CAPITO: MOVE NOT A SIGN OF VW PULLOUT
VW WRC boss switches to Mclaren, but
Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito has vehemently denied his move to Mclaren has anything to do with the German firm’s current road car crisis.
Capito, 57, will join the Woking team as chief executive officer as soon as a suitable replacement can be found at Volkswagen. The German told Motorsport News his decision to leave the squad he has built into a dominant force in the World Rally Championship was the hardest of his career.
“It’s a big challenge, but that’s me, I am always interested in a challenge,” he said.
“I heard that people are talking about different reasons for me taking this new job, but I can tell you here and now for sure: there is nothing wrong with Volkswagen Motorsport. My decision to move is because of the challenge, this is not a situation which has come around in the last three months since the diesel [emissions] issue. I first talked [to Mclaren] about the possibility for this in the early summer.
“Volkswagen’s programme in the WRC is safe and we need success on this side more than ever right now. Of course, we try to save some budget, but the commitment is the same.”
The end of last season was rife with speculation regarding Volkswagen’s future in rallying. Fellow Volkswagen Group brands Audi and Porsche have lost a car each from this year’s Le Mans entry list in an effort to save money in the wake of the emissions scandal. Volkswagen Motorsport is understood to have lost 30 per cent of its budget for this year, but that will be absorbed in a downscaling of the team’s on-event hospitality on European rounds. Three Polo R WRCS – for Sebastien Ogier, Jari-matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen – will start every one of the 14 WRC rounds this year.
There are also concerns due to the timing of Capito’s exit from Ford in 2012. He left the role of director of motorsport shortly before Ford announced its departure from the World Rally Championship.
Despite last week’s announcement, Capito said he doesn’t expect to be vacating his Volkswagen office any time soon: “We wanted to make the announcement, to get the news out there, so that we could stop the rumours. Now the process has to start to try to find somebody to replace me. I don’t know how long that will take, but until that is done and I am happy with the way that’s done, I won’t be going anywhere. I will be here for the next three or four rallies, it could be longer – I don’t know.
“For now it’s business as usual with Volkswagen. You know, it’s
kind of like with the children. You bring up your children and, at some stage, they have to leave the home and go on their own. As a parent, you want to make sure the children are well prepared for what is coming and that’s what I want to do with Volkswagen.”
Mclaren suffered a disastrous 2015 campaign in its first year with returning engine supplier Honda, only beating Marussia in the Constructors’ table. Asked if he thought it was a risk swapping the super-successful WRC outfit for the troubled Formula 1 team, Capito said: “It’s a risk, but I’m used to that. It was a risk when I left Ford to go to Volkswagen in 2012. Looking back to that time, it was all good with Ford. We had the ST, the race cars and I had a great job – but Volkswagen was a challenge.
“It was a completely new job when I went to Volkswagen, I had to put the place in the sat-nav, I had no idea where I was going and I didn’t know any of the people who worked there. And it will be the same when I go to Mclaren.
“It was a very difficult decision to take. This was the most difficult [decision] in my career and it will be the biggest challenge in my career. But it’s Mclaren.”
Capito, who replaces Jonathan Neale at Mclaren, is known in the F1 paddock. He worked as chief operating officer at Sauber in the 1990s and was in charge of Ford’s global motorsport programme when the Blue Oval supplied Jordan with engines.
“Anybody who works in our industry knows that F1 is about Mclaren and it’s about Ferrari, and the chance to run the Mclaren team is not one that you can say no to,” he added. “For people who live in our world, it would be impossible to say no to this. Mclaren deserves to be in a better position than it is right now.”
Capito has moved through all aspects of motorsport and with different manufacturers, including spells at Porsche and BMW.
“You know, I am a little bit like a gypsy,” he said. “I have been around many different formula in motorsport. But one thing is sure, it is never easy to win. This doesn’t change whatever you are doing – the challenge is to keep the team motivated and ready to win.
“This week, we start in Monte Carlo looking for a fourth title with Volkswagen and that will be just as tough – if not tougher – than the ones we have won before. When you are the hunted, it is never easy. We start from scratch again this week.”
M-sport’s Malcolm Wilson paid tribute to Capito and the six world titles he has won in the last three years.
“He’ll be missed,” said Wilson, who worked with Capito – and won two world titles with him – when Ford was involved in the WRC. “It was great to work with him and to fight against him. What I’m also pleased with is that, once again, the World Rally Championship gets recognition as Formula 1 turns to us for its solutions.”
Capito follows David Richards and Jean Todt from team management in the WRC to the F1 paddock.