2 VW WITHDRAWS
WHEN: NOVEMBER 2 WHERE: HANOVER, GERMANY
Four is a good number. Especially when you add another four and then another four. In four years, Volkswagen Motorsport collected 12 manufacturers’, drivers and co-drivers’ World Rally Championship titles.
And, for a while at least, we thought three multiples of four would mean something in Wolfsburg one miserable Tuesday morning early in November. How naive. How wrong. Four is nothing compared with 15,000,000,000. Or even 30,000. Fifteen is how many billions of dollars Volkswagen might have to find to fund settlements in the wake of dieselgate. And that’s just in America.
The 30? That’s how many thousands of Volkswagen workers could face redundancy.
Four? Twelve? Pretty insignificant numbers really. And when I say pretty, I mean entirely.
Once the news that Audi’s Le Mans programme had gone down the toilet broke, rumours began to circulate around the Wales Rally GB service park. Twelve months earlier, the German firm had teetered on the brink, but were saved by some Jost Capito-inspired savage budget cuts. This time there was no escape. The diesel emissions crisis continues to build on a truly global scale and still nobody knows where or how it will end for the Volkswagen Group.
Rumour has it, Volkswagen’s WRC cull was coming at the same time as Audi’s shocking news, but the decision was taken to spike it for a week – giving Volkswagen a final moment in the sun to celebrate its fourth makes’ race win.
It’s with some irony that the man sitting on the roof of Polo R WRC #1 between Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia is Dr Frank Welsch.
With his hands on the silverware, he smiled and talked of another “great success for Volkswagen.”
Just before he talked of that great success, and surrounded by the entire team on the Wales Rally GB podium, he gave a victorious two-fingered salute.
Only now do we look back and realise what he was probably trying to convey was the number of days remaining before the board met in Wolfsburg; the number of days remaining before the end of the road for the WRC’S most successful ever squad.
And two days later, the deed was done. Volkswagen’s race run. Unfortunately, the majority of the 200-strong work force realised the fate of their exceptional WRC programme via the internet. Nice. Twenty-four hours on and Dr Frank was back beneath a communication headed: “Volkswagen realigns motorsport programme”. But this time he was talking about the brand facing enormous challenges.
Volkswagen Motorsport faced one more challenge: Rally Australia. Naturally, it won and departed the series with the same success, dignity and humility with which it entered and remained for four years.
Whether VW comes back with private funding next season or not, nothing will match the last four years in terms of its utter domination. And nothing will match the end for drama. DE