Volkswagen will end its WRC programme at the end of 2016; decision follows sister company Audi's withdrawal from the WEC
2 November 2016

Volkswagen has announced that it will withdraw from the World Rally Championship (WRC), effective from the end of the 2016 season. 

The official announcement, made by Volkswagen R&D boss Frank Welsch on Wednesday, brings to an end the most sruccessful chapter in the German car maker’s motorsport history. 

Read more: Volkswagen to homologate Polo WRC for 2017 World Rally Championship

“The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges,” said Welsch in an address to around 200 employees at Volkswagen Motorsport division in Wolfsburg. "With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on future technologies. We far exceeded our sporting goals in the WRC; now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus."

Welsch also confirmed a shift in focus towards customer racing programmes. “As well as the Golf GTI TCR for the track and the Beetle GRC in rallycross, we also want to develop a new Polo according to R5 rally regulations.”

The new customer rally car, to be based on the upcoming sixth-generation Polo, is planned to be available to customers from 2018 onwards, according to Welsch.

Since entering the World Rally Championship in 2013, Volkswagen has won four successive driver and manufacturer titles. In the 51 rallies it has so far contested, Volkswagen’s ultra-successful Polo R WRC has recorded 42 wins and 621 best special stage times.

Commenting on the withdrawal, Volkswagen motorsport director Sven Smeets said: “We regret the departure from the WRC very much. The team has done great things.”

Hinting that Volkswagen’s future motorsport involvement could involve electric car technology, Smeets added: “From now on , the focus is on upcoming technologies in motorsport.”

There is nothing official at this stage, but insiders say internal studies are under way into a possible participation in the recently announced Global Electric Rallycross series. 

The decision to end Volkswagen’s commitment to the WRC comes in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal, which has already seen the firm pledge more than £10 billion to buy back or fix up to 500,000 cars in the US and develop fixes for affected diesel models in other world markets.

The final round of the 2016 WRC takes place in Coffs Harbour, Australia, on 18 November.  

Volkswagen's sister company Audi axed its World Endurance Championship (WEC) sportscar programme last week after 18 years; officials confirmed it plans to switch its focus to Formula E.

Our Verdict

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Can the hottest Volkswagen Golf GTI ignite the passion and reclaim its crown now lost to the Ford Focus ST?

Join the debate

Comments
24

jer

31 October 2016
Always the first thing to be cut. Wonder if there aren't other cost cutting measures that could be taken? Or is it more a case me be seen to be careful with money and motorsport suggests otherwise.

1 November 2016
jer wrote:

Always the first thing to be cut. Wonder if there aren't other cost cutting measures that could be taken? Or is it more a case me be seen to be careful with money and motorsport suggests otherwise.

It called Seat

31 October 2016
With 4 championships under their belt, there's not much left to prove in the short term having dominated it for a few years after Citroen left.

Plus, I'm not sure that your average VW buyer cares that much for rally success

31 October 2016
php74 wrote:

Plus, I'm not sure that your average VW buyer cares that much for rally success

They care about as much as your average Mercedes buyer cares about F1, or your average Audi buyer cares about WEC.

1 November 2016
It's not enormously surprising, both with Volkswagen's current public image and the end of the current WRC rules.
It is definitely an easy way out for VW - save face in terms of profligate spending in light of their massive fines in America, and leave on a real high. If they continued next year, there's every chance that Ford, Hyundai or Citroën could beat them.
In hindsight, they could have ditched Audi's WEC program after 2014 and left on a similar high. But that was pre-Dieselgate when VW had no need to worry about money issues (real or perceived).

31 October 2016
Another successful WRC contender that didn't capitalise with a linked road car. They should have done a 4WD Polo R/WRC and/or some 'Ogier' special editions. I assume the figures didn't stack up for this though. The WRC line up will be even more anaemic next year.

31 October 2016
StuM82 wrote:

Another successful WRC contender that didn't capitalise with a linked road car. They should have done a 4WD Polo R/WRC and/or some 'Ogier' special editions. I assume the figures didn't stack up for this though. The WRC line up will be even more anaemic next year.

To be honest manufacturers are not in any motorsport to sell a particular model but rather promote the brand as a whole, build awareness, inplement and test new technology and ultimately of course sell more cars whether it be the model used or any other model.

1 November 2016
I'm always surprised at the models chosen for rallying nowadays - whilst Minis and 911's were used ages ago why not push it as a format for the every increasing SUV 4x4 market - surely Nissan Jukes and Audi Q3's tackling rough off road courses at least give credence to their supposed 4x4 abilities and be a much better fit with the active lifestyles those cars are marketed as catering to. Who cares if a supermini can tackle a rally stage - it's not pretending to in real life so why pretend in motorsport?

6 November 2016
Orangewheels wrote:

I'm always surprised at the models chosen for rallying nowadays - whilst Minis and 911's were used ages ago why not push it as a format for the every increasing SUV 4x4 market - surely Nissan Jukes and Audi Q3's tackling rough off road courses at least give credence to their supposed 4x4 abilities and be a much better fit with the active lifestyles those cars are marketed as catering to. Who cares if a supermini can tackle a rally stage - it's not pretending to in real life so why pretend in motorsport?

Active lifestyles? These jeep owners wouldn't run up a kerb never mind a rally stage. At least with a supermini rally car they could sell a few tarted up versions to the boy racers who do handbrake turns on retail park car parks after closing time.

I don't need to put my name here, it's on the left

 

1 November 2016
Toyota and Citroen come back into the WRC next year, so 1 out, 2 return.

Pages

Add your comment

Log in or register to post comments

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lexus LC500
    Car review
    20 October 2017
    Futuristic Lexus LC coupé mixes the latest technology with an old-school atmospheric V8
  • Maserati Levante S GranSport
    First Drive
    20 October 2017
    Get ready to trade in your diesels: Maserati’s luxury SUV finally gets the engine it’s always needed
  • Jaguar XF Sportbrake TDV6
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The handsome Jaguar XF Sportbrake exhibits all the hallmarks that makes the saloon great, and with the silky smooth diesel V6 makes it a compelling choice
  • Volkswagen T-Roc TDI
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    Volkswagen's new compact crossover has the looks, the engineering and the build quality to be a resounding success, but not with this diesel engine
  • BMW M550i
    First Drive
    19 October 2017
    The all-paw M550i is a fast, effortless mile-muncher, but there's a reason why it won't be sold in the UK