VW quits the WRC: The implications for rallying and Sebastien Ogier

Some see Volkswagen's decision to quit the World Rally Championship as inevitable

VW quits the WRC: The implications for rallying and Sebastien Ogier

How can a company continue to justify a multi-million pound budget to go rallying when billions are being shipped in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal?

Let's be honest, the cost of competing in the World Rally Championship is a drop in the ocean compared with the bills the group could be facing globally - but this is actually about the public image. This is not a time for men in Volkswagen overalls to be spraying the VW badge in champagne.

Twelve titles in four years or not, there's no room in Volkswagen's bigger picture for a champagne moment.

The only good news for rally fans - and good news might be stretching it - is that this decision has nothing to do with the WRC. It comes from Volkswagen chairman Matthias Mueller doing the sums and saving some face.

There will, of course, be ramifications for the WRC. Volkswagen has been one of its most enthusiastic supporters and investors. Not just in terms of competition cars, but around the service park.

Since it arrived in the world championship as a manufacturer entry in 2013, rallies around the world have benefited from the German firm's backing as an official car supplier, for example.

In 2011, when Volkswagen announced its decision to contest the world championship, it gave the WRC a massive shot in the arm at a time when the series really needed some good news. Here was one of the world's biggest and best carmakers coming to test its mettle and metal in rallying.

Since then, Volkswagen has worked tirelessly to improve not only its own image, but the image of the WRC.

While Jost Capito was in charge, he regularly fought battles for the good of the fans in an attempt to drive the WRC further into the spotlight and the public eye.

Yes, Volkswagen enjoyed huge success off the back of its time in the series, but Hannover found an inclusive way of celebrating to ensure the championship benefited as well.

Its social media campaign has been some of the most innovative and fan-friendly rallying content ever. Volkswagen has changed the way people watch rallying, as well as delivering legions of new fans.

And it's done it off the back of some amount of success. There are lots of stats that could be pulled out from the total dominance Sebastien Ogier, Julien Ingrassia and the Polo R WRC have demonstrated in the last four years, but here's my favourite: since Monte Carlo 2013 the Polo has completed 980 special stages. And won 622 of them.

WHERE WILL THE DRIVERS GO?

Talking of Ogier, the question will inevitably turn to the current world champion and where his future lies.

Plenty feel Ogier will see this as the natural conclusion to a vastly successful career.

He's always said he doesn't intend to stay forever and his understandable dissatisfaction with the rules and regulations have taken him to the brink of retirement already.

I hope he stays. We need him.

It goes without saying he would find gainful employment in the championship, most likely with his former employer Citroen.

Citroen has signed three drivers for next season, but it would be surprising if there wasn't some scope within driver contracts to accommodate a name like Ogier in the light of recent seismic events.

Ogier and Kris Meeke as team-mates? Could you imagine? We wouldn't be short of news. Or views.

At the same time, there's a huge mutual admiration between Malcolm Wilson and Ogier. The pair talked about a possible deal towards the end of 2011 and relations have always remained very warm ever since.

There might not be the multi-million pound budget required to retain Ogier in Cockermouth, but I wouldn't be surprised if the champion decided to give it a year in the Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

He knows how good the 2017 cars are going to be and the temptation to stay and drive one would surely be irresistible.

Jari-Matti Latvala? Andreas Mikkelsen? Toyota, Citroen or M-Sport. Everything's possible and everything's open... just a few days after we thought the driver market was signed and sealed for next season.

What hurts as much as anything about all of this is the fact that we'll never see just how good that 2017 Polo was. After months and months and thousands and thousands of miles of testing by a man of Marcus Gronholm's calibre, that million-pound motor, that dream World Rally Car... is heading for the scrap heap.

Unbelievable.

shares
comments
Volkswagen to pull out of WRC at end of 2016

Previous article

Volkswagen to pull out of WRC at end of 2016

Next article

Volkswagen confirms it will leave the WRC at the end of 2016

Volkswagen confirms it will leave the WRC at the end of 2016
Load comments
How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia Plus

How Finland’s newest rally hero made WRC history in Estonia

Kalle Rovanpera broke a decade-old record in becoming the World Rally Championship's youngest-ever winner in a truly dominant performance on Estonia's fast gravel roads. Staving off the challenge of Hyundai's Craig Breen, his committed drive showed a maturity beyond his 20 years that gives Toyota's post-Ogier era a far brighter complexion

WRC
Jul 19, 2021
How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale Plus

How WRC's new Safari adventure ended with a familiar tale

The World Rally Championship’s delayed return to the Safari Rally was always set throw up some surprises, but aside from a spirited showing by Thierry Neuville it became another painful event for Hyundai in 2021. Once again it was Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage as he completed a stunning comeback drive

WRC
Jun 28, 2021
Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win Plus

Remembering Colin McRae’s final WRC win

The Safari Rally returns to the World Rally Championship this weekend for the first time since 2002 - when crowd favourite Colin McRae set aside the maximum attack style for which he was renowned to deliver a textbook third win

WRC
Jun 23, 2021
How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2 Plus

How Hyundai's broken record gave Toyota a special Sardinia 1-2

For the second WRC gravel rally in a row, a promising Friday for Hyundai turned into desolation as Toyota gratefully picked up the pieces. This time it was championship leader Sebastien Ogier who took full advantage after Ott Tanak and Dani Sordo retired to score a memorable victory, having swept the road on the first two days

WRC
Jun 7, 2021
How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory Plus

How Hyundai's latest self-destruction handed Evans Portugal victory

At one point Hyundai held the top three positions in Portugal, but when trouble struck the Korean marque's two leading chargers, a grateful Elfyn Evans was on hand to see off Hyundai third man Dani Sordo and become the third different winner in four rallies

WRC
May 24, 2021
Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages Plus

Why the success of AVB's WRC debut won't be defined on the stages

Three years after a Dakar Rally crash resulted in him being airlifted to hospital, Andre Villas-Boas is preparing to make his debut on his home round of the World Rally Championship later this month. His goals for the event are modest, but the same cannot be said for the charities he plans to promote where his true impact could be felt

WRC
May 13, 2021
Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel Plus

Why there's no easy fix for Hyundai's operational Achilles Heel

Hyundai Motorsport boss Andrea Adamo was vocal in his criticism of his team's tyre choices on Rally Croatia and declared that he "had better move my ass and solve it". Doing so will be vital to getting Hyundai's 2021 WRC title hopes back on track, but finding the root of the problem won't be the work of a moment

WRC
Apr 28, 2021
How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia Plus

How Ogier held on after a shock bump in the road to triumph in Croatia

Sebastien Ogier was already in an incredibly tight fight at Rally Croatia before a surprise collision with public road traffic at the start of the final day. But the defending champion held his nerve to take a narrow victory and create further World Rally Championship history

WRC
Apr 26, 2021