WRC A FULL 2018
A FIRST LEG WITH FAR-REACHING IMPLICATIONS.
A FIRST LEG WITH FAR-REACHING IMPLICATIONS
After a strong start and looking once again like it would make a serious challenge for overall victory – winning three of Friday’s six proper stages – Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT paid a heavy price for three punctures. They ruined its hopes of a podium on the first full day of racing, leaving its crews to act as road-sweepers for the rest of the weekend.
THE STORY OF THE RACE
After spending so many years surveying the stages of the world rally championship, Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s engineers are familiar with their specific features. They had therefore quickly identified those contested on Friday’s leg – renowned for their tendency to break up substantially – as being the potentially decisive stages of the weekend. They turned out to be right and although, unlike many competitors, all three Citroën C3 WRCs made it safely to the end of the leg, the team’s weekend was immediately and irreversibly compromised by three costly punctures. And yet it had all started so well, with Kris Meeke brimming with confidence and moving into third position, just 2.2s behind the leader, on the first proper stage. He even grabbed the lead on the next speed test as he claimed the stage win, before briefly relinquishing it. He then reclaimed first position at the start of the afternoon loop as he picked up another stage win (SS5). It looked like the Northern Irishman was going to be force to be reckoned with in the fight for the overall win. Craig Breen was determined not to be left out of the party, however, collecting his own stage win (SS6), just as Kris picked up a puncture. The misfortune would have gone almost unnoticed had Kris not been hit by a second puncture on SS7, whilst Craig, third overall at the time just 4.4s off the pace, also saw one of his tyres suddenly lose pressure after hitting one of the many embedded rocks loosened by cars running through the stages. Meeke was forced to complete the long road section and the evening’s two super special stages effectively with just three tyres whilst Breen had to stop to change the flat tyre mid-stage. Both drivers therefore lost precious time, and found themselves down in seventh and eighth positions at the end of day one, 1m 18.7s and 2m 27.3s back respectively. Meanwhile, Mads Østberg made an encouraging debut on gravel in the C3 WRC, finishing the first leg in sixth place. However, faced with the unenviable task of running first on the road for the next two days – and therefore sweeping the loose gravel and sand off the road surface – Mads Østberg and Craig Breen were unable to finish any higher than sixth and seventh overall, whilst Kris Meeke unfortunately went off the road on Saturday, spelling the end of his weekend.
QUESTIONS FOR PIERRE BUDAR, CITROËN RACING TEAM PRINCIPAL
What is your analysis of this difficult weekend?
The three punctures picked up on Friday ruined our race. The rules state that the standings at the end of day one are inverted to define the running order on Saturday and the same again for Sunday. As a result, we ended up spending two days running first on the road and therefore sweeping the fine layer of sand and gravel clear for the rest of the field. Given the lack of grip, moving back up the standings was simply mission impossible. We therefore decided to work on the set-up of the C3 WRC in these sorts of low-grip conditions to prepare for the future. Before picking up his two punctures, Kris had been in the lead twice and had also claimed two stage wins whilst Craig, who also won one stage, was running third when he had his puncture. When we were fighting on equal terms with our rivals, once again we were competitive, whilst enjoying exemplary reliability.
What do you think about the performances of your drivers?
Obviously, it’s a shame that Kris made a mistake, but I’m most of all pleased they he and Paul came away from their crash more or less unharmed. It just goes to show that our designers do an extraordinary job in constantly improving the on-board safety of the cars. Once again, Kris was very fast. Above all, he was very comfortable in his C3 WRC and that’s an important point for the rest of the season. Meanwhile, Mads initially struggled to find the right set-up, before then gradually upping his pace and ending up feeling ready to push. He used this first rally on gravel in the C3 WRC to understand the car, so that he can get into his stride from the word go in Sardinia. Finally, Craig was slightly hesitant to start with, before quickly showing that he was also on the pace, which suggests that he has put his misfortune in Argentina well and truly behind him. He then did the job at hand, i.e. learn to deal with this tough position of being first on the road.
What is the team’s state of mind?
Although we are going through a period where we’re not getting the results we hoped for and perhaps deserve, the team remains united, and very committed too, especially as we all know that we have the speed. We are all now preparing together to go again at the next round of the championship in Sardinia, convinced that we’ll be in with a good chance there once again.
The statistics of the C3 WRC speak for themselves: six rallies into the season that begin in January at Monte, it has topped the timesheets at five rounds, including Portugal, the total now standing at eighteen stage wins. It is therefore abundantly clear that the car is competitive on all surfaces. After Meeke’s Power Stage victory on Monte’s tricky mountain roads, Breen then grabbed three fastest times on the Swedish snow. Loeb and Meeke claimed a total of eight stage wins on the dusty, hot roads of Mexico, which are also high above sea level, before Loeb again topped the timesheets on three occasions on the atypical Corsican tarmac. In Portugal, on the opening leg’s particularly sandy, rough stages, Kris claimed two stage wins whilst Craig took one (together tied with Neuville).
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21 May 2018
POLO GTI R5: GERARD-JAN DE JONGH BY VOLKSWAGEN MOTORSPORT – INTERVIEW SPECIAL
WRC 2 A FULL 2018
POLO GTI R5: GERARD-JAN DE JONGH BY VOLKSWAGEN MOTORSPORT – INTERVIEW SPECIAL.
Two years in development, roughly 10,000 kilometres of testing.
As a race engineer, he guided Sébastien Ogier to four titles in the World Rally Championship (WRC) between 2013 and 2016. Nowadays, Dutchman Gerard-Jan de Jongh is responsible for the Polo GTI R5 in his role as project leader at Volkswagen Motorsport. The 200-kW (272-PS) rally car will, in the future, be run by professional teams in the FIA World Rally Championship, interregional series like the FIA European Rally Championship, and national championships. In an interview shortly before the planned homologation on 1 October, 40-year-old de Jongh describes the challenges of the R5 regulations. The engineer also gives an overview of the development steps behind the Polo GTI R5 and looks ahead to the car’s competitive debut at the Rally Spain at the end of October.
Mr. de Jongh, for several years you were Sébastien Ogier’s race engineer at Volkswagen Motorsport. Do you miss the competitive outings?
My role as project leader for the development of a completely new rally car is obviously very different. I had the opportunity to continue to work as a race engineer, but found this new challenge at Volkswagen Motorsport very appealing. My job was suddenly far more complicated and complex than before. I am pleased that I took on this challenge.
When did you start to develop the Polo GTI R5?
In the week after the Rally Australia in November 2016, the last world championship event for the WRC team at the time. I started as soon as I got back to my office. The idea came from François-Xavier Demaison, Technical Director at Volkswagen Motorsport.
Demaison is known as a perfectionist. How heavily involved was he in your work?
FX (Demaison’s nickname) is currently responsible for four different projects. Despite this, he has still been very heavily involved in the development of the Polo GTI R5, right from the word go. We have had weekly meetings from the outset, at which we have discussed the further development of the car. FX is one of the most experienced engineers in rallying. His backing really helped me and the whole development team.
What form did the first steps take in the development of the Polo GTI R5?
I first thought about the basic concept of the Polo GTI R5, after which we came up with a design briefing. The next task was to find the right suppliers for the car components that are not made at Volkswagen Motorsport. In this regard, we were able to turn to a whole string of reliable contacts, with whom we worked on the Polo R WRC. They include Xtrac for the gearbox, Bosch for the engine electronics, ZF Sachs for the shock absorbers, and Alcon for the brakes.
How big was the team that developed the Polo GTI R5?
At Volkswagen Motorsport, we have design teams for the chassis, engine and suspension, each consisting of three to six employees. The work was divided between the team members. I was mainly in contact with the heads of department, but also with the designers. Experience has shown me that there is nothing better than personal contact.
What were the basic parameters for the development of the Polo GTI R5?
It was clear that the Polo GTI R5 had to be based on the 2017 generation of the production car. However, the new sixth generation Polo was not yet available when we started to develop the rally car. For this reason, we had to work exclusively with computer data. Thanks to the computer simulation, we had the chassis ready relatively early on in proceedings. We were then able to work with that in the wind tunnel. When defining the specification, we also placed great importance on ensuring that it was possible for private teams to look after the technical side of the Polo GTI R5 without any problems.
How many components were you able to adopt from the Polo R WRC?
Hardly any at all, because the technical regulations are completely different and the Polo R WRC was based on the previous model. However, we did adapt the design philosophy. For example, the mounting position of the shock absorbers, the spring deflection, the geometry of the suspension, and the position of the driver’s seat are similar. Exactly as we did with the Polo R WRC, we strived to make every single component as light as possible, in order to keep the car’s centre of gravity as low as possible. Here too, however, we were restricted by the regulations. Price limits are specified for many parts and a minimum weight is often stipulated – for the bodyshell, for example.
The International Automobile Federation FIA specifies a fixed budget for R5 cars …
… and sticking to this budget with an R5 car like the Polo GTI R5 actually represents a major challenge. It would obviously be possible to build a more effective car within the framework of the technical regulations. However, that would be too expensive and would have to come at a sacrifice. That is out of the question for our company and would not be in the interest of the sport. We have gained similar customer sport experience in touring car racing with the Golf GTI TCR. We were able to build on that for the R5. Furthermore, the regulations stipulate the use of production parts in certain areas, including the steering, radiator, drive shafts, cardan shaft and the engine.
Where did you have to make compromises?
Weight is a big issue with any racing car. As a rule, however, the lighter a part is the more expensive it is. As such, I had to make sure that the suppliers, with whom we wanted to cooperate, understood that we would have to find a compromise between performance and cost. Let’s take a part of the suspension, for example. In simple terms, we designed 90 percent of the part. We then took this design to the potential suppliers and asked them what price they would be able to supply the part for? The important thing was the quantity. We sometimes only needed a handful of the components for the Polo R WRC. In the case of the Polo GTI R5, which is designed for customer sport, we are talking about 50, 100 or even more parts. That obviously has a big influence on the price.
1.6-litre turbo engines are required in the R5 class. However, the production version of the Polo does not have this kind of engine …
The regulations do give us more leeway in this regard. The rules state that the rally car’s engine must stem from one of the group’s production models. We opted for the engine with the internal code EA888, a similar form of which, with a two-litre displacement, is also installed in the new Polo GTI. It was then modified accordingly for the Polo GTI R5.
How long have you been testing with the Polo GTI R5, and which drivers were involved in the tests?
The first test took place in November 2017 at the test facility in Fontjoncouse, France. Since then, Volkswagen test and development driver Dieter Depping, Pontus Tidemand, former world rally champions Petter Solberg and Marcus Grönholm, Raimund Baumschlager, Eric Camilli, and Emil Lindholm have all driven the car. The test programme was demanding: temperatures ranged from – 16 °C to +40 °C and the testing took place at sea level and at 2,800 metres in the mountains. We tested in such varied conditions, in order to ensure that our customers receive a car that performs reliably at all times and everywhere. We also wanted to gauge the opinion of drivers with different driving styles, as well as asphalt and gravel experts. The Polo GTI R5 must be versatile and driveable by the widest possible range of drivers. In total, we will have completed about 10,000 test kilometres by the time the car makes its competitive debut – roughly half of those were on gravel and half on asphalt, as well as a few on snow and ice.
The Polo GTI R5 will make its competitive debut at the end of October at the Rally Spain, the penultimate round of the FIA World Rally Championship. What are your expectations?
We will run two Polo GTI R5s, in order to show the potential of the car. The goal is to demonstrate how competitive the new Polo GTI R5 is at the highest level and on different surfaces. The Spanish round of the world championship is particularly well suited to this, as it is the only one held on both asphalt and gravel. However, we are well aware, from our time with the Polo R WRC in the FIA World Rally Championship, that good planning does not guarantee good results – particularly in rallying. We would be pleased with a good result in WRC2.
In Eric Camilli and Petter Solberg, Volkswagen will have two experienced drivers at the wheel of the Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain. Why did you choose these two?
Eric Camilli and his co-driver Benjamin Veillas played a key role in the development of the Polo GTI R5. Both have a wealth of experience in the WRC2 class of the FIA World Rally Championship and finished runner-up in 2017. For them to be involved in the competitive debut of the Polo GTI R5 is the logical next step. Plus, we really value their detailed feedback and analytical approach. Petter Solberg was also involved in the development of the Polo GTI R5. He is one of the most experienced rally drivers in the world and his knowledge is a big plus for any team. Furthermore, he is associated with Volkswagen Motorsport through his team’s commitment in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX). It is a special honour and great to have him driving the Polo GTI R5 at the Rally Spain.
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Photos: @Media Volkswagen Motorsport
18 October 2018
PETTER BACK TO THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP WITH VOLKSWAGEN
WRC 2 A FULL 2018
PETTER BACK TO THE WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP WITH VOLKSWAGEN.
Petter back to the World Rally Championship with Volkswagen
World Rally Champion to drive Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 in Spain
Petter delighted to be back in the series where he won his first world title
Salou-based event will be the debut rally for Volkswagen’s all-new Polo GTI R5
Petter Solberg will return to the World Rally Championship to drive Volkswagen Motorsport’s Polo GTI R5 at Rally de España next month.
The Norwegian, who won the WRC title in 2003, will join the factory Volkswagen Motorsport team alongside Eric Camilli (FRA) for its one-off outing at the Salou-based event from October 25-28.
Petter, who first tested the Polo GTI R5 in Sweden at the start of the season, will test the car ahead of his rally return.
Since departing the World Rally Championship, Petter has focused his efforts on the World Rallycross Championship, where he won two more FIA world titles (2014/15). For the last two years, Petter’s own team – PSRX Volkswagen Sweden – has worked closely with Volkswagen Motorsport; the squad’s Polo R Supercars are prepared ahead of each World RX round in Hannover.
Petter said: “I think everybody knows about my passion for rallying and when Sven [Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsport director] asked me if I would like to do Spain in the Polo, I jumped at the chance.
“When I drove the car in January, I didn’t want to stop. Everything about the Polo GTI R5 worked from the very beginning. To be in the car for the very first time is a real privilege for me – I’m very happy that Volkswagen trusted this job to me and to Eric [Camilli].”
Norway’s Veronica Engan will co-drive Petter, having worked alongside him at his January test of the Polo GTI R5. Veronica is well acquainted with the Solberg family –she’s normally found co-driving Petter’s son Oliver.
Petter’s illustrious WRC career spanned 14 years and 188 starts. He won 13 of those events, scored 54 podiums and collected 457 stage wins and 852 points.
Beyond the numbers, Petter remains one of the sport’s most popular drivers and going back to Salou is bound to bring a range of emotions.
“This is the place where I did my last event before I decided to switch to rallycross,” said Solberg. “It will be fantastic to be back, especially with this car and team. The chance to drive Volkswagen’s Polo GTI R5 on gravel and asphalt in the WRC’s only mixed-surface event is a challenge I can’t wait to start. I have seen what Volkswagen Motorsport does from the inside in World RX and it’s going to be a real pleasure to work with them in rallying.
“As well as that, it will be great to see some old friends and fans again. Spain was always one of the events I really loved, the passion and atmosphere there is just fantastic.”
Being a natural competitor, Petter will have an eye on the times at an event where he finished second overall in 2010.
“I know how good the Polo GTI R5 is,” said Petter, “and I think people know I’m not just going there to drive around. It’s an honour to join the team for this event and I will go there to do my best and push as hard as I can.”
Volkswagen Motorsport director Sven Smeets said: “Petter is a true rally hero. We have already experienced his passion and professionalism working alongside him in World Rallycross. To give everything, always 110 per cent is Petter’s trademark.
“He tested the Polo GTI R5 and, from the beginning, it was our dream to have him in the car to give this new customer rally car its debut. It’s fantastic that he joins us in Spain to drive the Polo R5; I’m sure everybody is looking forward to seeing him back again – and our new car.
“For sure, everybody in Volkswagen Motorsport is excited to be working on a rally and on this special event with Petter and our second driver Eric Camilli.”
Rally de España startswith a spectacular opening stage in Barcelona before moving into day one’s dirt stages in the Tarragona hills. For the weekend, it’s all about the racetrack-smooth roads inland from the service park at Salou’s popular holiday park PortAventura.
Petter will face 18 stages on a 1,496 kilometres (929 miles), of which 331km (205 miles) are competitive.
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Photos: Media Volkswagen Motorsport
Copyright © 2018 PSRX Volkswagen Sweden Media Office, All rights reserved.
18 October 2018
WRC COMEBACK WITH VOLKSWAGEN: PETTER SOLBERG TO DRIVE THE NEW POLO GTI R5 IN SPAIN
WRC 2 A FULL 2018
WRC COMEBACK WITH VOLKSWAGEN: PETTER SOLBERG TO DRIVE THE NEW POLO GTI R5 IN SPAIN.
VOLKSWAGEN IN CUSTOMER RACING
WRC comeback with Volkswagen: Petter Solberg to drive the new Polo GTI R5 in Spain
2003 world rally champion returns to the scene of his last WRC Rally
Three world champions in one rally: Sébastien Loeb, Sébastien Ogier and Petter Solberg
Debut for the new Polo GTI R5 for customer sport only planned outing as works team
Wolfsburg (20 September 2018). He’s back! 2003 champion Petter Solberg (N) returns to the FIA World Rally Championship (WRC) with the Volkswagen Polo GTI R5. Solberg and co-driver Veronica Engan (N) will compete in the WRC 2 class at the Rally Spain in Catalonia from 25 to 28 October. Six years after his last rally in 2012, the Norwegian will make his comeback in precisely the same place, at which he called time on his rally career. Solberg, who drives a Polo for his PSRX Volkswagen Sweden team in the FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX), will briefly change fields. The new Polo GTI R5 will make its competitive debut at the Rally Spain, which will be the car’s only outing with the Volkswagen works team. The racing car will then be run by customer teams in national and international championships, in accordance with R5 regulations.
“The opportunity to make a WRC comeback with Volkswagen is a unique one, and I was very happy to accept the offer,” said Solberg. “When I drove the car in January in Sweden, I didn’t want to stop. Everything about the Polo GTI R5 worked from the very beginning. I am really looking forward to the Rally Spain. I always used to like the combination of gravel and asphalt. It will obviously be a special feeling to return to the place I brought the curtain down on my rally career back in 2012. It will be a fantastic reunion with the WRC Family, but one with a professional background. I obviously want to get the R5 Polo off to a good start with a good result.”
Volkswagen Motorsport Director, Sven Smeets: “Petter is a true rally hero. We have already experienced his passion and professionalism working alongside him in World Rallycross. To give everything, always 110 per cent is Petter’s trademark. He has tested the Polo GTI R5 and has always been one of our preferred candidates for the debut of our new customer sport car. It is fantastic that he will drive the R5 Polo in Spain. Everyone in the team is looking forward to the rally and to working with Petter and his team-mate Eric Camilli.”
Petter Solberg returns to his rallying roots
Solberg returns to the WRC from the WRX for a weekend. This sees the Norwegian return to his rallying roots. Between 1998 and 2012, he made 188 appearances in the World Rally Championship – with Toyota, Ford, Subaru and Citroën. In 2003, Solberg won the world championship title with Subaru, ending the season just one point ahead of eventual record-breaking champion Sébastien Loeb and third-placed Spaniard Carlos Sainz. He remains the last nordic world rally champion. In 2009, 2010 and 2011, Solberg competed in the WRC with his own team. He then spent one final year as a works driver with Ford in 2012. Solberg claimed 52 podium results in the World Rally Championship, 13 of them victories. The Rally Spain marks Solberg’s first rally with Volkswagen, and his debut in an R5 car.
Three world champions in one WRC rally for the first time for eight years
Solberg is the third world rally champion set to drive at the 2018 Rally Spain, where he will line up against reigning champion Sébastien Ogier and the returning Sébastien Loeb. As such, the last three men to win the title will all compete in Spain – albeit in different classes. The last time three world champions raced at the same event was the 2010 Rally Finland (Loeb, Solberg, Kankkunen).
Solberg and Volkswagen in the WRX – an extremely successful combination
After switching from WRC to WRX, the 43-year-old won the Drivers’ title in both 2014 and 2015. Volkswagen Motorsport and Petter Solberg’s PSRX team announced a partnership at the start of 2017. This has proven to be a winning combination: the team took the Team title and was behind the world champion, Johan Kristoffersson (S), in its very first year. Volkswagen is responsible for the development and technical preparation of the two Polo R Supercars, while PSRX Volkswagen Sweden looks after the logistics, on-site running of the car, and the marketing side of things. Solberg remains the only driver to have won the Drivers’ title in two different FIA world championships.
The Solberg dynasty: drifting and full throttle are in the blood
Solberg originally wanted to be a painter – however, he gave up his training place for motorsport. The rally pedigree within his family tree is evidence of the fact that speed is in his blood. “Mr. Hollywood” comes from an extremely successful dynasty of rally drivers: his parents both successfully took part in Autocross races. His brother Henning Solberg recently claimed the best result for an R5 car in the overall standings at the Rally Turkey – sixth place – and can also look back on an eventful WRC career. When Petter married his wife Pernilla, the Solbergs joined forces with the Walfridsson family – already an established name on the Rallycross and rallying scene. Pernilla was long regarded as one of the best female rally drivers in the world. It is no wonder then that their son Oliver has already enjoyed great success as he follows in his parents’ footstep – including in the FIA Baltic Rally Trophy and the Latvian and Estonian Rally Championship.
Already part of the family: Veronica Engan in the co-driver seat at the Rally Spain
The choice of co-driver for the Rally Spain was an obvious one. Veronica Engan has competed alongside son Oliver in various R2 rallies since 2017, and is virtually a member of the family. The 34-year-old can point to roughly 150 starts with Nordic rally drivers, including Eyvind Brynildsen (N), Marius Aasen (N), Johan Kristoffersson (S), Bernt Kollevold (N) and Anders Grøndal (N). Her career started in 2003, since when she has 27 WRC and seven WRC 2 rallies to her name. Her best result came in 2009, when she finished seventh alongside Mads Østberg at the Rally Italy on Sardinia.
Petter Solberg’s career at a glimpse
Date/place of birth: 18 November 1974 in Askim (N)
2003: 1st place FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2002, 2004 and 2005: 2nd place FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2010: 3rd place FIA World Rally Championship (WRC)
2014, 2015: 1st place FIA World Rallycross Championship (WRX)
188 rallies, 52 podium finishes (13 wins)
459 stage wins
852 championship points
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Photos: Media Volkswagen Motorsport
18 October 2018
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