Volkswagen To Leave World Rally Championship
Yep, it’s Dieselgate’s fault againby Kirby, on
The motor racing world is still reeling from Audi’s decision to leave endurance racing at the conclusion of the 2016 season and now, it appears that the bad breaks aren’t over yet. Volkswagen has also announced plans to exit the World Rally Championship after the 2016 season.
The revelation is no less shocking than Audi’s departure from endurance racing, including Le Mans, because of Volkswagen’s outright dominance in the WRC ever since it entered the rally series in 2013. In fact, since it’s arrival, Volkswagen has yet to lose a driver’s or manufacturer’s title, having won both championships for four consecutive years.
But apparently, even outright dominance in the WRC is no match from the debilitating fallout of the diesel emissions scandal, which the German automaker admitted as being one of the primary reasons behind its exit from the WRC. The departure is even more upsetting when you consider that Volkswagen won’t get to line up in the same grid as Toyota, which announced its return to the world’s premier rally series in 2017.
The good news is that Volkswagen’s involvements in the WRC and rally racing altogether aren’t going to be shut down completely. The company still plans to develop new rally cars, including the new Polo rally race that’s being developed to R5 specifications. But instead of having an actual team like it has done during its short-lived, four-year dominance, the German automaker will develop these rally cars for customer teams. In addition, the company said that its involvement in the Global Rallycross program will remain intact with the possibility of the program even expanding past its current capacity.
So that’s the good news here. The bad news is that we won’t get to see Volkswagen compete in the WRC as its own team anymore, leaving behind the possibilities of what a Volkswagen-Toyota rally battle could have become.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Expected, but still surprising
I will attest that I’m not as big of a fan of the World Rally Championship as I am of Formula One or Formula E, but I have kept tabs in the series long enough to know Volkswagen’s four-year run of dominance. From a competitive balance point of view, not having Volkswagen in the picture could be seen as a positive thing given that the rest of the field would have a more even playing field to compete in. But still, that doesn’t erase the fact that not having the four-time defending champion in the grid next season is going to be a tough sell to fans of the series.
It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality of what Volkswagen is going through right now. The company also said that in addition to the diesel emissions scandal, it’s shift towards new technologies, including electrification, is another reason behind the decision to drop out of the WRC. There’s also the belief that from marketing and promotional perspectives, Volkswagen doesn’t really need the WRC to increase its exposure in Europe where the series is most popular. People already know about Volkswagen there and other markets like the U.S. and China where the company needs more brand-building, the WRC isn’t that big of a deal so the exposure on that front is minimal.
Whatever the company’s reasons are, I’m sure it was well thought-out given what it was dealing with. It sucks if you’re a fan of Volkswagen’s WRC racing team, but sometimes, bigger and more important things take precedence over motor sports.
Read our full review on the Volkswagen Polo WRC here.