End of road for world cham­pi­ons Volk­swa­gen

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

Volk­swa­gen, world cham­pi­ons for the past four years with Se­bastien Ogier, said yes­ter­day they are with­draw­ing from the world rally cham­pi­onship deal­ing a ma­jor blow to the series.

The Ger­man auto giants, reeling from the Diesel­gate scan­dal, an­nounced last week that lux­ury brand Audi was pulling out of Le Mans and the en­durance world cham­pi­onship to con­cen­trate on For­mula E.

The shock with­drawal means that Ogier, who has al­ready se­cured the 2016 ti­tle, along with other team driv­ers Fin­land’s Jari-Matti Lat­vala and Nor­we­gian An­dreas Mikkelsen are job­less. But Ogier at least seemed con­fi­dent.

“I feel so sorry for my fan­tas­tic team. We had four out­stand­ing years! Thanks for their pas­sion and sup­port! Don’t worry about me, we’ll see us again,” Ogier said on Twit­ter.

The Volk­swa­gen board de­cided on the rally with­drawal at a meet­ing on Tues­day at the Wolfs­burg head­quar­ters. “The com­mit­ment to the FIA world rally cham­pi­onship is com­ing to an end after four his­tor­i­cally suc­cess­ful years, in which Volk­swa­gen won WRC ti­tles in the driver, co-driver and man­u­fac­turer rank­ings in a row with the Polo R,” the com­pany said in a state­ment.

Since their ar­rival in 2013 VW have en­joyed un­prece­dented WRC suc­cess with French­man Ogier driv­ing to four con­sec­u­tive world ti­tles to go with the con­struc­tor’s hon­ours.

Ogier’s for­mer em­ploy­ers Citroen have al­ready an­nounced their driver lineup for 2017, as have South Korean out­fit Hyundai. That leaves the French ace with a pos­si­ble move to Toy­ota or Ford. Ogier and his team­mates en­joyed a phe­nom­e­nal suc­cess rate with the Polo, win­ning 42 of the 51 ral­lies they com­peted in with 621 best times in spe­cial stages.

“The team has done great things,” said VW Mo­tor­sport di­rec­tor Sven Smeets. “At the same time, our vi­sion is firmly ahead, be­cause we are aware of the great chal­lenges fac­ing the en­tire com­pany,” added Smeets. “From now on, the fo­cus is on up­com­ing tech­nolo­gies in mo­tor­sport and on our cus­tomer sports range.”

News of VW’s de­ci­sion to turn their back on ral­ly­ing comes eight days after they agreed to pay US sup­pli­ers $1.2 bil­lion to set­tle claims em­a­nat­ing from the Diesel­gate pol­lu­tion scan­dal. — AFP

Se­bastien Ogier

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