Rally enthusiasts have been holding their breaths in anticipation of Volkswagen’s announcement confirming their intention to compete in the World Rally Championship. Rumors have been circulating, tying the German manufacturer to the WRC campaign since the series confirmed its new 1600cc-based regulations. It has been reported that VW has allocated a budget of 100 million euros for its WRC campaign which could be an indication of its intentions.
There have been a number of speculations as to where and when the confirmation announcement will be made. Some say that Volkswagen will make the announcement at a party on March 22nd which will be a celebration of its Dakar rally raid success. Others are inclined to believe that the announcement will be made at the Rally of Portugal which runs from March 24th to the 27th.
The choice of car is also under speculation. Early rumors suggest that VW would base its new WRC car on the Scirocco, but many now agree that the Polo is the model under development. It is also said that French engineer Francois-Xavier Demaison, who has been previously linked to Citroӫn, Peugeot, and Subaru campaigns, has been the one entrusted with the car’s development process.
That being said, double world rally champion Carlos Sainz, a Dakar winner with VW, is also said to be heavily involved in the WRC campaign. Some believe that if he is involved, he may draw on his contacts at Toyota Team Europe, the Cologne-based engineering operation that was sidelined when Toyota pulled the plug on its F1 program.
The rumor mill buzzes even more when it comes to Volkswagen’s choice of drivers. Some have suggested that Volkswagen had tried to sign Sebastien Loeb but failed, leaving Petter Solberg as a favorable option. Another favorite is Nasser Al Attiyah, the recent winner of the Dakar rally and a works VW driver.
Volkswagen’s participation would be great news for the WRC who would welcome a fourth car manufacturer alongside Citroӫn, Ford, and Mini. Interestingly, Volkswagen’s subsidiary Skoda is less than please to have its own WRC aspirations pushed aside in favor of a Volkswagen program. Skoda is expected to remain in the IRC and the Super 2000 World Rally Championships it currently competes in.