Pho­tos: An­drea Mick­ova, Jakob Ebrey, mcklein-im­age­ Ogier, Prokop and Ost­berg could have run as 2017 VW team be­fore Qatar ru­mours

Motor Sport News - - Rally News - By David Evans

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

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