THE NEXT GREAT CARS
In the 21st century, rallying has been
dominated by two drivers and two
manufacturers – VW and Citroen, and
Sebastiens Loeb and Ogier. So, Polo R
WRC aside, the obvious three candidates
for consideration are the Citroen Xsara
WRC, which Loeb took to the title from
2004-’06; the C4 WRC of 2007-’ 10, with
Loeb champion again; and the DS WRC of
2011-’ 12, which delivered his eighth and
ninth crowns. These cars also beat strong
opposition, but success was as much
about Loeb’s brilliance as anything else.
Sebastien Loeb took his Citroen Xsara
WRC to 10 wins in 2005, earning the
second of his nine WRC championships.
Metallic blue and yellow Subaru Imprezas
are synonymous with WRC legends Colin
McRae and Richard Burns (ABOVE, 2001).
Various versions of the Focus WRC,
Subaru’s Impreza and the Peugeot
206 all had their moments early in
the century. The Impreza is certainly a
great rally car, and approaches iconic
status among fans, but its true pomp
was at the end of the last century.
Likewise, the Mitsubishi Lancer.
Beyond the WRC, for sheer
208 T16 Pikes Peak car, powered by
a 3.2-liter, twin-turbo V6 pumping out
875hp and inevitably driven by Loeb,
deserves an honorable mention.
From 2013-’ 16, the Volkswagen Polo R
WRC competed in 53 WRC events, and it’s
far easier to count the number it didn’t
win than those it did. Only 10 times did it
fail to finish first, with 2015 providing a
near-full house of 12 out of 13 victories.
Often that kind of crushing dominance is
the result of a lack of opposition, but VW
was up against Citroen, Hyundai and
M-Sport’s Fords during that period.
Nobody was buying the pre-season
downplaying of its chances, given the
lengthy development and test program that
started in May 2011. Yet when it made its
debut in ’ 13, it still stunned the opposition.
But the technical details of the Polo R
WRC are nothing remarkable in
themselves; it was just a superbly
conceived and optimized package that was
continually and incrementally developed,
including a major step for 2015 with a
new gearbox, modified aero and improved
hydraulic systems. Fundamentally, the
Polo’s greatness lies in the execution, and
in the fact that it bludgeoned high-class
opposition for so long that it almost felt
as if they weren’t even there.
Even with rules tweaks on start
positions that were supposed to make it
harder for star driver Sebastien Ogier, he
continued to pile up the wins – aided and
abetted on occasion by teammates
Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen.
As for the next generation of the Polo,
designed and built for the new, go-faster
2017 WRC regulations, that has never
competed thanks to the German
manufacturer’s withdrawal from rallying.
We can only guess how strong it would
have been, but those in the know are
confident it would have picked up
where its predecessor left off.
Somewhere in an alternative universe,
perhaps this V2.0 Polo might be the car
that’s talked about as VW’s true rally great.
WRC / 2013-’ 16
VOLKSWAGEN POLO R WRC
With 18 months of development under its
belt, the Polo R WRC won in its second
rally, Sweden 2013, and kept on winning...
VW’s Polo R WRC took 43 wins from 53
WRC starts in four years, with Sebastien
Ogier at the wheel for 31 of them.
( 43 of 53)
Sebastien Ogier’s Rally Italy win was
one of nine in 2013 for the Frenchman.
VW teammate Jari-Matti Latvala added a
10th from the 13-round WRC season.