VW out to win in WRC
Volkswagen expects its Polo R World Rally Car to be a winner from the outset when it enters the WRC from 2013.
The announcement, made during May’s Rally Sardegna, committed VW to at least a three-year term in the series, with testing and development to start later this season.
A programme of practice events, using Fabia Super 2000s from Volkswagen’s sister firm koda, will begin in the summer to give the team’s mechanics the chance to learn the format of the WRC. The bulk of its successful Dakar Rally-winning crew will transfer to the new project following confirmation that VW will can its cross-country campaign.
“Victory is the aim,” said Kris Nissen, the VW Motorsport director. “We want to be in contention for the title and win it.”
No drivers have been confirmed but factory koda pilot Juho Hanninen, exWorld Champion Petter Solberg, and Nasser Al-Attiyah, who claimed VW’s third consecutive Dakar win in January, are believed to be under consideration.
Hermann Gassner, a 22-year-old German, has also been linked to the bid and would meet VW’s criteria of a young home-grown talent, possibly in a third Polo.
Sebastien Loeb has also been linked to one of the seats. The seven-time World Champion can quit Citroen at the season’s end and WRC legend Carlos Sainz, who will serve VW in an advisory role, would be keen on signing the Frenchman.
“He would be at the top of the list if he’s available,” said Sainz. Richard Rodgers
MINI impresses on WRC debut in Italy
MINI marked the debut of its John Cooper Works World Rally Car with sixth place on Rally Sardegna early in May, courtesy of Spaniard Dani Sordo.
But for a troublesome throttle, MINI could have celebrated a podium finish following Kris Meeke’s heroics on the opening day of the gravel event.
Meeke beat seven-time World Champion Sebastien Loeb’s time on the opening test, went third-fastest on stage two to move into fourth overall and was quickest of all at the first split-time point on stage three, only to go off the road.
The accident, however, was not of Meeke’s making: a sticking throttle, which had plagued the 31-year-old driver all morning, was blamed for the early exit.
Meeke returned on the Saturday under SuperRally restart regulations, but stopped two stages in with a water leak. He was also scheduled to tackle Sunday’s closing four runs but was withdrawn amid concerns that the throttle problem could reoccur.
“When I haven’t done a rally in seven months, it’s brilliant to know that in a brand-new car we got up to fourth,” said Meeke.
MINI’s next WRC outing is scheduled to be in Rally Finland from July 28-30.