VOLK­SWA­GEN SAFE IN WRC UN­TIL 2019

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans and Jim Holder

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.

Ogier has dom­i­nated, but Jost Capito (right) is Mclaren-bound

Polo’s first WRC cam­paign came in 2013 and since then it has been the bench­mark

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