Having won the last four world championships, Volkswagen has pulled the pin on its FIA World Rally Championship program. The decision comes just a week after Audi ended its involvement in the World Endurance Championship, and signals a renewed push within the wider Volkswagen Group toward new technologies in its production and race offerings.
The decision to leave World Rally Championship comes on the back of four consecutive constructor championships for Volkswagen, the most recent of which was secured at last weekend's Rally of Wales.
"Of course, we regret the departure from the WRC very much – as this was the most successful chapter in the Volkswagen brand's motorsport history," says Sven Smeets, Volkswagen Motorsports Director. "The team has done great things. At the same time, our vision is firmly ahead, because we are aware of the great challenges facing the entire company. We want our realignment to contribute to the success of the Volkswagen brand. From now on, the focus is on upcoming technologies in motorsport and on our customer sports range, where we will position ourselves more broadly and attractively"
Although it won't be fielding a factory-backed team, Volkswagen will still have a presence in rallying. The company will begin development of a new version of the Polo for private customers competing in the R5 class. It will be based on the upcoming Polo refresh, and launched in time for the 2018 season.
"The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges," says Frank Welsch, Member of the VW Board of Management. "With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies. Now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus."
Volkswagen's time in the WRC, which started in 2013, will end on November 20 at the Rally of Australia.