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2017 will be a special year for VW’s manager Sven Smeets, who was elevated to the work of Vokswagen Competition Director late in the 2016 season. Martin Holmes asks the questions.

Sven Smeets chats to RallySport Mag's Martin Holmes before Wales Rally GB this week.This will be Sven’s first chance to map out the season, not noted just for the more powerful cars, but also some new rules.  

The first question is how to address the challenge of new rules, especially the three car rule.  

SS: “In one way the three car rule makes it easier for a team because all three drivers, who are all driving for their driver championship, automatically also drive for the same team.”  

Apart from tactics, will other things change?

SS: It will be easier for people that are not the real hardcore rally fans to understand.  This year I have had to explain a lot of times to guests 'What is Volkswagen Motorsport Two?'.  

Now, it will be easier,  the two best of three score and then, of course, it will be very exciting.  

Also there are now going to be five teams, two extra ones, with Citroen back to full capacity and the new Toyota team.   I think Monte Carlo will be very interesting.

Is the return of Corsica back earlier in the year going to make any difference in the planning?

SS: It brings a pure tarmac rally much earlier in the year.  It's been a very long time that we had a tarmac rally at that time of year.  Because also the weather in Corsica in April can be quite tricky, not so straight forward.  So yes, I think it is a good move.  Corsica will break up the run of five or six gravel rallies.

What changes will the new rally cars bring to the sport?

SS: Well I think they will be much more exciting.  They look and sound much more exciting already.  So there are two key elements that will be very nice for the fans.  I also think they will be more difficult to drive, which makes them much more exciting.

If the Privateeers’ Cup happens, will VW be tempted to sell some of their existing cars to private teams?

SS: Well for the moment we have not much planned for the current cars.  Most of them will go to Volkswagen museums all over the world.  We have countries that have asked for a car so that they can use it in their displays.  At the moment there is still no plan to provide cars for privateer teams.

What about the uncertainty whether the season will be 12 or 13 or 14 rallies?  Doesn't it cause a lot of problems for you?

SS: Well yes, of course.  It is not so easy, but you make a budget in the beginning of the year so you make a budget for 14, if you are not doing 14 then you are also very happy to give that money back to the factory.”

Giving money back?  In motorsport   Now I’ve heard it all!
- Martin Holmes

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