“The jury’s out on extra grunt in WRC cars”
Let’s be honest, genuine, first-hand, coal face experience is a pretty rare thing in this column.
I’ve been on the telephone to Tommi Makinen fairly regularly in the last couple of months and not once has he asked me if I’d like to pop to Puuppola to drive the Yaris he’s been working on. Doesn’t happen. Which is why last week’s email from Banbury was so welcome. It came from Prodrive’s long-standing PR star Ben Sayer, who was inquiring if I’d like to shakedown the Golf SCRC for them?
For those of you not familiar with Prodrive’s current rally programme, the Golf is contesting (dominating’s probably a much better verb) the Chinese Rally Championship with Chris Atkinson right now. The latest chassis is headed east at the end of the month and needed a roll-out after being bolted together at Prodrive’s shiny, new Banbury home. I didn’t need asking twice. The full story of the car and what exactly a shakedown involves will be found on these pages in the coming weeks. But for now, two things struck me as I departed the test.
The first is the same feeling I get every time I drive up or down the M40: how much poorer the World Rally Championship is without Prodrive. The second consideration centred on being in the presence of at least 350 horses.
For the Golf’s two-litre motor, 350bhp is no bother (this being the same base engine as Mattias Ekstrom’s Audi S1 EKS RX rallycross car…), which gave me a glimpse into what might beneath Sebastien Ogier’s right foot next season. Granted, there weren’t many trees, sheer drops, Armco barriers or 50-metre-plus jumps on this particular Oxfordshire airfield, but the car and the power felt perfect to me.
The jury’s out on necessity for extra grunt at the moment, but to be able to hold the Golf in a fourth-gear drift on the throttle for as long as I wanted was a pretty special moment. Power brings majesty and spectacle and a brief taste made me wonder if those lobbying for less power are being a bit too health and safety.
Like I said, I had half a county to play with. My opinion might change on engaging stage mode at the start of Dyfi.
In the name of research, I’m game if you are, good people of Banbury...
New Golf was rolled out for the first time in Banbury