Volkswagen and its Polo WRC has dominated the World Rally Championship since entering in 2013, but the automaker, which has just clinched its fourth-straight Drivers’ and Manufacturers’ titles, on Wednesday confirmed it is quitting the sport after the 2016 season.
The announcement means the 2016 Rally Australia later in November will be VW’s last round. Sadly, it also means we won’t get to see VW go up against Toyota which is returning to WRC in 2017.
The reason for the move is primarily cost cutting resulting from the Volkswagen Group’s dealing with its diesel emissions cheating scandal. Fellow VW Group brand Audi has already announced it’s quitting the World Endurance Championship after the 2016 season, though part of the reason is Audi’s new interest in the Formula E Championship.
VW also said it wants to focus on new technologies, primarily electric powertrains. Recall, the VW Group is planning to launch at least 30 electric cars by 2025.
Given these pressures, the move makes sense. WRC is most popular in Europe where VW was already a popular brand without the promotion of WRC, so the expense could be seen as unnecessary. In VW’s other key markets like China and the United States, viewer numbers for WRC are low.
VW isn’t completely abandoning its rally efforts, though. It plans to develop new rally cars but only for customer teams. In the works is a new Polo rally car built according to R5 specifications. VW will also continue with its Global Rallycross program into 2017 and may expand the program.
VW said there will be no jobs lost due its decision to quit WRC.
“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,” VW’s motorsport boss, Sven Smeets, said in a statement. “At the same time, our vision is firmly ahead… 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.”