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Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By David Evans

Volk­swa­gen’s dom­i­na­tion of the World Rally Cham­pi­onship is over, as tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor Fran­cois-xavier De­mai­son fears its com­peti­tors are set to re­bound in 2017.

Since the Ger­man firm ar­rived in the se­ries at the start of 2013, it has en­joyed pre­vi­ously un­ri­valled suc­cess, win­ning 38 of the 46 ral­lies the Polo R WRC has started. In its last two com­plete sea­sons, Volk­swa­gen won all but one event. This year, how­ever, looks like it could be head­ing to­wards be­ing its least suc­cess­ful so far.

Al­ready the Polo has been beaten on three of the seven ral­lies run so far in 2016. In its de­but 2013 sea­son, the Han­nover­built World Rally Car was only de­feated three times all-year.

While this year’s in­abil­ity to match the last two is partly due to an in­crease in pace from Hyundai, the reg­u­la­tions forc­ing the cham­pi­onship leader to open the road has hit Se­bastien Ogier and VW harder than any­body.

Next year, De­mai­son says the com­pe­ti­tion will make it harder than ever and win­ning all-but one rally in a sea­son will be a thing of the past.

“This is not the nor­mal sit­u­a­tion for one team to win so much,” said De­mai­son. “Last year Citroen was in­volved in WTCC and WRC was the sec­ond project, Hyundai was start­ing out and Mal­colm [Wil­son, M-sport] didn’t have the bud­get and driver.

“Next year, Citroen is at full speed and with a good driver, Hyundai has good ex­pe­ri­ence and they will be strong, Toy­ota’s com­ing back and M-sport has the new car. The com­pe­ti­tion will be back where it should be and when it’s like this, it’s not so easy to win the rally.”

De­mai­son added that, un­like its ri­vals, Volk­swa­gen is lim­ited to just 42 days of test­ing be­cause the 2017 Polo is un­der­pinned by the same car which is be­ing used in com­pe­ti­tion this year. Only a new car per­mits un­re­stricted test­ing.

“This is the rea­son why we are do­ing all of the pre-event tests for this year with the 2017 car,” said De­mai­son. “For sure, this pe­nalises us this year – we saw that a lit­tle bit in Poland. All the time, the driv­ers are com­ing to me and say­ing I want to test the 2016 car, but I say to them: ‘No, I am a b*stard and you know it!’ I have to tell them this other­wise it will be so much more dif­fi­cult for us next year. It’s more im­por­tant for us to fo­cus on 2017. This year there aren’t so many run­ners [in com­pe­ti­tion] and at the mo­ment what we have is just about enough, but next year it’s go­ing to be more [com­pe­ti­tion] and we have to be ready.”

De­mai­son re­fused to crit­i­cise the 42-day test rule, adding: “I won’t use this as an ex­cuse. We know the rule and we use it to our

Evans vis­ited the Volk­swa­gen plant in Ger­many as 2017 car reaches con­clu­sion The Volk­swa­gen fac­tory is ready to pre­pare six 2017-spec cars for next sea­son’s WRC

Polo is in reg­u­lar ac­tion

Let­ters/com­ment/what’s On Clas­si­fieds Wanted: More weather like last week­end. Pretty please? Ap­ply:

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