Volkswagen to quit WRC at end of 2016 season

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Volkswagen has confirmed it will leave the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of the 2016 after winning four straight drivers’, co-drivers’ and manufacturers’ titles.

Sebastien Ogier has led Volkswagen to the top of rallying during the period, with his fourth world championship being clinched last month in Spain.

Volkswagen wrapped up the manufacturers’ championship last Sunday in Rally GB, but it will be the last for the manufacturer after announcing its departure from WRC on Wednesday.

The news comes one week after Audi, which is also part of the Volkswagen group, announced it would be leaving the FIA World Endurance Championship at the end of 2016 to focus on Formula E.

While it has not been cited as an official reason by Volkswagen, the impact of the 2015 emissions scandal and the need to cut back on spending looks to have influenced the decisions to realign both motorsport programs.

“The Volkswagen brand is facing enormous challenges. With the upcoming expansion in electrification of our vehicle range we must focus all our efforts on important future technologies,” Frank Welsch, Member of the Board of Management responsible for Technical Development, said.

“We far exceeded our sporting goals in the WRC, now we are realigning Volkswagen Motorsport and moving the vehicle technology of the future more starkly into focus.

“At the same time, Volkswagen is going to focus more on customer racing. As well as the Golf GTI TCR on the circuit track and the Beetle GRC in rallycross, we also want to offer customers top products and will develop a new Polo according to R5 regulations.

“I want to give our heartfelt thanks to our drivers and co-drivers for their outstanding achievements. They are not only unbelievably quick, but also extremely effective ambassadors for the Volkswagen brand. The whole team built around Motorsport Director Sven Smeets has created the basis for this success with the enormous commitment of each individual.

“We want to continue working with this excellent team and bring about the realignment. In the same way, we will expand the close cooperation between production development and motorsport, which has always shown benefits to both sides in recent years. There is a guarantee of employment for the Volkswagen Motorsport employees.”

Smeets, who only took on the role of motorsport director in September, added: “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. 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.”

The statement from Volkswagen said it would “investigate the expansion” of its involvement in rallycross following its success in the Red Bull Global RallyCross series. Scott Speed has won the past two titles in GRC with Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross, piloting a Volkswagen Beetle.