9 March 2017

Are VW coming back to the WRC in 2018?

Jerry Williams has been covering rallying for more than 40 years, attending World Rally Championship events across the globe to get all the insider knowledge.

Now here’s a question: Are VW coming back to the WRC in 2018 as rumours say they are? OR, are they going to pass the baton to their other rally brand…the WRC2 champions, Škoda?

That might seem a provocative sentence – except that there are a couple of pointers that send anyone like me who will happily add up two and two to make five or six hurrying to a conclusion.

Let’s take the VW angle first. Those rumours really hang on VW thinking it has unfinished business with WRC and shuddering at the sheer waste of developing a new-generation Polo, only to have to can it in the wake of so-called “Dieselgate”.

Thus, the conclusion is that the Germans will be back in 2018. Time enough for the scandal to have abated (and remember that in today’s ephemeral social network/internet world yesterday’s scandal is boring old news).

However, that reckons without America, where I believe VW is still being roasted over a hot grill. I don’t think they’d risk going back into the WRC in those circumstances.

Then we come to Škoda. So what’s the story there? 

Well, simply the interesting combination of two facts:

- Andreas Mikkelsen, a WRC2 winner for the Czech arm of VW on Monte Carlo has now been asked to do Corsica for them as well. He’s said yes… and added that he wouldn’t be averse to having a crack at the WRC2 title this year in a Fabia.

- Marcus Gronholm has just let slip that he has been asked to test the Fabia WRC2 car.

Now ask me why the former double world champion would be asked – and agree – to test what is already a finely-honed machine that, together possibly with the newest Fiesta is the pick of the WRC2 crop?

No, I can’t think of a reason, either.

Unless it is to familiarise himself with the car and give his views on whether it could be badge-engineered in to a top level WRC challenger.

And why would Mikkelsen jump at a WRC2 title tilt, if not just to keep his hand in .

Well, that’s it. I’m just asking the question that people are beginning to puzzle over.

All I can say is it would seem a more logical path for the VW group than risking American opprobrium over VW itself spending more millions on a WRC car!

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