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Volkswagen Motorsport have already sold 15 Volkswagen Polo GTI R5 cars that will be delivered in the second half of 2018, highlighting the interest in the Germany manufacturers return to world rallying. The destinations for the first batch of Polo GTI R5 cars were announced this week, and R5 Project Manager, Gerard-Jan de Jongh, was able to fill us in with more news of this forthcoming project. (See videos of the Polo GTI R5 being tested below) “We are targeting to bring the car to Rallye Germany in August 2018," he told RallySport Magazine. "Until then we have a lot of test kilometres in front of us, also some behind us already. We started turning wheels at the end of November, first on a test track in Germany and then we took it to France and also to Wales, at the end of 2017. "We are working our way through the various conditions the car will see.
"The purpose of the R5 project was not just because VW Motorsport suddenly wanted to keep the staff busy after the World Rally Championship withdrawal.
"It was a bit of that, but also the marketing people of Volkswagen and the technical people of Volkswagen saw the really positive experiences in Touring Car Racing, and they really like the idea of customer projects. Obviously when we stopped the WRC programme we had all this know-how in rallying.”

VW Polo GTI R5 Project Manager Gerard-Jan de Jongh. Photo: Martin Holmes

Is the R5 design feedback from development of the World Rally Car or is it a clean sheet of paper?

“It’s a combination of both because the platform we’re using is the new Polo, the Polo 6, which has a different platform than the Polo we used to build the WRC car. In that respect it’s a clean sheet of paper.
"However, the R5 category has limitations in cost. We could not copy the WRC car, that would also not be smart because the parts would be way too expensive for customers. We have had to move away from some of the technology, but the philosophy about the car is still the same.”

What was the base engine for the Polo GTI R5?

“The base engine is actually the same as the Skoda, Chinese Volkswagen engine. We are working together with Skoda about using this engine. "To be honest we looked through the whole Skoda/VW engines for an engine that would be most suitable to convert to 1.6-litre and came to the same conclusion as Skoda. There are not that many candidates for this amount of this cylinder capacity.”

Are there any particular characteristic of the new Polo design which makes it specially suitable for rallying?

“The Polo itself is suitable for rallying. The bodyshell itself is made with a lot of high strength steel, so that makes it quite difficult to modify the bodyshell because it's hard to cut the material, but it also means that it could be a very durable bodyshell. "Other than that there is still enough freedom in the R5 regulations to adapt any car to become a good rally car.”

Is the Polo GTI essentially a copy of the Skoda Fabia R5?

“We have a very good and very open relationship with Skoda. They have much more experience of dealing with customers in the rally environment than we have.
"I can only say they have been really helpful in giving us ideas about problems they’ve encountered when they launched their R5 car, and converting road car technology. "Our WRC car was a 100% motorsport product and here you have a mix of technology which makes homologation harder. We are also not targeting the number of sales that Skoda have achieved in a year.” VW-Polo-GTI-R5

Who will run these cars?

“There are no plans for an official team at the moment. We want to give room to private teams and their customers to have success. "As you know, WRC teams or manufacturer teams are very good in winning rallies, but we also want to give that room to the customers to be able to win the WRC2 with our car. So there will be no official WRC2 team from Volkswagen. "There is no particular plan beyond Rally Germany beyond supporting our customers in different ways. We have a plan about our production target and we are planning to use the first one and a half years to build up the customer service tools you need. "We have to learn a lot about stock keeping and logistics, you need to give time to the company to adapt to that. "Running a works team at the same time could distract from what’s really important to the customers, which is giving them the best service possible. "In 2018 and 2019 we will be supporting our customers as well as we can, and in 2019 we’ll try to sell more cars and support more customers. That will be our challenge,” de Jongh added. Destinations for private team Polo GTI R5 cars have been confirmed for Austria, Belgium, Finland, Italy, Sweden and Paraguay.

Related news:

https://rallysportmag.com/successful-first-test-outing-polo-gti-r5/ https://rallysportmag.com/new-look-hyundai-i20-r5-huttunen/ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pQSoA-92RfY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xVlKmHe6EEc
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