Tag Archive | "Polo"

WRC Argentina – It’s That Man Again!

World Rally Championship drivers are at the top of their sporting craft. These guys can do more things with a car than we mere mortals can do with a knife and fork. When the legendary Sebastien Loeb announced his semi-retirement the other drivers must have thought it was Christmas – now at last they had a chance of winning a rally!

This came to pass when Seb Ogier won in Portugal a few weeks ago in the exciting new VW Polo. Last weekend it was the turn of Rally Argentina – considered by many to be the toughest of the ‘gravel’ events. Guess who shows up with a Citroen DS3? That’s right; the wheelmeister returns, yawns, jumps into his car and proceeds to win Rally Argentina for the eighth time. Ogier came second and Jari-Matti Latvala came a creditable third in the other works Polo. Citroen’s official number one driver Miko Hirvonen was unplaced; he seems strangely out-of-sorts these days.

Rally Argentina has everything. The special stages feature water-splashes, tight hairpins and high-speed straights throughout the rocky back roads. It is well organised and the stages are absolutely packed with hardcore fans. Many drivers were caught out and clearly demonstrated the strength of their roll-cages. The amount of punishment these cars can take is incredible. Next stop Greece at the end of May.

This is an exciting sport. The mixture of aerial and roadside shots coupled with live in-car coverage makes for great viewing, but there’s a problem. We learn that the FIA’s chosen promoter, the Sportsman Media Group (jointly with Red Bull), believes that the WRC is ‘boring’. Apart from what follows you’ve got to wonder why they took it on. They must have known what it entailed surely? Basically, it’s a time trial. One competitor at a time, but it is most certainly not boring.

SMG seem reluctant to sell this ‘boring’ product to TV companies. In a bizarre turn they seem to think that the answer is to sell ‘live’ coverage – but only of the final power stages. Often, by this time, the overall result is decided. The situation is confused and the comments above only really hint at the colossal muck-up they are potentially making of this Championship.

What do you suppose the car manufacturers will think of all this? Citroen, Ford, new boys Volkswagen and next year’s entry from a works Hyundai team are all in it to boost car sales, simple as that. The FIA are not noted for making sensible decisions and SMG seem to be on a suicide mission. It‘s not looking good.

We’ll see if there’s any resolution when we get to the Greek event. Mr S Loeb won’t be there to show the others how it’s done so let us hope for an open and exciting rally that will demonstrate that the sport can transcend the stupidity of the organisers.

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WRC 2013 Gets A Polo

It still remains to be seen if the UK is going to see any television coverage of the World Rally Championship in 2013. The series kicks off with the usual season opener in legendary Monte Carlo mid-January, although without the factory sponsored Ford’s. Fiesta fans shouldn’t despair as the fantastic M-Sport team will continue with backing from Qatar.

With the semi-retirement of Sebastien Loeb (got to be the greatest ever, surely?) the field is open for other drivers to attack the Championship including up-and-comers like Mads Ostberg and Ott Tanak. Sadly we won’t see Petter Solberg. The withdrawal of Ford has meant that the great veteran Norwegian is without a drive so far. Let’s hope that someone gives him a late pass.

It’s a welcome return though of Hyundai who’ll be running an i20 test team with a view to full entry in 2014, but the biggest news of all is the return to the top flight of rallying by Volkswagen. They will be competing the full season with two works Polo’s driven by Jari-Matti Latvala and Sebastien Ogier, taking on the might of Citroen.

This is a chance for VW to demonstrate their sporting credentials to ordinary users; this means that their cars are not some weird and wonderful prototypes that just happen to look like the Polo, but rather the real thing that you and I buy, except, obviously, in race trim. This is no snap decision as the car has been in development for seventeen months and clearly shows that VW see a future in this most commercial branch of motor sport.

The WRC has been neglected a bit by the sports governing body the FIA, but with strong new sponsors we can only hope that 2013 will see it back to its exciting best. Potential sponsors Red Bull and Sportsman Media have already confirmed their intention to achieve maximum value from this rather over-looked competition.

To confirm their intentions VW are not content just to race cars, they want to sell us the relatives. The Polo R WRC Street (pictured) is a civilian version of the rally car. It will sport the racing livery, have WRC style bumpers and 18”rims. Power comes from a performance 2.0L TSI engine and the car should cover the 0-60 sprint in 6.4 seconds, so it’s no slouch. Sadly there won’t be a version with the rally motor in it (0-60 in 3.9 seconds!).

From freezing cold to searing heat the WRC combines extremes of climate with extremes of terrain. Fans of the sport worldwide rate it as highly as Formula 1 but for some curious reason the British media pretty much ignore it. Let’s hope, with new sponsors and a renewed interest, some enlightened channel will pick it up. If not, we’ll have to rely on the (admittedly excellent) half-hour bulletins from Motors TV, as usual.

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