DAVID EVANS W
“VW is eating corporate humble pie”
hat a difference a couple of years makes. November 21, two years ago, I was in Wolfsburg watching Jost Capito hand the keys to a Ducati 1199 Panigale S Senna to Sebastien Ogier.
There was another bike for Andreas Mikkelsen. Jari-matti Latvala got a Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk1.
We drank wine specially commissioned ‘Seb & Jari’ cuvee made from the Mosel grapes harvested in spectacular fashion by crashing Volkswagens earlier that summer. Everything in the world was well. Now? Not so much. Last year, Volkswagen skipped its post-season party. Next year, it’s skipping the championship. After winning 42 of the 51 world rallies entered since Monte Carlo, 2013, Volkswagen will sign off on its World Rally Championship chapter in Australia next week.
Turns out a goal-hitting emissions test-tinkered ECU wasn’t such a good idea in the end.
Volkswagen talks about realignment and focusing on future technologies as reasons for its hasty retreat. Nonsense. And it’s not about the money. Spending £30m or whatever it costs on a WRC programme is small change compared with a £12 billion outlay building in America.
No, this is about perception and the fact that Volkswagen’s not allowed to be seen to be enjoying itself, not allowed to be spraying champagne around the world after another dominant and all-conquering success.
That image isn’t entirely in keeping with a feast of corporate humble pie being readied. So, they’ll be gone. No fanfare, just farewell. And that’s a tragedy. For Hyundai, M-sport, Citroen and Toyota, the target’s gone. For fans around the world – and VW’S exceptional marketing campaign has attracted millions of them – like the Hannover team itself, the end of the road has just come into sight.
Beyond the personalities involved, there’s the hardware to think about: the world’s fastest rally car will never post a stage time. Instead, Volkswagen prefers to pretend its 2017 Polo R WRC never happened.
That’s all bad enough, but what’s also concerning me is the potential impact on the next generation of drivers. The need to absorb three top-line drivers into the remaining four teams could, and likely will, have a significant effect. Currently, VW’S decision is farreaching, but its impact on talent development could be felt for years to come.
Talking of young drivers, I’d like to congratulate Craig Breen and Stephane Lefebvre on their 1-2 at last weekend’s Condroz Rally. Team principal, Yves Matton? The boss did the decent thing and allowed his young guns to demonstrate just how quick a DS 3 R5 is against his two-litre C4 WRC. He finished fifth.