Tag Archive | "volkswagen"

The Monte Carlo Rally in the WRC

Once again, this most famous of motor sport events will, in a few short days, kick off the 2013 season of the World Rally Championship as befits its iconic status. It is the longest running competition of this type in the world and sees its origins go back to 1911 when entrants were encouraged to ‘rally’ – that is to say, meet – at this historic venue. Slightly longer than last year, there will be 468 competitive kilometres of adrenalin fuelled action, run over eighteen special stages. The high spot as ever are the runs up the dreaded Col de Turini (pictured) which include a night run. Memorable.

Famous for the twisting asphalt mountain roads and an unpredictable weather mix when ice and snow are never too far away means that this is not an event for the faint-hearted. It is made worse by fans to will deliberately throw extra snow onto clearing roads to ratchet up their excitement and the driver’s fear.

This will be an especially good year as aficionados will see a new World Champion begin to emerge from the bunch. Now that the legendary Sebastien Loeb is curtailing his rallying activities after successfully securing the world crown nine times, someone else will get a look in.

The otherwise successful M-Sport team will no longer have factory backing from Ford – who decided to pull out, although they are allegedly having second thoughts – but will still mount a full campaign thanks to funds from the Qatar organisation of Nasser al Attiyah. He is presently on Dakar Rally duties. This year they are going for youth with a very strong first team line-up of Mads Ostberg, Thierry Neuville and Evgeny Novikov, three stars of the future.

It is also good to see the return to the WRC of Volkswagen, who are fielding a full factory team of Polo’s with three experienced pilots – Jari-Matti Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen and Sebastien Ogier. The car is unproven but Volkswagen’s commitment to the sport is unquestionable.

The experienced Citroen team will be back with last year’s runner-up Mikko Hirvonen and the talented Spaniard Dani Sordo. We may well also the first run out for the new Hyundai team who are intent on running a full factory team in 2014. It is good to see manufacturers coming back to this top echelon of rally sport and may well account for Ford’s second thoughts. This change of heart is however mostly down to the fact that the WRC have this year gained full sponsorship from the mighty Red Bull organisation.

All this renewed interest and high anticipation does not seem to have rubbed off on British television. At the time of writing there has been no announcements from any station about possible coverage, even though an experienced broadcast company will be covering all the events. It is very sad that this most exciting of motor sports does not get anything like the UK coverage it deserves, alas. Keep your eyes peeled on the TV schedules. This year we are in for a treat.

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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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Sao Paulo Sensations

Motor shows are perennially popular. They are the conduit for manufacturers to let the buying public know about their latest offerings and concepts. They tell us which way the industry is going. Up here in the hard lands of the winter we’re used to hearing about the shows in Europe and the Far East, but down in the Southern Hemisphere, where the other half live, people buy cars too apparently and one of their most prestigious motor shows has just closed in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Manufacturers are keen to commit to Brazil as they see it as a growing and productive economy, unlike stagnant Europe. Brazil is now listed as the fourth largest car market in the world and car makers have sensibly been revealing new models to this burgeoning market.

Volkswagen have been aware of this for decades of course. They’ve been building cars there since 1959. This time they have introduced the new, and frankly sensational Taigun concept to the world (pictured). It’s an SUV, Jim, but not as we know it. Based on the UP! City car but with slightly larger dimensions, it is a full five-seater with a punchy one litre engine driven through a six speed ‘box. Lined up against it’s bigger siblings the Tiguan and Toureg, the family resemblance is there but in a tiny dimension. If it is finally built, and it looks probable, it will almost certainly sell in droves.

In keeping with the small is beautiful theme, Nissan have shown the Extrem concept – and yes, that is the right spelling. Designed to sit below the Juke and Qashqai models, the Extrem is based on the Micra platform and is believed to be demonstrating Nissan’s future look.

Interestingly, Renault sell their Dacia brand in South America badged as Renaults. This is apparently because there the people don’t really go along with the rather pretentious idea of low budget ranges and the like. There are cheap cars and there are expensive cars and that’s it. Thus the Dacia Duster becomes the Renault DCross and very butch it is to, with many manly embellishments to the exterior. Brazilians like their motors a bit tougher than us soft Europeans, which is why Honda add bigger bumpers and body cladding to the Jazz and call it the Fit Twist!

Things are changing in the car world. Sao Paulo is now arguably the most vibrant of auto industry market places. All the brand names had a car or two on show and many new ideas have been seen. It demonstrates the continuing trend to smaller vehicles with smaller, more efficient engines. Maybe it would shake up the European market if customers decided to go Latino!

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VW At The Forefront – Again

Everybody know the Volkswagen Golf. It is rightly considered to be a reliable and classy choice for the discerning motorist. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that the seventh generation of this popular evergreen has been shown at the Paris Motor Show.

Over the last few years this established car has spawned a sort of frugal sibling which goes under the guise of the Golf BlueMotion. Same car but with the emphasis strongly on economy. Volkswagen clearly understand the needs of the modern motorist and are catering for it. The price of petrol dictates nothing else.

So it is then that the third generation of the BlueMotion Golf has been simultaneously announced at the Paris show – and it’s an astonishing revelation. Who would have considered just a few years ago that a car with a 1.6L diesel engine developing 110bhp could achieve 88.3 miles per gallon whilst only belching out a modest 85g/km of the smoky stuff. This is the claim made by the company.

It seems clear that because of the public’s concern about the real-world suitability of electric vehicles, at least for now, those clever engineers at VW have decided to hedge their bets with some serious conventional engine technology. The result is the success story that is BlueMotion.

This frugal Golf has been around now for five years and this is the car’s third version. At its introduction the combined figures of 62.8mpg and 119g/km seemed awesome but they pale into insignificance compared to the latest version. With a fifty litre fuel tank this car can achieve a theoretical distance of 970 miles. Even for the driver with the worst mother-in-law in the world this is probably far enough in one sitting.

Consumption figures like this can’t be achieved without some serious engine evolution. This small four cylinder motor is loaded with the latest tech – thermal management systems, reductions in internal friction (always a good thing), water-cooled intercoolers, catalytic converters, particulate filters; the list is endless and probably includes the dark arts. Whatever; this is a seriously efficient car.

But efficient doesn’t have to mean dull. This is still a Golf, so buyers can expect the legendary build quality, the usual high standard of fixtures and fittings and excellent aerodynamic properties. Needless to say there will be no point in trying a grand prix standing start against a GTi but that isn’t the reason people will buy this car. What it may lack in performance it makes up for in every other department. Although the Golf is at the more expensive end of this sector it has still got to be a great long-term buy.

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