Sebastien Ogier clinched his fourth consecutive World Rally Championship crown last month with a win in Wales.PHOTO BY LAT PHOTOGRAPHIC
Volkswagen has reportedly canned its World Rally Championship effort, just days after it claimed the manufacturers’ title for a fourth consecutive season.
While the German firm has yet to comment publicly, Autocar magazine in the U.K. broke news of the shocking withdrawal in the wake of the diesel emissions scandal in the U.S., which also triggered sister firm Audi to eliminate its combined World Endurance Championship and Le Mans 24 Hours effort last week.
Volkswagen announced its return to the WRC for the 2013 season and made an instant impact with Sebastien Ogier winning the Polo R World Rally Car’s first competitive stage in the Monte Carlo Rally. The Frenchman would end the season as champion, a feat he would repeat in 2014, 2015 and again in 2016.
It is understood the 200-plus staff employed at the Volkswagen team’s Hannover base will be redeployed in other areas of the company, although what the immediate future will hold for Ogier and teammates Jari-Matti Latvala and Andreas Mikkelsen is unclear.
The trio had been lined up to drive the all-new Polo in 2017 when the WRC’s faster technical regulations show up. Volkswagen had conducted substantial testing of a car that is now destined to be scrapped.
While all three drivers will be entitled to substantial severance payments, there is a dearth of top-line rides available.
Hyundai, which finished second to VW in this year’s manufacturers’ standings, has filled its three seats for next season, as has Ogier’s former employer Citroen, which will return to the WRC as a fully fledged factory team after a year away.
Toyota is back in the WRC after a lengthy absence but is set to announce Esapekka Lappi as Juho Hanninen’s teammate, while a third Yaris won’t be up and running until later in the year.
That leaves the privateer M-Sport operation as the only realistic option. While Eric Camilli is under contract for 2017 and Ott Tanak is strongly linked to the team, there are believed to be vacancies at the British squad. However, without a major sponsor or factory deal, it remains to be seen whether Ogier could be tempted to join Malcolm Wilson’s team, which has worked with Latvala and Mikkelsen in the past and previously offered Ogier a contract when his fractious relationship with Citroen was coming to an end in 2011.