Volkswagen's Polo WRC contender will be ready for testing this year before competing from 2013

Volkswagen has confirmed that it will enter the World Rally Championship with a Polo WRC from 2013.

The German manufacturer, which has been linked to a programme for several months, made the announcement on the eve of Rally Italy in Sardinia. It says the car will be ready to test before the end of this year, and that it will test throughout 2012 ahead of a debut at the start of 2013. The budget is already in place for three full years of competition, according to VW motorsport boss Kris Nissen.

See official pics of the Volkswagen Polo WRC contender

VW has participated in the WRC before - it ran front-wheel-drive Golf GTis during the mid-1980s - but the new programme will mark the company’s first proper assault on the overall title. It plans to run Skoda Fabias on selected events next year to help build team experience of rallies ahead of 2013. This is an ironic development, since the Czech manufacturer is said to have had its own WRC programme canned in favour of a VW effort.

Since rumours of a WRC campaign started over a year ago, VW has been linked to a number of drivers - including Sebastien Loeb and Petter Solberg - but it declined to name any signings this evening. “We have plenty of time and I am sure we will find a driver whose ambitions and values match those of Volkswagen,” said board member Dr Ulrich Hackenberg.

However, WRC insiders suggest that VW’s decision to not confirm Solberg as its major star signing indicates that talks with Loeb have not dried up, as previously thought.

Nissen admitted at the launch that the WRC campaign means the end of the company’s successful Dakar programme. But he acknowledged, “We have had many approaches, we have the cars and it is possible that we could run a customer team.”

John McIlroy

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