BATTLE CONTINUES TO GET 2017 VW ON THE STAGES DAVID EVANS
GROUP RALLYING EDITOR “When did the Monte last have heavy snow?”
Volkswagen’s 2017-specification Polo R WRC could still appear in this season’s World Rally Championship, despite missing its final homologation date at the start of the year.
The all-new Polo was scheduled to be homologated from January 1, but when no deal to finance the running of the car could be agreed with a private investor, the date passed and the VW remained unhomologated.
Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets has revealed to Motorsport News that negotiations are ongoing with both investors and the FIA in an effort to run the car later in the year. Volkswagen cannot be included in the race for the manufacturers’ title, but Smeets said a realistic timeframe for getting the car in action could be April’s Tour of Corsica.
“What we are talking to the FIA about is an exceptional waiver for homologation,” Smeets told MN. “This sort of thing hasn’t been done before, so it’s clear we would need something exceptional to make it possible to use the car.”
After much talk about a Nasser Al Attiyah-fronted, Qatarbacked bid to take the cars over for 2017, Smeets cleared that speculation up, saying: “I can tell you and confirm to you now that we are not in negotiation with Qatar. We are talking to other people [about the financing of the deal] and there is interest in this happening, but right now we need to address the first point [with the FIA].”
If a privately funded Volkswagen team does return in 2017, it would be on the same sort of lines as Citroen’s PH Sportrun effort last year: the team would sit in the service park, but not score points in the makes’ title race.
Both the FIA and WRC Promoter are very keen to see Volkswagen’s Polo R WRC in action this season. Even if accord can be found, any agreement would require unanimous backing from the participating manufacturers.
While there might be time to force any deal through before Rally Mexico in March – and possibly even next month’s Rally Sweden – Smeets is adamant Volkswagen won’t rush the process of getting the car out.
“We are working in a different timeframe now [January 1 has passed],” he said. “If that means we have to sit out another rally to make sure people are happy with the process then we’ll do that. The most important thing for me is that we get the car through this extraordinary process.”
Work began on Volkswagen’s 2017-specification World Rally Car in August 2015 and only ceased after Marcus Gronholm’s final two-day snow test in northern Sweden last month. The car is understood to be ready to start a rally immediately and the infrastructure which carried Volkswagen to four consecutive world championship titles still remains in place.
running alongside the BRC on its seven-round calendar. Drivers will be able to use any tyres from a manufacturer registered with the BRC.
MH Motorsport team boss Mick Harris has backed the change.
“It gives more choice for competitors, which is a good thing,” said Harris. “Listening to what people are saying, I think people wanted to be able to use Michelin and Pirellis.”