The motor sport
The route from Salzburg to the Sahara.
Volkswagen? In rally sport? This combination would have seemed unimaginable 45 years ago. Under director Heinrich Nordhoff, the message was clear: no official works sports activities! Yet countless private drivers had long since been involved in motor sport with the Beetle and ‘made them faster’ with modified carburettors, lower chassis and aerodynamic accessories. And this was being done throughout the world – there was the Brit Bill Bengry in his red RAC Beetle and the unforgettable ‘Salzburg Beetle’ from the Austrian Volkswagen and Porsche importer.
The Golf gets a move on.
At the beginning of the 1970s, Volkswagen reconsidered its decision to shun official rally activities. From 1975, with the legendary Golf I GTI, a contemporary ‘basic configuration’ was available for sporting purposes. In 1976, a Golf with a naturally aspirated diesel engine was launched and set new standards with its combination of sporty performance and low fuel consumption. The newly established Volkswagen Motorsport division under Klaus Peter Rosorius in Hanover was very interested in this car – and its potential for being upgraded. In 1978 the time had come: as an experiment, Jochi Kleint and Andreas Hänsch entered a turbocharged Golf Diesel in the Monte Carlo Rally, and in 1980 Per Eklund and Hans Sylvan immediately racked up a fifth place finish in the 170 hp ‘Pierburg Golf’ based on a GTI – the first official works rally vehicle.
Through deserts and across mountains.
A completely different, rather less sporty car gave cause for victory celebrations in the same year: the unforgettable Freddy Graf Kottulinsky won the challenging Dakar Rally, still known as the ‘Oasis Rally’ back then, in his 110 hp Race Iltis off-road vehicle.
The series of wins continued. In 1981 Alfons Stock and Paul Schmuck were crowned German rally champions in their Rheila Golf and Volkswagen also achieved success with the Golf II: in 1986 the 215 hp Golf II GTI 16V won the newly established Group A World Rally Championship with Kenneth Eriksson and Peter Diekmann. After that, Golf models were continually used for rally sport, such as the Bi-Motor Pikes Peak Golf II or the Golf II G60 Rallye Syncro.
From 2003 onwards, it was back to the desert: with the first-, second- and third-generation Race Touareg cars, the Volkswagen Motorsport teams regularly worked their way onto the podium, winning the tough desert tour in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
And next it’s the turn of the Polo R WRC. The World Rally Car. From 2013. A new challenge and a new team, which is being supported by a rally sport legend: in Carlos Sainz, the Spanish winner of Rally As and the Dakar Rally, Volkswagen has a top-class man assisting in the development of the Polo R WRC. The countdown is on.