Per-Inge Walfridsson, also enjoyed great success on the rally scene. And the next generation of Solbergs has also gone into the ‘family business’. Petter’s son Oliver is already one of the fastest young Rallycross and rally drivers about.
The Solbergs’ fascination with motorsport dates back almost four decades. Back in 1982, Petter and Henning’s parents, Terje and Tove, are bitten by the Autocross bug. Fast. Open. Affordable. These are the simple but powerful reasons why this original form of full-contact motorsport remains very popular today in Scandinavia. The Solbergs line up in a Volkswagen Beetle. Passionate mechanics Henning and Petter prepare the cars for the races.
By the time he is just ten years old, Petter is already a decent mechanic. Later on, he starts to train as a painter and varnisher, so as not to become bored of tinkering with cars. He soon changes his mind, ends his apprenticeship and studies to become a car mechanic. At this point, Petter’s eventual wife Pernilla does not want anything to do with motorsport. While her father is competing in rallies all over the world, she is initially more interested in equestrian sports. At 16, she swaps one horsepower for considerably more PS – at first as a co-driver for her father, whose career is slowly drawing to a close.
When she becomes of legal age, she expresses her desire to swap places. Pernilla Walfridsson goes on to become one of the best female rally drivers in the world. When she calls time on her career at just 27, it is for one main reason: she is pregnant, with son Oliver.
Petter, the perfectionist
At that time, husband Petter is a works driver for Ford in the World Rally Championship. While brother Henning has always been regarded as a good privateer in the world championship and is still capable of producing eye-catching performances today, Petter makes the big breakthrough: through a combination of meticulous attention and a wealth of talent, he makes it into the top tier of rallying. “Henning is really quick,” Petter confirms. “But he is often satisfied with simply taking part. I always want to win – at any price. That is where it comes down to details, and I am a perfectionist.”
There is one moment, when perfect Petter comes within a hair’s breadth of making a momentous mistake: when proposing to his future wife. The location is the 2002 Rally Australia. Petter and his crew have everything planned out. A boat on the Margaret River. A gala dinner. Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” playing in the background. However, one day before popping the question, Petter notices that he has left the engagement ring in Norway. A good friend is flown in with the essential piece of jewellery and the story gets its happy ending. The pair marry in 2003. In the same year, Solberg is crowned world rally champion – the peak of his career.
New passion: Rallycross
Nine years later, after 188 world championship events and 13 victories, Petter Solberg brings the curtain down on his rally career in 2012, switching to Rallycross. With 600 PS, the cars are almost twice as powerful as a WRC car. The races are short and, unlike in rallying, the drivers go head to head in ferocious battles.
Petter soon finds his feet in this new terrain. He is world champion in 2014 and 2015 – with his own team. He drives, Pernilla takes care of the whole organisational side of things. And son Oliver is always in the thick of it. There is but one topic of conversation when the Solberg family meet around the dinner table: motorsport. Every aspect of it. From logistics to the perfect racing line at the next circuit. “Motorsport is very important to us. It is our life,” says Pernilla. “At one point in my life, I asked myself whether I should perhaps do something ‘normal’. But why? I love motorsport. That is who I am.”
In 2017, the Solberg family, with the support of Volkswagen, forms the PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team. It is a success story. The team wins both titles in the FIA World Rallycross Championship in its very first year. Petter’s team-mate Johan Kristoffersson wins the Drivers’ Championship in the 419-kW (570-PS) Volkswagen Polo R Supercar. Together, the duo claims the Team title. They repeat the double in 2018.
While the Solberg family lives on a farm in Mitandersfors, Sweden, the team’s headquarters are located roughly 40 kilometres away in Torsby – Pernilla’s home town. The outfit employs about 20 people on a permanent basis. Petter is team owner, Pernilla team principal. They still have great plans for the future together, although Petter will presumably be making way behind the wheel for other drivers in the foreseeable future. “We want to win more titles with the team and to help young drivers become world champions,” says Petter, looking ahead to the future.
Oliver follows in his father’s footsteps
One of those who could go on to great things is their son Oliver. He may not yet have a driving licence, but special regulations have allowed him to drive at rallies in Latvia and Estonia, as well as in the Nordic Rallycross championship. “He is faster than I was at that age,” says dad Petter.
His offspring has already made history. On 7 October 2018, Oliver Solberg won the RallyX Nordic series at the age of 17 years and 14 days. In doing so, he became the youngest international champion in a Rallycross supercar. Hollywood could hardly have written a better script: 38 years earlier, to the day, Pernilla’s father Per-Inge Walfridsson won the European Rallycross Championship.
This year still has one very special highlight in store for Petter Solberg. From 25 to 28 October, the 43-year-old will return to the World Rally Championship. 2,175 days after Solberg made what he believed would be his final WRC appearance, he is set to make his comeback at the same event.
Driving for Volkswagen Motorsport, he will be behind the wheel of the four-time world champion manufacturer’s brand-new customer sport model – the Polo GTI R5. “The opportunity to return to the WRC with Volkswagen is unique and I was only too happy to accept the offer,” says Solberg. His wife Pernilla puts it in a nutshell: “Rallycross is fantastic, but rallying lies deep in our heart. It is in our DNA.”
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Volkswagen presents livery of the Polo GTI R5.
The Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 has a new look. The final livery for the 200-kW (272-PS) rally car is a reinterpretation of the spectacular optics that were also realised in the Golf GTI TCR touring car. “The Polo GTI R5 looks really exciting,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets, about the four-wheel drive car for rally customers. As of November, the first cars will be delivered and will compete in international and national rally championships in the future.
Nico Mühr, Exterior Design Volkswagen, describes the philosophy behind the dynamic look of the Polo GTI R5, which, as is typical in racing, was applied as a film: “We purposely used many of the design elements from the production vehicles of the GTI family for the Polo GTI R5. In addition to the typical colours of red, white, black and the distinctive line on the front grill, it is the GTI icons with their honeycomb structure in particular that give the rally Polo its distinctive look. Ultimately, the Polo GTI R5, despite its extreme rally look, remains clearly identifiable as – no doubt the fastest – member of the Polo family.”
20 months of development, 10,000 test kilometres
The bonnet conceals a 1.6-litre turbo engine with direct injection, which enables the four-door car weighing just under 1,230 kilos to accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in 4.1 seconds. The new rally Polo has a development period of 20 months behind it and has completed test drives of over 10,000 kilometres in all manner of climatic conditions. This diligence is due in part to the regulations. “Only minimal technical modifications are allowed to be made to an R5 during the specified motorsport lifetime of five years,” explained Gerard Jan de Jongh, Technical Project Lead Polo GTI R5. “This is why we prepared ourselves as well and thoroughly as possible.”
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Two years in development, roughly 10,000 kilometres of testing.
As a race engineer, he guided Sébastien Ogier to four titles in the World Rally Championship (WRC) between 2013 and 2016. Nowadays, Dutchman Gerard-Jan de Jongh is responsible for the Polo GTI R5 in his role as project leader at Volkswagen Motorsport. The 200-kW (272-PS) rally car will, in the future, be run by professional teams in the FIA World Rally Championship, interregional series like the FIA European Rally Championship, and national championships. In an interview shortly before the planned homologation on 1 October, 40-year-old de Jongh describes the challenges of the R5 regulations. The engineer also gives an overview of the development steps behind the Polo GTI R5 and looks ahead to the car’s competitive debut at the Rally Spain at the end of October.
Mr. de Jongh, for several years you were Sébastien Ogier’s race engineer at Volkswagen Motorsport. Do you miss the competitive outings?
My role as project leader for the development of a completely new rally car is obviously very different. I had the opportunity to continue to work as a race engineer, but found this new challenge at Volkswagen Motorsport very appealing. My job was suddenly far more complicated and complex than before. I am pleased that I took on this challenge.
When did you start to develop the Polo GTI R5?
In the week after the Rally Australia in November 2016, the last world championship event for the WRC team at the time. I started as soon as I got back to my office. The idea came from François-Xavier Demaison, Technical Director at Volkswagen Motorsport.
Demaison is known as a perfectionist. How heavily involved was he in your work?
FX (Demaison’s nickname) is currently responsible for four different projects. Despite this, he has still been very heavily involved in the development of the Polo GTI R5, right from the word go. We have had weekly meetings from the outset, at which we have discussed the further development of the car. FX is one of the most experienced engineers in rallying. His backing really helped me and the whole development team.
What form did the first steps take in the development of the Polo GTI R5?
I first thought about the basic concept of the Polo GTI R5, after which we came up with a design briefing. The next task was to find the right suppliers for the car components that are not made at Volkswagen Motorsport. In this regard, we were able to turn to a whole string of reliable contacts, with whom we worked on the Polo R WRC. They include Xtrac for the gearbox, Bosch for the engine electronics, ZF Sachs for the shock absorbers, and Alcon for the brakes.
How big was the team that developed the Polo GTI R5?
At Volkswagen Motorsport, we have design teams for the chassis, engine and suspension, each consisting of three to six employees. The work was divided between the team members. I was mainly in contact with the heads of department, but also with the designers. Experience has shown me that there is nothing better than personal contact.
What were the basic parameters for the development of the Polo GTI R5?
It was clear that the Polo GTI R5 had to be based on the 2017 generation of the production car. However, the new sixth generation Polo was not yet available when we started to develop the rally car. For this reason, we had to work exclusively with computer data. Thanks to the computer simulation, we had the chassis ready relatively early on in proceedings. We were then able to work with that in the wind tunnel. When defining the specification, we also placed great importance on ensuring that it was possible for private teams to look after the technical side of the Polo GTI R5 without any problems.
How many components were you able to adopt from the Polo R WRC?
Hardly any at all, because the technical regulations are completely different and the Polo R WRC was based on the previous model. However, we did adapt the design philosophy. For example, the mounting position of the shock absorbers, the spring deflection, the geometry of the suspension, and the position of the driver’s seat are similar. Exactly as we did with the Polo R WRC, we strived to make every single component as light as possible, in order to keep the car’s centre of gravity as low as possible. Here too, however, we were restricted by the regulations. Price limits are specified for many parts and a minimum weight is often stipulated – for the bodyshell, for example.
The International Automobile Federation FIA specifies a fixed budget for R5 cars …
… and sticking to this budget with an R5 car like the Polo GTI R5 actually represents a major challenge. It would obviously be possible to build a more effective car within the framework of the technical regulations. However, that would be too expensive and would have to come at a sacrifice. That is out of the question for our company and would not be in the interest of the sport. We have gained similar customer sport experience in touring car racing with the Golf GTI TCR. We were able to build on that for the R5. Furthermore, the regulations stipulate the use of production parts in certain areas, including the steering, radiator, drive shafts, cardan shaft and the engine.
Where did you have to make compromises?
Weight is a big issue with any racing car. As a rule, however, the lighter a part is the more expensive it is. As such, I had to make sure that the suppliers, with whom we wanted to cooperate, understood that we would have to find a compromise between performance and cost. Let’s take a part of the suspension, for example. In simple terms, we designed 90 percent of the part. We then took this design to the potential suppliers and asked them what price they would be able to supply the part for? The important thing was the quantity. We sometimes only needed a handful of the components for the Polo R WRC. In the case of the Polo GTI R5, which is designed for customer sport, we are talking about 50, 100 or even more parts. That obviously has a big influence on the price.
1.6-litre turbo engines are required in the R5 class. However, the production version of the Polo does not have this kind of engine …
The regulations do give us more leeway in this regard. The rules state that the rally car’s engine must stem from one of the group’s production models. We opted for the engine with the internal code EA888, a similar form of which, with a two-litre displacement, is also installed in the new Polo GTI. It was then modified accordingly for the Polo GTI R5.
How long have you been testing with the Polo GTI R5, and which drivers were involved in the tests?
The first test took place in November 2017 at the test facility in Fontjoncouse, France. Since then, Volkswagen test and development driver Dieter Depping, Pontus Tidemand, former world rally champions Petter Solberg and Marcus Grönholm, Raimund Baumschlager, Eric Camilli, and Emil Lindholm have all driven the car. The test programme was demanding: temperatures ranged from - 16 °C to +40 °C and the testing took place at sea level and at 2,800 metres in the mountains. We tested in such varied conditions, in order to ensure that our customers receive a car that performs reliably at all times and everywhere. We also wanted to gauge the opinion of drivers with different driving styles, as well as asphalt and gravel experts. The Polo GTI R5 must be versatile and driveable by the widest possible range of drivers. In total, we will have completed about 10,000 test kilometres by the time the car makes its competitive debut – roughly half of those were on gravel and half on asphalt, as well as a few on snow and ice.
The Polo GTI R5 will make its competitive debut at the end of October at the Rally Spain, the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. What are your expectations?
We will run two Polo GTI R5s, in order to show the potential of the car. The goal is to demonstrate how competitive the new Polo GTI R5 is at the highest level and on different surfaces. The Spanish round of the world championship is particularly well suited to this, as it is the only one held on both asphalt and gravel. However, we are well aware, from our time with the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship, that good planning does not guarantee good results – particularly in rallying. We would be pleased with a good result in WRC2.
In Eric Camilli and Petter Solberg, Volkswagen will have two experienced drivers at the wheel of the Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain. Why did you choose these two?
Eric Camilli and his co-driver Benjamin Veillas played a key role in the development of the Polo GTI R5. Both have a wealth of experience in the WRC2 class of the FIA World Rally Championship and finished runner-up in 2017. For them to be involved in the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5 is the logical next step. Plus, we really value their detailed feedback and analytical approach. Petter Solberg was also involved in the development of the Polo GTI R5. He is one of the most experienced rally drivers in the world and his knowledge is a big plus for any team. Furthermore, he is associated with Volkswagen Motorsport through his team’s commitment in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX). It is a special honour and great to have him driving the Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain.
Volkswagen in Customer Racing
Petter Solberg to drive the new Polo GTI R5 in Spain.
He’s back! 2003 champion Petter Solberg (N) returns to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. Solberg and co-driver Veronica Engan (N) will compete in the WRC 2 class at the Rally Spain in Catalonia from 25 to 28 October. Six years after his last rally in 2012, the Norwegian will make his comeback in precisely the same place, at which he called time on his rally career. Solberg, who drives a Polo for his PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX), will briefly change fields. The new Polo GTI R5 will make its competitive debut at the Rally Spain, which will be the car’s only outing with the Volkswagen works team. The racing car will then be run by customer teams in national and international championships, in accordance with R5 regulations.
“The opportunity to make a WRC comeback with Volkswagen is a unique one, and I was very happy to accept the offer,” said Solberg. “When I drove the car in January in Sweden, I didn’t want to stop. Everything about the Polo GTI R5 worked from the very beginning. I am really looking forward to the Rally Spain. I always used to like the combination of gravel and asphalt. It will obviously be a special feeling to return to the place I brought the curtain down on my rally career back in 2012. It will be a fantastic reunion with the WRC Family, but one with a professional background. I obviously want to get the R5 Polo off to a good start with a good result.”
Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets: “Petter is a true rally hero. We have already experienced his passion and professionalism working alongside him in World Rallycross. To give everything, always 110 per cent is Petter’s trademark. He has tested the Polo GTI R5 and has always been one of our preferred candidates for the debut of our new customer sport car. It is fantastic that he will drive the R5 Polo in Spain. Everyone in the team is looking forward to the rally and to working with Petter and his team-mate Eric Camilli.”
Petter Solberg returns to his rallying roots
Solberg returns to the WRC from the WRX for a weekend. This sees the Norwegian return to his rallying roots. Between 1998 and 2012, he made 188 appearances in the World Rally Championship – with Toyota, Ford, Subaru and Citroën. In 2003, Solberg won the world championship title with Subaru, ending the season just one point ahead of eventual record-breaking champion Sébastien Loeb and third-placed Spaniard Carlos Sainz. He remains the last nordic world rally champion. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Solberg competed in the WRC with his own team. He then spent one final year as a works driver with Ford in 2012. Solberg claimed 52 podium results in the World Rally Championship, 13 of them victories. The Rally Spain marks Solberg’s first rally with Volkswagen, and his debut in an R5 car.
Three world champions in one WRC rally for the first time for eight years
Solberg is the third world rally champion set to drive at the 2018 Rally Spain, where he will line up against reigning champion Sébastien Ogier and the returning Sébastien Loeb. As such, the last three men to win the title will all compete in Spain – albeit in different classes. The last time three world champions raced at the same event was the 2010 Rally Finland (Loeb, Solberg, Kankkunen).
Solberg and Volkswagen in the WRX – an extremely successful combination
After switching from WRC to WRX, the 43-year-old won the Drivers’ title in both 2014 and 2015. Volkswagen Motorsport and Petter Solberg’s PSRX team announced a partnership at the start of 2017. This has proven to be a winning combination: the team took the Team title and was behind the world champion, Johan Kristoffersson (S), in its very first year. Volkswagen is responsible for the development and technical preparation of the two Polo R Supercars, while PSRX Volkswagen Sweden looks after the logistics, on-site running of the car, and the marketing side of things. Solberg remains the only driver to have won the Drivers’ title in two different FIA world championships.
The Solberg dynasty: drifting and full throttle are in the blood
Solberg originally wanted to be a painter – however, he gave up his training place for motorsport. The rally pedigree within his family tree is evidence of the fact that speed is in his blood. “Mr. Hollywood” comes from an extremely successful dynasty of rally drivers: his parents both successfully took part in Autocross races. His brother Henning Solberg recently claimed the best result for an R5 car in the overall standings at the Rally Turkey – sixth place – and can also look back on an eventful WRC career. When Petter married his wife Pernilla, the Solbergs joined forces with the Walfridsson family – already an established name on the Rallycross and rallying scene. Pernilla was long regarded as one of the best female rally drivers in the world. It is no wonder then that their son Oliver has already enjoyed great success as he follows in his parents’ footstep – including in the FIA Baltic Rally Trophy and the Latvian and Estonian Rally Championship.
Already part of the family: Veronica Engan in the co-driver seat at the Rally Spain
The choice of co-driver for the Rally Spain was an obvious one. Veronica Engan has competed alongside son Oliver in various R2 rallies since 2017, and is virtually a member of the family. The 34-year-old can point to roughly 150 starts with Nordic rally drivers, including Eyvind Brynildsen (N), Marius Aasen (N), Johan Kristoffersson (S), Bernt Kollevold (N) and Anders Grøndal (N). Her career started in 2003, since when she has 27 WRC and seven WRC 2 rallies to her name. Her best result came in 2009, when she finished seventh alongside Mads Østberg at the Rally Italy on Sardinia.
Petter Solberg’s career at a glimpse
Date/place of birth: 18 November 1974 in Askim (N)
2003: 1st place FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2002, 2004 and 2005: 2nd place FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2010: 3rd place FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2014, 2015: 1st place FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX)
WRC statistics: 188 rallies, 52 podium finishes (13 wins), 459 stage wins, 852 championship points
Volkswagen in customer racing
Eric Camilli at the wheel of the Polo GTI R5 for rally debut.
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
FIA World Rally Championship
Volkswagen Motorsport presents Polo GTI R5 to first customers.
After the Polo R WRC comes the Polo GTI R5. With the World Rally Car version of the Polo, the Volkswagen works team won four FIA World Rally Championship titles between 2013 and 2016. The production-based successor model was developed according to category R5 regulations and is intended exclusively for customer racing. Volkswagen Motorsport has already sold 15 models of the Polo GTI R5 to customers in Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Paraguay, Portugal and Sweden.
Volkswagen Motorsport presented the new rally car to customers shortly before homologation. Representatives of the privateer teams visited the headquarters in Hannover, where they experienced the 200 kW (272 PS) four-wheel drive together with test driver Dieter Depping (D) at a test centre in nearby Sulingen. “The Polo GTI R5 has completed around 9,000 test kilometres to date, half of which were on gravel and half on asphalt,” explained Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “The entire development team has worked hard and delivered a first-class result, which has been confirmed by the initial reactions of customers.”
“The feedback from this introductory session was extremely positive,” added Juliane Gründl, head of sales at Volkswagen Motorsport. “Almost all the teams already have definite plans in place for using the car in the 2019 rally season and cannot wait to get their hands on their Polo GTI R5.”
Competitive debut at WRC event in Spain at the end of October
The homologation of the Polo GTI R5 is planned for 01 October 2018. Before being licensed for motorsport, the Polo GTI R5 will have completed around 10,000 test kilometres in total. In addition to the WRC2 category of the FIA World Rally Championship, the new customer racing rally car will also be in action in interregional championships such as the FIA European Rally Championship and numerous national championships.
“When defining the specification, we took great care to ensure that it would be easy for professional privateer teams to master the technical support of the Polo GTI R5,” said Jan-Gerard de Jongh, technical project manager for the Polo GTI R5 and former race engineer of World Rally Champion Sébastien Ogier.
Before the first customer cars are delivered, further test drives and the competitive debut are scheduled. At the Rally Spain from 25 to 28 October 2018, the Polo R5 GTI will take on its rivals in the WRC2 class at world championship level for the first time. And for the Volkswagen Motorsport team, it will be a mini comeback after the final race in Australia 2016, since Volkswagen Motorsport will be taking care of the car at the debut. “We will compete at the Rally Spain with two cars from our own team,” said Smeets. “The aim is to demonstrate the competitiveness of the new Polo GTI R5 at the highest level and on different surfaces.”
Volkswagen Polo GTI R5
Competitive debut in Spain.
The ideal rally, at which to make a debut: Volkswagen will make its first competitive outing with the Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain (25 to 28 October 2018). The 200-kW (272-PS) car for customers competing in rallies around the world – such as those in the WRC 2 category, the European Rally Championship and national championships – will be given a baptism of fire at the most diverse rally in the FIA World Rally Championship. The event in Catalonia is held on both asphalt and gravel, with the teams given just 75 minutes to completely convert the chassis and many other components. For Volkswagen, the Rally Spain also represents the perfect event from another perspective: The manufacturer went undefeated on each of the four occasions that the Polo R WRC took to the route here in the top echelon of the World Rally Championship, and it was here that the brand claimed its first title in the Manufacturers’ Championship in 2013.
“The Rally Spain is a very happy stomping ground for us,” said Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport Director. “We celebrated our first world championship title here. You simply don’t forget moments like that. With its varying surfaces, the Rally Spain is obviously also excellently suited to a first really tough test under competitive conditions.”
Dawn of a new era in rallying: The Polo GTI R5 for customer sport
Volkswagen achieved an awful lot in just four years in the World Rally Championship – 12 titles, 43 of a possible 52 race wins, and 640 stage wins. With the Polo GTI R5, Volkswagen is now embarking on a new chapter in rallying, with the goal being to add to that successful record – in customer sport. As such, Spain has been carefully selected for the debut. It gives the engineers a little more time to ensure the car is fully and optimally developed. Originally planned for late summer, the homologation has now been put back by a few weeks to 01 October 2018. “The tests have gone well. The drivers who have tested the Polo GTI R5 have given very positive feedback,” says Smeets. “Despite this, we still want to change a few things before the car is finally homologated.”
Gerard Jan de Jongh, Technical Project Lead Polo GTI R5 and world champion Sébastien Ogier’s former race engineer, adds: “A customer car must almost be developed even more thoroughly than a World Rally Car for a works team. Once the car has been successfully homologated, a customer often does not have the opportunity to make any changes or test the car thoroughly. For this reason, we are taking the time to ensure that we supply our customers with a fully-developed and fast Polo GTI R5 in October.”
Get close to the 2015 World Rally Champion.
Five overall victories and a world championship title – the Polo R WRC with chassis number 25 was the key to success in the 2015 World Rally Championship for Volkswagen factory driver Sébastien Ogier. The Autostadt in Wolfsburg is showcasing the winning car until early May on the ground floor of the ZeitHaus museum.
The car on display is a loan from Volkswagen Motorsport. It competed in twelve FIA World Rally Championship events in the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Sébastien Ogier won five of these races – including the legendary Monte Carlo Rally – with this World Rally Car in 2015 and celebrated his third consecutive world title.
Together with co-driver Julien Ingrassia, the Frenchman also scored important points for the prestigious Manufacturer's Championship title for Volkswagen. The 2016 season finale in Wales was the last rally for the Polo R WRC with chassis number 25.
Volkswagen dominated the World Rally Championship from 2013 to 2016. Together with three outstanding driver teams, the redeveloped Polo R WRC laid the foundation for success and 43 overall victories for the Volkswagen Motorsport team. The company's WRC involvement spawned four World Championship titles each in the driver, co-driver, and manufacturer's categories.
During the Polo R WRC development phase from 2011 to 2013, Volkswagen engineers were supported by Dakar winner Carlos Sainz and German Rally Champion Dieter Depping. With 621 best times in 935 special stages, the Volkswagen Polo R WRC is still regarded as the best rally car in WRC history.
Visit the Autostadt website.
2018 Rally Sweden
Petter Solberg thrills fans at Swedish rally classic.
Petter Solberg (N) took victory at the Rally Sweden in class 9 of the competition for vintage rally cars. Solberg was driving alongside his wife Pernilla, who served as co-driver to the 2003 world rally champion. The husband and wife team finished second overall out of the historic cars on the Swedish stages. Solberg had swapped his Volkswagen Polo GTI Supercar, with which he usually starts in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX), for a vintage Ford Escort in Sweden. “We had a fun weekend,” said the 2014 and 2015 WRX champion. “We are happy with the result, and it was fantastic to see all the fans out on the stages.”
Solberg’s PSRX team-mate Johan Kristoffersson (S) was also in action in Sweden. The reigning world Rallycross champion with Volkswagen finished sixth in the WRC2 class in a Skoda Fabia R5. “I am really happy with our weekend,” said Kristoffersson. “I did not intend to fight for positions. The main goal was to finish the rally and to develop my skills for the WRX joker laps. Finishing sixth in our class with two stage wins is fantastic.”
More information: www.wrc.com
2018 Rally Sweden
Kristoffersson and Solberg start the classic rally event in Sweden.
Johan Kristoffersson and Petter Solberg will line up at this year's Rally Sweden (15-18 February). Freshly-crowned WRX champion Kristoffersson will swap his 570-hp Volkswagen Polo GTI Supercar, with which he won the title in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX) in November, for a Skoda Fabia R5. "Changes to the timing of our preparations for the new rallycross season with Volkswagen have made it possible to start in Sweden," says Kristoffersson. "I am already really looking forward to the event, as it is always helpful to be in race mode as often as possible." This is the 29-year-old's second start at the Rally Sweden. In 2016, he finished eleventh in the WRC2 class.
Meanwhile, Solberg will start alongside his wife Pernilla in a Ford Escort RS1800 in the class for vintage cars. In 2013 and 2015, Solberg dominated the historic Rally Sweden. This year, the 2003 world rally champion is expecting a bigger challenge. "Last time we beat a few Audi Quattros," says Solberg. "This year, there will be far more four-wheel drive cars in action. As such, we are now focussing on the opposition with two-wheel drive."
Polo R5 GTI
GTI meets “Monte”: New rally Polo makes guest appearance in Monaco.
Flying visit for the Polo GTI R5: The new rally car for customer sports was on display during the driving event for the new Volkswagen up! GTI* in Monte Carlo (MC). The Polo GTI R5 was exhibited in a particularly prominent location in the Mediterranean principality: in the world famous “Rascasse” corner of the Grand Prix circuit. The Rally Monte Carlo (26–28 January) was also held this weekend, making it the perfect opportunity for the new racer to strut its stuff in front of an expert audience. The Polo GTI R5 itself could well go in search of world championship points for the first time at the iconic “Monte” in January 2019.
* up! GTI 1.0 TSI, 85 kW / fuel consumption in l/100 km (WLTP): combined 5.7–5.6; CO2 emissions in g/km: 129–127 (combined). Fuel consumption in l/100 km (NEFZ): urban 6.0/extra-urban 4.1/combined 4.8; CO2 emissions in g/km: 110 (combined), efficiency class: C.
Volkswagen in Customer Sports
World rally champions test the Polo GTI R5 in Sweden.
Ice test passed: The new Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 has been successfully put through its paces in Sweden – by three world rally champions, no less. Petter Solberg, 2003 WRC champion, was joined at the wheel of the four-wheel drive rally car for customer sports by 2000 and 2002 world champion Marcus Grönholm, and Pontus Tidemand, junior world champion in 2013 and WRC2 champion in 2017. The four-day test took place near the Swedish town of Kall. With temperatures as low as minus 15 degrees Celsius and an icy surface with many snow banks along the four-kilometre section of route, the conditions were ideal to give the 272-hp Polo GTI R5 a really stern test, during which it demonstrated its excellent reliability.
“It was just fantastic to be back behind the wheel of a rally car again and to help out the Volkswagen family,” said Solberg, who competes in the FIA World Rallycross Championship with his PSRX Volkswagen Team Sweden. “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. I used my years of rallying experience to work with the engineers on small changes to the car. Big thanks to all the team for their work, and to Veronica Engan for stepping into the co-driver’s seat.”
Volkswagen in Customer Sports
All over the world: First customers confirmed for the new Polo GTI R5.
The anticipation is half the fun: Shortly before the start of the 2018 rally season, Volkswagen has now provided the first 15 customers with information on the delivery of their new Polo GTI R5*. Development of the four-wheel drive rally car for the customer sports scene, which is based on the new sixth generation Polo, began at the start of last year, and the new car was presented to the public for the first time in December. Demand for the new rally Polo is great – not least because the Polo GTI R5 incorporates all the know-how of its predecessor, which won four world titles in the pinnacle of rallying, the WRC.
“We are overwhelmed by the positive feedback on the Polo GTI R5,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “The customer demand is enormous. We are obviously pleased about this, and it is an additional motivation to provide the teams with the best possible rally car.”
No distance is too great: Roughly 11,000 kilometres as the crow flies to reach the customer
15 of the 272-hp Polo GTI R5 are set to be delivered to the first customers in the second half of this year. Three cars will be sent to Austria and the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing GmbH team run by Austria rally champion Raimund Baumschlager, who won the 2017 Austrian Rally Championship with a Polo R WRC. Three cars have also been sold to teams from Belgium: two to BMA and one Polo GTI R5 to THX Racing.
Two Polo GTI R5s will be on their way to the Printsport Oy team in the home of rallying, Finland. Printsport has succesfully implemented projects with young and talented drivers like Esapekka Lappi, Ole Christian Veiby and Jari Huttunen. They currently have Lukasz Pieniazek from Poland and Emil Lindholm, son of multiple Finnish champion Sebastian Lindholm, in their team. A further two Polo GTI R5s will be run by the HK Racing team in Italy. One rally GTI will also be sent to Portugal. And a GTI R5 has also been sold to Sweden and Kristoffersson Motorsport.
The longest journey – almost 11,000 kilometres as the crow flies – will be undertaken by three Polo GTI R5s, as they are shipped to the South American country of Paraguay. Miguel Carrizosa/DIESA S.A., a Volkswagen importer in Paraguay, will run the cars at national events there.
“We assemble each car by hand in our workshop in Hannover,” 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 implementation phase in the aftersales area. We obviously want to be ideally positioned in time for the sales launch.”
Autosport Sport International
Polo GTI R5 makes its first public appearance at the Autosport Show.
Following the successful international debut of the new Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 in Mallorca (E) at the start of December, the four-wheel drive rally car for Volkswagen’s customer teams has now made its first public appearance. Motorsport enthusiasts were able to check out the 272-hp Polo GTI R5, which is based on the sixth generation of Polo, at close hand at the Autosport Show International in Birmingham (GB). The development of the Rally Polo, which has been in full swing since the start of 2017, has incorporated all the experience and know-how acquired by during the successful period in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), which saw Volkswagen win four world titles between 2013 and 2016.
Following the first successful tests on asphalt and gravel last November and December, more tests are now planned, in order to be able to deliver the Polo GTI R5 to the first customer sport teams in time for its first rally outings in the second half of this year.
More information: www.autosportinternational.com
Volkswagen in Customer Sports
The rally sports car: World premiere of the new Polo GTI R5.
The stage is set for the rally GTI: The Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 enjoyed a successful world premiere. The four-wheel drive rally car for customer sports, which is based on the sixth and latest generation of the new Polo, was introduced to the public for the first time at the official driving presentation of the Polo GTI in Mallorca on Monday evening. The development of the new rally sports car incorporated the experience and know-how acquired whilst winning four world titles in the pinnacle of rallying, the WRC, from 2013 to 2016.
“Presenting the new 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 the colleagues at Volkswagen Design in Wolfsburg deserve great 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 the customers’ hands.”
Initial tests successful
Development of the Polo GTI R5 has been in full swing since the start of the year. Initial tests on asphalt and gravel took place in mid-November in Fontjoncouse, France, and will continue in Great Britain in December. Responsibility for the entire project lies with Technical Director François-Xavier “FX” Demaison, as well as Project Manager Jan de Jongh, who, as race engineer, looked after world champion Sébastien Ogier’s Polo R WRC from 2013 to 2016.
“The Polo GTI R5 came through the initial tests without any problems. The feedback from the test drivers was very positive,” says Demaison. “It is obviously beneficial to be able to call upon an experienced team of engineers and mechanics, who helped to develop the Polo that won the world 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.”
As in the GTI for the streets: four-cylinder turbo engine with direct fuel injection
Like the production model – the new Polo GTI – the Polo GTI R5 has a powerful straight four-cylinder turbo engine with direct fuel injection, which is mounted transversely in front of the front axle. The capacity of the rally car is limited to 1.6 litres, in accordance with regulations. This is sufficient to generate an impressive 200 kW (272 hp) and maximum torque of 400 Newton metres. A close-stepped, sequential, five-speed racing gearbox and permanent four-wheel drive achieve outstanding acceleration on any surface – whether asphalt, gravel or snow. Weighing just 1,230 kilograms, the rally GTI accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just 4.1 seconds.
The four-door, steel chassis, which serves as the basis for the assembly, is manufactured at the production plant in Pamplona, Spain. In accordance with FIA regulations, it is strengthened with a role cage and other safety components. The first deliveries to customer sports teams, and the first competitive outings, are planned for the second half of the year.
In 2012, the International Automobile Federation FIA passed the R5 regulations for a new generation of rally cars, aimed primarily at customer teams, talented youngsters and privateers. Since then, more than 400 cars have been produced by five different manufacturers and have been in action in national and international championships all over the world.
Rally car for customer racing
Successful first test outing for the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5.
First tough test passed: The Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 has successfully completed its first test kilometres in Fontjoncouse, France. Volkswagen test driver Dieter Depping and Swedish WRC2 champion Pontus Tidemand spent three days testing the new 270-hp rally car for customer racing, which is based on the sixth and latest generation of the production Polo, in demanding conditions.
“A successful first test is a good sign and great motivation,” said a satisfied Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets. “After the many hours and weeks spent working on our latest customer racing project on the computer, in the design process and in the workshop, the Polo GTI R5 can now finally show what it is capable of out on the road, and we can gain valuable data for the further development of the car.”
First up on a 3.85-kilometre asphalt route, in dry conditions and with the temperature hovering around ten degrees Celsius, was work on the set-up. With the route alternating between fast and winding sections, the durability of the tyres, brakes, engine and cooling system were tested. The following two days were spent on stony surfaces: The four-wheel drive Polo GTI R5 successfully mastered the rough gravel routes, which put a huge amount of strain on the chassis, dampers and suspension. The venue for the tests was familiar territory for the Polo: It was here in 2011 that Volkswagen carried out the first test on the Polo R WRC, which went on to win the World Rally Championship four times in a row between 2013 and 2016. Dieter Depping was also at the wheel of the test car back then.
“It is a special feeling to be back here, where the Polo embarked on its first rally adventure roughly six years ago,” said Volkswagen test driver Depping. “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!”
Volkswagen is expanding its customer racing programme with the new Polo GTI R5, and is offering the new rally car to professional teams and drivers eligible to compete in national and global championships, as well as the WRC2 category of the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC), from the second half of 2018.
Austrian Rally Championship
Baumschlager sets new world record in the Polo R WRC.
Raimund Baumschlager (A) has won the Austrian Rally Championship. The 57-year-old won the Rally Waldviertel (A) at the wheel of the Volkswagen Polo R WRC to claim his 14th title in the national championship. In doing so, Baumschlager set a new world record: no driver in the world has ever won 14 national champion titles.
The final round of the ORM could hardly have been more exciting: the Austrian, together with co-driver Primin Winklhofer (A) trailed defending champion Herrmann Neubauer (A/Ford) by 0.8 seconds going into the 14th and final special stage. This would have made Baumschlager the runner-up in the championship. However, the man from Salzburg went for broke in his Polo on the final stage, beating Neubauer by 5.4 seconds to win the title by four points.
The experienced Austrian was understandably delighted: “Given the way that the championship and, above all, the finale panned out, I have to say that this is my nicest title. Also because it will most probably be my last national title.” Victory at the Rally Waldviertel was Baumschlager’s third of the season, having previously won the Rebenland Rally and the Škoda Rally Liezen.
More information: www.brr.at
FIA World Rally Championship
Volkswagen gives sneak preview of new Polo GTI R5.
The GTI for rallying: With the Polo GTI R5, Volkswagen returns to rallying under a new guise. In the second half of 2018, Volkswagen will make the 270 hp rally version of the Polo available to professional teams and aspiring drivers to enable them to compete in championships across the globe – including the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). A sketch of the car, which is based on the new Polo of the sixth generation, gives a foretaste of what’s to come.
“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,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “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.”
The development of the Polo GTI R5 has been in full swing since the start of the year, with initial test drives planned for this year. The experience gained from the successful WRC era is being incorporated directly: Volkswagen Motorsport Technical Director François-Xavier “FX” Demaison, father of the record winning Polo R WRC, is responsible for the development of the Polo GTI R5. And Gerard-Jan de Jongh also brings all his expertise as the senior project engineer. The Dutchman was previously Sébastien Ogier’s race engineer; Ogier won the drivers’ title with Volkswagen four times in a row.
Like the production model – which is due to be launched at the end of this year – the Polo GTI R5 has a powerful four-cylinder turbo engine with direct fuel injection. Other features include four-wheel drive, a sequential five-speed racing transmission and a comprehensive safety package, which are the most important features of the R5 category brought into being by the international automobile association, the FIA, in 2012. This gives privateers, teams and importers the opportunity to contest national, regional and international championships with cost-effective, powerful rally cars.
For Volkswagen Motorsport, the Polo GTI R5 represents another important milestone in their strategic realignment: After the successful introduction of the Golf GTI TCR, which has brought home wins and titles in numerous championships on the circuit since 2016, Volkswagen Motorsport is expanding its involvement in customer racing to rallying.
Ogier and the Polo R WRC thrill fans.
Sébastien Ogier (F), who won the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) four times with Volkswagen, was back in the Polo R WRC for the first time this weekend. The occasion was the Rallylegend in San Marino – the annual get-together for legendary rally drivers and cars. This year’s event was held in memory of world rally champion Colin McRae, who died in 2007, and consequently featured a particularly impressive line-up. The invitations were sent out by world championship winning co-driver Luis Moya (E). As well as Ogier, rally champions Sébastien Loeb (F), Juha Kankkunen (FIN), Ari Vatanen (FIN), Stig Blomqvist (S), Petter Solberg (N), Didier Auriol (F), Miki Biasion (I) and Marcus Grönholm (FIN) also attended the event and presented their iconic rally cars in a parade in front of roughly 70,000 delighted fans. McRae’s parents, brother and daughter also visited the Rallylegend.
“Unfortunately, I was not part of the generation that got to know Colin McRae personally,” said Ogier, who stayed behind to sign autographs after his short drive. “He was an icon and, for me, a real inspiration to become a rally driver. It is really an honour for me to be here. Plus, it was nice to be back in my world championship winning Polo again after such a long time.”
Austrian Rally Championship
First win for Baumschlager in the Polo R WRC.
Raimund Baumschlager (A) and his co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer (D) earned the Volkswagen Polo R WRC its first victory in the Austrian Rally Championship. The duo won the Rally Liezen in the 350-hp four-wheel drive powerhouse from Wolfsburg, ahead of Andreas Aigner/Ilka Minor (A/A, Škoda). With eight stage wins out of 13, Baumschlager/Winklhofer once again demonstrated the great potential of the 2016 world championship-winning Polo. The championship leaders – Hermann Neubauer/Bernhard Ettel (A/A, Ford) – ended the rally in fourth place, following a puncture. As such, Baumschlager and Winklhofer go into the season finale just two points behind Neubauer and Ettel.
More information: www.rallye-oem.at
Austrian Rally Championship
Second place for Baumschlager at the Rally Weiz in the Polo R WRC.
Raimund Baumschlager (A) and his co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer (D) have secured second place in the Volkswagen Polo R WRC at the Rally Weiz. The two Volkswagen drivers had to hang on at the end to claim the podium finish in the fifth race of the Austrian Rally Championship: They had some difficulties with the brakes on the 13th of 14 special stages. There was no way to fix the issue before the final special stage, meaning that Baumschlager had to drive the final 9.8 kilometres with just the front brake. He did not lose his grip on second place.
Baumschlager and Winklhofer had already proved how well the 318 hp 2016 Polo can perform – they recorded four stage best times and were involved in a tight battle for the lead with eventual winners Hermann Neubauer/Bernhard Ettel (A/A, Ford). Baumschlager is now in third place in the championship, with 67 points. He is 14 points behind overall leader Neubauer.
Raimund Baumschlager (A), Volkswagen Polo R WRC
“The braking circuit on the rear axle was knocked out at the start of special stage 13, probably by a stone. I heard a loud bang and considered stopping, but I was able to battle on with just the front brake axle. I had to hang on and I was praying that we would be able to finish the rally. I am more than happy with the result.”
More information: www.rallye-weiz.at
Austrian Rally Championship
Baumschlager retires in the Polo R WRC after accident.
Minor cause, major effect: Raimund Baumschlager (A) retired early from the Schneebergland Rally, the fourth event of the Austrian Rally Championship, after an accident. An error in the pace notes saw his Volkswagen Polo R WRC come off the track at high speed and overturn on the second of a total of eight special stages. Baumschlager and his co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer (D) remained unscathed. The win went to Niki Mayr-Melnhof/Poldi Welsersheimb (A/A, Ford).
Austrian Rally Championship
Baumschlager runner-up in the Polo R WRC.
Raimund Baumschlager (A) finished runner-up in the Wechselland Rally, which forms part of the Austrian Rally Championship. This was the first time the car from Wolfsburg, with which Sébastien Ogier (F) won his fourth WRC title last season, had seen competitive action since Volkswagen Motorsport’s withdrawal from the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). Baumschlager won four of the 15 special stages in extremely difficult conditions.
This was a more than respectable achievement for Baumschlager and co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer (D), who had only completed a few test kilometres with the 2016 Polo R WRC prior to the event. “It was brutally tough, as the weather threw absolutely everything at us. From rain and fog to snow. Given the circumstances, I am more than happy with second place,” said Baumschlager, who finished just 8.7 seconds behind winner Hermann Neubauer (A). Volkswagen Motorsport supported the use of the Polo R WRC by the Baumschlager Rallye and Racing Team as part of its customer racing programme.
Austrian Rally Championship
Baumschlager to drive the Polo R WRC.
The world championship-winning car is back: the Volkswagen Polo R WRC will return to action at the Wechselland Rally (28/29 April), which forms part of the Austrian Rally Championship. Raimund Baumschlager (A), competing for the Baumschlager Rallye & Racing Team, will be the first private driver in the world to drive the successful car from Wolfsburg, with which Sébastien Ogier (F) claimed his fourth title in the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) last season.
“I am incredibly proud to be allowed to drive the Polo R WRC. It is a great honour for me, and I can hardly put my excitement into words,” said Baumschlager, who will have co-driver Pirmin Winklhofer (A) at his side. As a customer, Baumschlager will receive support from Volkswagen Motorsport at his outings in the Polo R WRC. For example, engineer Gerard-Jan de Jongh, who was part of world champion Ogier’s successful crew during his time at Volkswagen, will assist Baumschlager.