Although several automakers have withdrawn from the World Rally Championship over the past few years, Volkswagen is doing the opposite. The automaker announced this week it plans on fielding the new Polo R WRC shown here beginning in 2013.
From what we can tell, the Polo R WRC is effectively a leaner, meaner take on the fifth-generation Polo hatchback, which debuted at the 2009 Geneva Motor Show. The wide flared bodywork is typical rally fare, but lends the small Polo an incredibly aggressive stance.
From what we can tell, the Polo R WRC may pack a punch that matches its appearance. At this point, VW isn’t releasing precise specifications on the car, but notes it will sport both all-wheel-drive and a turbocharged 1.6-liter engine that produces “near 300 horsepower.” Impressed? You should be — that’s Golf R-like power packed into a car that will be at least 400-500 pounds lighter.
VW hints in its official announcement that the 300-hp motor may well be an evolution of the 105-hp, 1.6-liter I-4, which is presently used in stock Polo hatchbacks. According to Volkswagen, the latest WRC rules — which specify a displacement of 1600 cc and allow both turbocharging and direct injection — provided motivation to return to the series.
“The new technical regulations of the WRC are an ideal fit for Volkswagen’s philosophy with respect to the development of production vehicles,” Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, VW’s board member in charge of development, said in a prepared release. “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 to us.”
Officially, Volkswagen has pledged to field a factory-backed team in the WRC from 2013 through 2015. That said, the company has mentioned it intends on running Skoda Fabia Super 2000 cars as a “test run” in 2012 to help prepare drivers, crew, and support staff for the real thing.