The announcement was made in Olbia, Sardinia this afternoon ahead of round five of the world championship getting underway on the Italian island tomorrow (Friday).
Volkswagen has a long association with rallying dating back to the 1980s and claimed a famous victory on the Ivory Coast Rally with Kenneth Eriksson in 1987. More recently, however, it has concentrated on off-road events, such as the Dakar Rally cross-country enduro.
The company’s initial commitment is for five years with initial testing planned during 2011. To get the team up to speed with the rigours of competing in the WRC, Volkswagen will field a pair of Skoda Fabia Super 2000s on rallies in 2012 before the planned competition debut of its Polo R WRC in 2013. It has made a commitment until the end of the 2015 season although this could be extended.
Kris Nissen, Volkswagen’s motorsport boss, said: “We look forward to this new challenge and are working on this project with the same passion with which we won the Dakar Rally in the past three years.
“We can draw on an experienced and proven squad which has done an outstanding job in top calibre sport in the past few years. Even though the WRC is new territory for us and involves learning in many areas the team already meets some important prerequisites now as it brings an unwavering professional attitude and resolve to deliver absolute perfection to this commitment.”
Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, member of the management board of the Volkswagen brand, development division, said the WRC’s new technical regulations, introduced for 2011, had proved a decisive factor in the firm’s decision to contest the WRC.
He said: “The new technical regulations of the World Rally Championship are an ideal fit for Volkswagen’s philosophy with respect to the development of production vehicles. Downsizing, high efficiency and reliability are top priorities for our customers. The timing of the WRC debut is optimal for Volkswagen. The big task of engineering a vehicle that is competitive and capable of winning at a large number of challenges holds great appeal for us.”
Luca de Meo, head of marketing of Volkswagen AG, said: “Almost exactly two years ago, in May 2009, the most recent model of the Polo was presented here in Sardinia. Today we are proud to show you the hottest Polo of all time - the Polo R WRC.”
No drivers have been confirmed although a German driver is being sought to fill one of the seats.
Volkswagen will become the WRC’s fourth registered manufacturer, joining Citroen, Ford and MINI.
Follow this link to get a glimpse of the new Polo R WRC at Volkswagen’s team launch