Following their win from the recently concluded Rally of Great Britain, Volkswagen has announced their departure from the World Rally Championship. According to VW, they are currently realigning their motorsports program as they pour their efforts into customer racing teams and other rally championships. The last WRC event VW will participate in will be in Australia, the final rally of the 2016 season.
"The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges. With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies. We far exceeded our sporting goals in the WRC, now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus," said Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Technical Development.
The brand's WRC effort is the second motorsports program to be axed by the Volkswagen Group. Two weeks ago, Audi has also announced their departure from the World Endurance Championship, leaving the Porsche as the sole VW Auto Group brand in the series. The company assures the 200 employees of the WRC program are guaranteed a job within Volkswagen Motorsports. The automaker adds that they are currently exploring other motorsport options, ensuring jobs for the 200 employees.
For 2017, VW will concentrate on two racing leagues. First is TCR International Series and the second being the Global Rallycross (GRC). For TCR, Volkswagen fields a specially prepared Golf GTI for various customer teams. With TCR International offering a wider reach of customers, VW aims to field many of their Golf GTIs to teams worldwide. In the Global Rallycross series, the automaker enters two specially modified Beetles and has proven their commitment to the championship by signing up for the 2017 season. VW driver Scott Speed won the drivers' title in the series in both 2015 and 2016, and this season the manufacturer's title also went to Volkswagen. The brand will investigate the expansion of these activities on the strength of their existing experience in rallycross.
While the employees of VW WRC are ensured a job, the futures of the drivers have yet to be decided. VW's driver and co-driver roster is currently made up of Sébastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia, Jari-Matti Latvala and Miikka Anttila and Andreas Mikkelsen and Anders Jæger. While the WRC program is finished, VW did say that they are working on a new rally car based on the next-generation Polo. Instead of the WRC class, the next-gen Polo rally car will compete in the R5 category. Unlike WRC cars, R5 cars share more in common with the production model and requires homologation.