Qatar rally driver Nasser Al-Attiyah voices intention to secure WRC deal with VW Group; VW Motorsport says Audi LMP1 cars are also available if backing is found
Jim Holder
9 December 2016

The chances of a Volkswagen Polo WRC car competing in the 2017 World Rally Championship have been significantly improved following conversations between the Volkswagen Group and Qatari rally driver Nasser Al-Attiyah.

According to reports on Motorsport.comformer works WRC driver, Dakar Rally winner and Production World Rally champion Nasser Al-Attiyah is working on a deal with the group, 14.6% of which is owned by the Qatar Sovereign fund.

"We are trying to drive the new Polo R 2017," Al-Attiyah told the website. "As you know, Qatar has some shares in the VW Group. I met the officials here in Qatar and we are trying to make that possible. If it’s possible, then why not? If we get the confirmation, then I’ll do the full WRC season next year."

Earlier this week Volkswagen confirmed to Autocar that securing a backer for its 2017 cars was "the number one priority" of VW Group motorsport boss Wolfgang Dürheimer, but only if it does not cost the manufacturer any money. This means the brand will not provide Al-Attiyah any financial support for a potential 2017 campaign. Reports suggest the Qatar fund and Red Bull could provide backing.

Last week, VW's head of development Frank Welsch said the 2017 Polo WRC would be homologated for the championship so it could compete if a privateer with sufficient backing was found. Dürheimer confirmed he was already in talks with interested parties and that the VW Motorsport squad would be willing to sub-contract team members who have developed the new-for-2017 cars to a privateer outfit to help them exploit the Polo WRC's potential.

"I am working on it and have always been supportive of having the cars competing despite our withdrawal as a factory team," said Dürheimer. "The most important factor is that any project cannot cost us any money, but if the right deal can be found then we will help in any way we can by sub-contracting VW Motorsport staff to help run and develop the cars. Whatever they want, our expertise will be available to hire.

"I hope the deal will be done to have a team in Monte Carlo in January, and competing in the entire championship. If that happens, it will be a wonderful story - the team will be considered the underdogs and will be welcomed by fans. If they do it right, it could be an incredible story."

Dürheimer confirmed that four-time world champion Sébastien Ogier's contract with VW had been terminated and said if a private team raised enough funds to run the cars it would be able to choose who drove them. "What Sébastien does is entirely his choice," said Dürheimer. "The only consideration we would have is that the drivers must be talented. Whoever pays can make the decisions, although of course there must be a certain level of talent." Ogier has also been linked to Malcolm Wilson's M-Sport operation, which runs Ford Fiestas, and the works Citroën and Toyota teams.

VW dramatically pulled out of the World Rally Championship after taking a fourth straight double in the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championships last month, with insiders saying it could not be seen to be celebrating victories at the same time as making 30,000 workers redundant as part of a cost-cutting exercise in the wake of the Dieselgate scandal.

Despite that announcement, however, the team continued developing the new-for-2017 Polo with former world champion Marcus Grönholm at the wheel. Testing concluded earlier this month.

Welsch also confirmed that VW was sitting on a steering group developing a championship for all-electric rallycross cars in the future, with Dürheimer confirming that VW was building prototype cars to try to prove how the technology could work. He suggested the manufacturer would be willing to run a one-make championship in the short-term if it helped prove the concept. "In the long-term we need competition, but we are willing to build enough cars to demonstrate what's possible if it helps raise the profile of EVs in the sport," said Dürheimer.

Dürheimer also confirmed that Audi's World Endurance Championship (WEC) LMP1 racers are available for privateer teams to run if they can raise sufficient budget. The works squad's involvement Le Mans and the WEC was terminated at the end of this season's championship. "There is interest, but it is more complex than the World Rally Championship situation - these cars are on a different level technologically to anything else racing today, including F1," he said. "They are not cars that a privateer can just operate, but we are very willing to co-operate with any team that has the expertise and budget to race them."

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Comments
13

2 December 2016
Great news - would have been a complete waste to can the project.

2 December 2016
"all-electric rallycross cars in the future."
Sad days...

289

2 December 2016
quote ""all-electric rallycross cars in the future."
Sad days..."
with you there David...really sad.
Agree that it will be good to see the development not wasted.
Private teams will hark back to the David Sutton days with Ford.

Still not completely sure why VW pulled the plug...on one hand I can see that after 4 years total domination they don't have anything to prove. particularly as they won straight out of the box, as it were. First season, which is almost unknown for a new team.
However the argument that they cant be seen celebrating wins while they make people redundant in the wake of deiselgate, just doesn't wash....are they going to stop all forms of marketing and PR as a form of penance? That way lies a self fulfilling prophecy putting everyone out of a job as the company implodes!

4 December 2016
up to I saw the paycheck which had said $8845 , I have faith that my friends brother woz like actualy erning money part-time on their apple labtop. . there aunt had bean doing this 4 only 7 months and resently took care of the morgage on there mini mansion and bought themselves a Lancia . view it now....

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4 December 2016
This is good news, but at the same time I really don't understand why the current crop of WRC manufacturers bother. None of them seem to spin off any sales or major marketing on the back of what they are doing. Maybe the tech and development goes into cars such as the Golf R?

It doesn't seem to be like the good old days where you could buy a Mitsubishi Evo or Impreza WRX that was closely associated with the rally car.

289

4 December 2016
I am with you on this one Oafie.....cant see the point of being in Rallying without spin-off models in the range.

4 December 2016
Suspected something along these lines. The Red Bull rally team? Look at the camo on the 2017 car even. Ford had problems remaining in the championship when the GFC struck and so M-Sport, although already running the team on their behalf were able to carry on. Not quite the same but there is certainly scope for VW to save the major expense of running the factory team, but reap the rewards of an associated team covering the drivers, logistical and other costs. And remember, the drivers probably are still contracted (paid) by the factory for 2017 anyway. Also - perhaps conspiracy theory (!) - Mr Ogier has been able to sample the oppositions new cars whilst looking for another drive! Interesting news....!

5 December 2016
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5 December 2016
Never thought I'd say this, but I wonder if Red Bull would be the best option for both sets of vehicles? It'd give them somewhere else to bed in their juniors if F1 is full, they have expertise with hybrid systems and they could make a killing on the marketing front at somewhere like Le Mans and the other WEC races. Probably some hurdle I'm missing (aside from cost), but given their association with Audi in the past it seems like an option.

6 December 2016
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