Jost Capito has stepped down as the head of Volkswagen’s R performance car division after three years in the position, Autocar understands.
This revelation comes less than 48 hours after the German car maker announced it was ending all of its motorsport activities to concentrate its engineering on the establishment of an extended range of electric ID-badged models.
The 62-year-old German is yet to officially comment on the reasons for his departure, but differences in opinion with new Volkswagen chairman Ralf Brandstätter on the future of R in the absence of any official motorsport engagement are said to be behind the decision. Capito has departed the brand for the second time within the past five years.
In 2012, Capito was appointed director of motorsport for the Volkswagen brand and led the company to victory in the FIA World Rally Championship in 2013, 2014 and 2015, before becoming CEO of McLaren Racing in 2016.
After a short and turbulent period at McLaren, he was lured back to Volkswagen in 2017 to head up the company’s expanding R division as a successor to Ulrich Riestenpatt Richter. Since then, Capito has overseen the development of a number of R-badged Volkswagen models, including the latest Golf R.
Initial indications of a shift in emphasis for the R division came in 2019, when Volkswagen confirmed it had axed its involvement in the World Touring Car Racing championship, which it contested with the Golf. The move effectively severed any link between Volkswagen most popular R model, the Golf R, and its motorsport activities.
A further shift in Volkswagen’s performance car activities also came apparent earlier this year, when it revealed a 456bhp plug-in hybrid version of the Touareg was to wear R name despite using the same suspension tune as other Touareg models - a move that critics claimed diluted the brand's standing.
Performance versions of Volkswagen’s new ID-badged electric models are set to adopt the GTX name, starting with the four-wheel drive ID 4 GTX that's due out next Spring.
Brandstätter’s decision to axe Volkswagen’s motorsport activities, including the program for the ID R prototype, also appears to have put paid to earlier plans to establish a range of R-badged EVs.
Capito first worked for the Volkswagen Group in the Porsche racing department from 1989. After managing the Sauber Formula 1 team from 1996, he joined Ford in 2001, where he was responsible for the company’s RS division, including the Focus RS, and its motorsport activities.