Genuinely nice vibe in Olbia, Sardinia, at the launch of VW’s World Rally Championship campaign, which will kick into life in testing this year before a Polo WRC turns up on the world’s stages at the start of 2013.

Rallying’s still a relatively small pond, and a friendlier one than F1, so even the team bosses from rival manufacturers turned up to hear the news from Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, VW’s board member in attendance.

“Our future goal is to be successful not only on sand,” he said, in a clear reference to three Dakar wins on the bounce. “We need to learn, as a team, about this new discipline of sport,” he added. “And we do not expect our rivals will halt their development to wait for us.”

On the whole, rivals are just glad of another (big) truck in the service parks, and a bit more clout when it comes to negotiating television contracts. But they’re also whispering furiously, and with some concern, about the amounts of money VW is prepared to spend to win.