how a Volkswagen Polo GTI turns into a rally automobile

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The Polo R5 marks Volkswagen’s return to rally
Volkswagen Motorsport returned to rallying in Spain after a two-year break. Right here’s why

Nearly two years after it abruptly give up the World Rally Championship, Volkswagen Motorsport returned to the game on Rally Spain final weekend, with a pair of brand-new Polo rally automobiles. 

A works Polo rally automobile hadn’t been seen on the phases for the reason that finish of 2016, when Volkswagen walked away from the game amid the fallout from dieselgate, having received 4 consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ championship doubles.

However this wasn’t fairly the return of the all-conquering squad that received 43 of the 52 WRC occasions held between 2013 and 2016. And that’s as a result of this was a really completely different sort of Polo WRC. As an alternative of a full works World Rally Automobile able to dominating, the Polo GTIs that took to Spain’s Tarmac and gravel phases, pushed by Eric Camilli and former world champion Petter Solberg, have been constructed to R5 laws and entered within the WRC2 class.

The fee-controlled and tightly restricted R5 class is designed for privateer groups, and Volkswagen Motorsport’s works entry was a one-off to showcase the brand new machine forward of gross sales beginning. 

The R5 venture has been within the plans since Volkswagen’s sudden WRC withdrawal was introduced by R&D boss Frank Welsch. Whereas he dedicated Volkswagen Motorsport’s works efforts to electrical tasks – which led to the record-breaking 642bhp ID R Pikes Peak electrical hill climb machine – he additionally tasked the crew with growing buyer tasks. That included the Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR touring automobile and the Polo WRX rallycross supercar – and Welsch additionally promised an R5 rally model of the brand new Polo GTI.

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Growing a rally automobile to tight laws to promote to clients was a brand new problem for Volkswagen Motorsport, significantly with the R5 guidelines stipulating a most gross sales value of €190,000 (£170,000) per automobile. That required a really completely different strategy from designing a money-no-object World Rally Automobile.

“You possibly can go to the identical locations [in development] and do the identical assessments, however you might want to attempt to construct the most effective automobile for these laws – and meaning to a price,” says Volkswagen Motorsport boss Sven Smeets. 

“It’s not simply ‘I wish to do that as a result of I do know it will likely be good’, as a result of that could possibly be too costly. The costs for lots of components, such because the gearbox, are fastened by the FIA, and I can affirm we weren’t allowed to lose cash promoting this automobile or its components.”

The distinction within the class guidelines, and the introduction of the brand new Polo GTI highway automobile, implies that just about nothing is carried over from the World Rally Automobile.

“There are concepts from the World Rally Automobile, but it surely’s a brand new automobile on a brand new platform,” provides Smeets. “Now we have taken some concepts and the philosophy from the WRC, in areas like dampers and kinematics, but it surely’s a brand new automobile.”

Which means the Polo GTI R5 is constructed on the VW Group’s MQB A0 small automobile platform. It additionally meant that, whereas the venture was introduced in 2016, work couldn’t begin till the brand new Polo GTI highway automobile’s design was accomplished in mid-2017.

Francois-Xavier Demaison, Volkswagen Motorsport’s technical chief, says: “We needed to watch for the brand new highway automobile mannequin to get the information from the manufacturing unit. We began with the CAD information from the bottom automobile: we at all times do, as a result of it’s simpler to get CAD than an actual physique when it’s a brand new automobile. As soon as we have now the information we are able to begin to work on the components we have to modify or improve.”

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Demaison mentioned the priorities when growing the automobile have been reliability and ease of use. “It’s a buyer automobile, so it’s essential that there aren’t too many issues to do at a service,” he says. “Clients need a automobile that’s simple to service and to handle, and dependable – that’s at all times the primary precedence.”

The rally automobile makes use of the platform and bodyshell from the road-going Polo, however lots of the mechanical elements have been tailored to satisfy the R5 laws: there are fewer widespread components between the 2 machines than between the Golf GTI and the TCR touring automobile model.

That implies that, amongst different adjustments, the Polo GTI R5 has everlasting four-wheel-drive, whereas the highway automobile’s DSG gearbox is switched for a five-speed sequential unit. 

What each variations of the Polo GTI have in widespread is their powerplant: Volkswagen’s EA288 turbocharged engine. However whereas the highway automobile makes use of the two.Zero-litre model, the R5 guidelines require 1.6-litre engines, so the rally automobile has the smaller model, which produces 268bhp and 295lb ft. Because of the nature of rallying the Polo GTI R5 solely has a high velocity of round 125mph, with the engine tuned to ship acceleration (Zero-62mph takes round four.1 seconds) and response.

The EA288 1.6 engine is already utilized in sister agency Skoda’s Fabia R5, so Volkswagen took that unit and additional developed it. “We’ve had shut co-operation with Skoda,” says Smeets. “We’ve transferred from their automobile into ours, however in two years they are going to develop a brand new Fabia R5 from the brand new Fabia highway automobile, which will likely be on the identical [MQB A0] platform as ours. So we’ll switch data within the different path then.”

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When the Volkswagen Polo WRC made its debut on the 2013 Monte Carlo Rally, Sebastien Ogier set the quickest time on its first aggressive stage – and went on to assert a podium end.

Historical past repeated itself in Spain, with Camilli setting the quickest time within the WRC2 division on the primary stage of the occasion. The Frenchman went on to construct up a considerable lead, earlier than his bid for victory was ended when his gearstick broke, leaving him unable to vary out of first gear.

That left Solberg to hold the crew’s hopes. On his first rally in six years the 2003 world champion was proper within the combine on Friday’s gravel assessments, however he pale a bit in blended situations on Saturday. That mentioned, he stayed out of hassle and claimed a podium end behind the Skoda Motorsport pairing of Kalle Rovanpera and Jan Kopecky.

“We’re comfortable,” says Smeets. “Not getting a win was a disgrace, as a result of we prefer to win, however we have been glad to be combating on the entrance.

Whereas Volkswagen will proceed growing the machine, future rally outcomes will seemingly be all the way down to clients – 15 automobiles have already been offered for supply this 12 months, with greater than twice that quantity set to be offered subsequent 12 months.

“We got here right here to get affirmation, and with the velocity we had it’s clear the automobile is well-born,” says Smeets. “For the long run it’s superb.”

Learn extra

Interview: Petter Solberg on his rally return and electrical motorsport

Volkswagen Polo GTI Overview


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