Volkswagen has taken yet another step forward in its bid to enter a works team into the WRC next year by starting testing of the Polo R WRC, the car the German marque hope to use in 2013.
The team, which has been running a Skoda Fabia in selected events this season, appointed Spaniard Carlos Sainz to take the wheel and give the car its first mileage.
The 1990 and 1992 WRC Champion, who has recently become a famous part of the Volkswagen family by driving for them in the renowned Dakar Rally, said: “Having the privilege of driving the first kilometres [with the Polo R WRC] is naturally a great honour.” He went on to say: “The car is still at an early stage but already feels very good.”
The test, which took place on a stage usually used in Rallye Deutschland, amounted to over 100 kilometres, which included a shakedown of the chassis and further fine-tuning of both the suspension and engine.
That the test was completed without any mechanical problems will be a boost to the team, who will be entering a Volkswagen into the highest form of rally-racing for the first time in 16 years.
Praise was also added by Dr Ulrich Hackenberg, who is a member of the German car company’s Board of Management for Technology. He said: “The first test with the new car marks an important milestone in our preparations for our entry into the WRC. This category is a great challenge for the team, the drivers and the technology.”
The team is indeed well on schedule for entering the championship in 2013, but they have not become complacent – they are preparing themselves as well as possible for the sport they chose to enter instead of Formula One.
As well as developing a new car, the team have also had time to evaluate fresh drivers in the aforementioned Fabia. The actual drivers who will use the Polo R WRC in anger have not yet been decided, but rumours have circulated that the team may be looking at such bright lights as Mikko Hirvonen and Jari-Matti Latvala, both currently at Ford, and Sebastian Ogier, protege to namesake Loeb at Citroen.
Until then, Sainz will continue to test the Polo rally car at various locations. The team, meanwhile, will be in action at Rally GB in Wales from 10-13 November where they will be running their Skoda Fabia once more.