WHEN Volkswagen retired from the FIA World Rally Championship after the 2016 Kennards Hire Rally Australia, it promised to return to the sport as a supplier of R5-specification customer rally cars.
The stage is now set for the make’s return to the international rally world after the release this week of the Polo GTI R5. Following its FIA homologation, the Polo will be available for customer teams in the second half of 2018.
Development of the Polo GTI R5 has been underway since the beginning of this year, with testing conducted last month and this month. The program was managed by Technical Director François-Xavier Demaison and Jan de Jongh, who engineered world champion Sébastien Ogier’s Polo R WRC from 2013 to 2016.
Input was received from Volkswagen subsidiary Skoda, which has powered the WRC2 champions for the past two seasons with the Fabia R5.
“The Polo GTI R5 came through the initial tests without any problems. The feedback from the test drivers was very positive,” Demaison said.
“It is obviously beneficial to be able to call upon an experienced team of engineers and mechanics, who helped to develop the Polo that won the world championship.”
The GTI R5 has a transverse front engine limited by regulation to 1.6 litres and generating maximum power of 200 kiloWatts and torque of 400 Newtonmetres. Power is transmitted through a five-speed, sequential-shift gearbox and permanent all-wheel drive.
Weighing 1320 kilograms, the rally GTI accelerates from 0 to 100 kmh in 4.1 seconds.
The car is based on a five-door body, rather than the all-conquering Polo R WRC’s three-door shell.
Under FIA regulations existing since 2012, it will be eligible for the hotly-contested WRC2 series and regional and national championships throughout the world, including Australia.
Volkswagen’s former WRC rivals Hyundai, M-Sport (Ford) and Citroën also have developed R5 cars and Toyota is expected to produce a version some time in the future.