Volkswagen is expected to confirm a full assault on the World Rally Championship before the end of this month, according to well placed sources.
The German manufacturer, which has been linked to a WRC campaign since the series confirmed its new 1600cc-based regulations, is being tipped to announce its programme at a party on 22 March that will celebrate its Dakar rally raid success.
Despite earlier speculation that VW would base its new rally car on a Scirocco, it’s understood that the Polo is the model under development. French engineer Francois-Xavier Demaison, a man with experience of Citroën, Peugeot and Subaru campaigns, is said to have been entrusted with the car’s process.
However, double world rally champion Carlos Sainz - a Dakar winner with VW - is also said to be heavily involved in the WRC campaign. And the Spaniard could draw on his contacts at Toyota Team Europe, the Cologne-based engineering operation that was sidelined when Toyota pulled the plug on its F1 programme.
VW’s choice of drivers remains unclear, although it’s not said to be crucial to find a German driver at present. Autocar’s sister title Autosport suggests that VW has tried - and failed - to sign Sebastien Loeb, and that Petter Solberg may be among its remaining options.
The VW WRC deal is believed to have been secured after intense internal debate within the VW Group. Skoda sources say the Czech manufacturer is less than pleased to have had its own WRC aspirations pushed aside in favour of a Volkswagen programme. Skoda will continue in the less prestigious Intercontinental Rally Challenge instead.