2 VW WITH­DRAWS

Motor Sport News - - Top 50: Defining Moments -

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

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