PROKOP WAS CLOSE TO VW OGIER DEAL
Photos: Andrea Mickova, Jakob Ebrey, mcklein-imagedatabase.com Ogier, Prokop and Ostberg could have run as 2017 VW team before Qatar rumours
Martin Prokop has revealed just how close he came to running Sebastien Ogier in a 2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC in this year’s World Rally Championship.
The Czech driver has joined forces with Mads Ostberg this season and will jointly run a brace of Ford Fiesta WRCS in the newly formed Onebet Jipocar World Rally Team – starting with Ostberg’s entry on this week’s Rally Sweden.
The initial plan for this year had, however, been to use Volkswagen’s Polos, with Ogier joining Ostberg and Prokop in a three-car team. Prokop also revealed how Ogier was ready to skip the season-opening Monte Carlo Rally to stay in a Polo.
“Everything was arranged,” Prokop said. “The project had involved Red Bull, which is a partner [of] Sebastien. Cars would be with us in Jihlava. Ogier agreed with the fact that we would skip Monte Carlo. He said it should give at least 14 days’ more time for family.”
Prokop’s plan was only spoiled by 11th-hour contract negotiations when he reported interest came from Qatar. He said: “Just before signing the contract, Volkswagen [was] promised money from Qatar. Everything was jammed. Ogier showed generosity and twice extended the deadline for contract conclusion. When he had nowhere to go he was signed by Ford [M-sport].”
Prokop’s first outing in a Fiesta WRC will be in Portugal or Sardinia, but in the meantime the Czech-based team will focus on Ostberg’s results.
“It was a beautiful idea: Polo WRC in Jihlava,” said Prokop. “Sebastien Ogier in the car serviced by our team. Even the people at Volkswagen were pleased that their car will not end in a museum. But it is a reality: we have one Fiesta WRC during the season, maybe we get another. When everything goes great, I catch a race in Portugal in May or June in Sardinia. I’m not going to leave the team as a driver.”
Volkswagen remains in negotiations with the WRC stakeholders in an effort to obtain a late homologation allowing the Polo R WRC to be used later this year. Ostberg completed a 150-mile test in Sweden last weekend, saying: “I think we found a good set-up, but the car is so much faster. The challenge is to adapt to the extra speed and braking.”
Ostberg impressed with 2017 speeds