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.
“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.”