VOLKSWAGEN SAFE IN WRC UNTIL 2019
Volkswagen has confirmed it will remain in the World Rally Championship until at least the end of 2019, despite its damaging dieselgate scandal.
Publicly, the team insisted the programme was never threatened by the road car emissions scandal. Privately, there were concerns that one of the team’s three cars could be trimmed down – a consequence that has happened to sister brands Audi and Porsche’s Le Mans efforts for this season. There was also a chance that the WRC team could be culled.
Volkswagen’s future for the next three seasons in the world championship was inked at a meeting in Wolfsburg at the end of last month.
Volkswagen Motorsport director Jost Capito told MN: “The old board approved the programme until 2019. But in November when the new guys were in we got the programme approved for this season and they said: ‘You come back in the spring and talk about the future’.
“So we went back to the board with our programme until 2019 and we got this approved as it was before – but this time with the new board. It’s nothing new, but it’s proof that the future until 2019 is done.”
Two of those new board members backed the WRC at the Geneva Motor Show this month.
Jurgen Stockmann, VW board member for sales, marketing and aftersales, told MN’S sister publication Autocar: “The WRC is our sport. We have achieved incredible things in a short space of time in terms of results, and it is a motivator for the whole company in terms of how it shows us what is possible when a team works together.
“That team focus is critical to us, and it extends out to the many fans of the sport who follow us. Our Facebook page is enormous, with millions of people reached. It gives us a very passionate following and creates imagery that it’s hard not to feel strongly about. “We will stay in the sport.” Frank Welsch, board position responsible for the Volkswagen brand’s Technical Development, added: “We like very much being three times champions, and we have already started work on the next generation car for 2017, some time ago now. The commitment is there to carry on. We are committed to rallying for the next three years at least. We hope we will continue to be as successful as we are now against the new competitors we expect to see.”
Capito to exit soon
The news that Volkswagen is now committed for the foreseeable future in WRC is likely to expedite Capito’s departure for his new role at the Mclaren F1 team.
Welsch continued: “Let me stress Jost is not leaving for any reason other than the fact he has been so successful. It’s his success that has opened the door for him for a fresh challenge, and we are proud of that. Sooner or later, yes, there will be a new Capito.”
Capito admitted that he’s keen to get on his way to Woking.
“It’s difficult,” he said. “Of course, this job is great – but if
I had wanted to stay here then I would not have signed a contract [with Mclaren]. And when I see what’s going on, I would love to give my input quickly. We are working closely with Mclaren and Volkswagen to find the proper solution that everybody is happy with. It’s a very good atmosphere around this.”
There had been speculation that Carlos Sainz could be returning as team principal, but Capito denied such rumours: “I am working with my bosses to find what is the best solution. For Carlos? You know Volkswagen is still a Germanspeaking company and if you’re not fluent in German then it’s a big issue. And anyway, Carlos has a contract with a competitor!
“This meeting in Wolfsburg a week ago and this confirmation coming from the meeting was the basis to talk about the successor. When you know it’s an approved programme then it’s a totally different story.”
Capito admitted he had been watching Mclaren’s efforts at pre-season testing in Barcelona.
Asked what he thought of the progress his new employer had made he said: “I think there’s still a lot to do and it’s good. For sure there’s a step from last year.
“There are so many more laps than last season’s [pre-season testing] and the reliability is the first thing you have to solve. If you are driving then you can improve the performance, but if you are not making laps then you cannot improve. There’s no doubt Honda and Mclaren did a great job over the winter, now it has to get the full package really properly run together.
“I have not had any input to Mclaren; first you need to understand. I am in touch with these guys, they sent me some stuff and told me what’s going on and what’s happening.”
As Capito said, with the confirmation in place, a replacement is likely to be found quickly now. Some insiders hinted that, with six weeks before the next world championship round in Argentina, last week’s Rally Mexico could well have been the German’s final event in charge of the all-conquering VW squad.