Thursday | 22 Jan 2015

Final countdown for the new Polo R

Volkswagen's new Polo R World Rally Car will make its competitive debut at Rallye Monte-Carlo tonight with a lot to live up to.

Its predecessor, which made its debut on the same event in 2013, was the driving force behind Volkswagen’s two World titles and had lost none of its potency by the time of its last outing at Wales Rally GB 2014, when it bowed out with a final victory.

It’s a tough act to follow, and Volkswagen is pinning its hopes of a third title on a next generation Polo R that shares its genes with version one, but embraces the FIA’s new World Rally Car technical regulations. It is the first complete World Rally Car to be built to the new regs.

Volkswagen says its engineers looked at 75 per cent of the old car, trying to make components ‘simpler, lighter or stronger’. They also overhauled several major assemblies including the sequential gearbox, which now has a steering column-mounted paddle-shift, and the engine which is now 1kg lighter yet produces more power and more torque.

The new car's front wings have been re-shaped to improve aerodynamics

“The new gearbox is operated hydraulically and is far more complex than the system we have used previously,” explained François-Xavier Demaison, Technical Project Leader for the WRC at Volkswagen Motorsport, and effectively the father of both Polo R WRCs.

“For this reason, we dedicated a lot of attention to this component. The hydraulics system had to be adjusted and made larger. We also developed a completely new gearbox casing. We started work on this back at the start of 2014.”

Weight played a major role in improvements to the engine: the 315-hp unit now weights exactly the 81.5 kilograms minimum specified in the new regulations - 1kg less than before.

Another development goal for the 2015 car was to achieve a wider range of set-up options for drivers and engineers. VW’s three drivers each have different driving styles, and adjusting the chassis components has given engineers greater scope to adjust the set-up for their respective driver.

Technicians also overhauled the Polo’s chassis in order to increase aerodynamic efficiency. As well as re-shaped trailing edges on the front wings, which are about two centimetres higher, the most striking change to the new car is a new rear spoiler.

Sebastien Ogier, Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen began testing the new car in July 2014, covering about 5,000 kilometres on gravel, asphalt, ice and snow. Further testing was performed by development driver Dieter Depping - the man who completed the lion’s share of the testing on the first generation car.

Finally, requests and suggestions from team mechanics were also taken into consideration, in order to make it easier to access components during services. One example is using the same-sized screws wherever possible. The net result is some astonishing service times - like 12 minutes for a gearbox change, four minutes to change a damper and spring unit, four minutes to replace a suspension wishbone and three minutes to change brake pads and discs.

The end product is a car that can accelerate from 0-100kph in around 3.9sec and go on to a top speed of 200kph. Will that be enough to continue Volkswagen's winning run? We'll find out on Sunday...

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