The Volkswagen Polo has long been a force in the World Rally Championship – since 2011, the supermini has recorded more than 40 wins, 38 podiums and 12 titles. So, not looking to derail its overall success, Volkswagen has teased a new version of its VW Polo for competition in the WRC.
Dubbed the Polo GTI R5, the new hatchback will make its rally debut in the second half of 2018. A new 270bhp four-cylinder turbocharged engine will be found under the bonnet and come paired paired with a five-speed sequential transmission. VW has yet to confirm whether a factory team will compete in 2018, but the new Polo GTI R5 will be made available to customer teams for the first time.
The new Polo WRC project has been in development since the beginning of 2017. VW Motorsport's technical director Francois-Xavier Demaison and senior project engineer Gerard-Jan de Jongh are in part to thank for the project, and are the same men responsible for the success of the previous Polo rally car.
'With the Polo GTI R5 we are hoping to transfer our expertise from four WRC titles to customer racing successfully, and offer a first-class racing machine for countless rally championships from national series to the WRC,' said Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets. 'Before the first race outing next year, we will subject the Polo GTI R5 to rigorous testing to make sure it is prepared for the extremely varied track conditions around the world.'
The Polo R5 rally car will make its debut alongside the standard Polo towards the end of 2017. The production Polo won’t come equipped with the same 270bhp engine, sadly, but rumour has it that the German marque could be working on a Golf R-rivalling version that could produce upwards of 300bhp.
The GTI for rallying: With the Polo GTI R5, Volkswagen returns to rallying under a new guise. In the second half of 2018, Volkswagen will make the 270 hp rally version of the Polo available to professional teams and aspiring drivers to enable them to compete in championships across the globe – including the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC). A sketch of the car, which is based on the new Polo of the sixth generation, gives a foretaste of what’s to come.
“With the Polo GTI R5 we are hoping to transfer our expertise from four WRC titles to customer racing successfully, and offer a first-class racing machine for countless rally championships from national series to the WRC,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets. “Before the first race outing next year, we will subject the Polo GTI R5 to rigorous testing to make sure it is prepared for the extremely varied track conditions around the world.”
The development of the Polo GTI R5 has been in full swing since the start of the year, with initial test drives planned for this year. The experience gained from the successful WRC era is being incorporated directly: Volkswagen Motorsport Technical Director François-Xavier “FX” Demaison, father of the record winning Polo R WRC, is responsible for the development of the Polo GTI R5. And Gerard-Jan de Jongh also brings all his expertise as the senior project engineer. The Dutchman was previously Sébastien Ogier’s race engineer; Ogier won the drivers’ title with Volkswagen four times in a row.
Like the production model – which is due to be launched at the end of this year – the Polo GTI R5 has a powerful four-cylinder turbo engine with direct fuel injection. Other features include four-wheel drive, a sequential five-speed racing transmission and a comprehensive safety package, which are the most important features of the R5 category brought into being by the international automobile association, the FIA, in 2012. This gives privateers, teams and importers the opportunity to contest national, regional and international championships with cost-effective, powerful rally cars.
For Volkswagen Motorsport, the Polo GTI R5 represents another important milestone in their strategic realignment: After the successful introduction of the Golf GTI TCR, which has brought home wins and titles in numerous championships on the circuit since 2016, Volkswagen Motorsport is expanding its involvement in customer racing to rallying.