Volkswagen Axes All Non-Electric Racing Programs Worldwide
The hammer has dropped. Who will follow?
Volkswagen announced Friday that it will discontinue all of its motorsport activities outside of electric vehicles. The Volkswagen factory will no longer support racing efforts powered by internal combustion engines, which includes halting the development of a new Golf GTI TCR car.
Because works racing programs largely exist to market a company's cars, it makes some sense that Volkswagen would want to shift the focus of its racing efforts to line up with its big electrification push. Per today's announcement, Volkswagen Motorsport will help develop new concepts based on the Modular Electric Drive Kit (or MEB for short) platform that underpins Volkswagen's ID. family of electric cars.
Volkswagen has already proven that they're up to the challenge of building a fast EV, with the ID.R electric prototype setting records at Pikes Peak, the Nürburgring, Goodwood and on the Tianmen Mountain. Taking Volkswagen's roadgoing MEB platform racing feels like a logical next step. What good is a Volkswagen if I can't drive it like a hooligan, anyway?
Volkswagen Motorsport Director Sven Smeets explained in today's announcement:
Electric mobility offers enormous development potential, and in this regard motorsport can be a trailblazer: on the one hand, it serves as a dynamic laboratory for the development of future production cars and, on the other, as a convincing marketing platform to inspire people even more towards electric mobility. That is why we are going to focus more than ever on factory-backed electric drive commitments and continue to expand our activities with the development of the MEB. Innovative technology relevant to the car of the future is our focus.
For better or for worse, this shift in focus is taking Volkswagen's customer racing programs along with it. Any new customer racing programs will be electrified, per today's announcement.
As such, production of the Golf GTI TCR car used in on-track touring car and sports car series will cease at the end of 2019. After that, the company will still guarantee that spare parts and customer service for their TCR car will be available.
Prior to this announcement, Volkswagen had been developing a new, Mark 8-based Golf GTI TCR car, set to debut in spring or summer of next year. However, a Volkswagen spokesperson confirmed to Motorsport.com that the development of that car has been ended. Volkswagen Motorsport will no longer be backing the Sebastien Loeb Racing World Touring Car Cup team, either, as they simply won't have a car for it. The new TCR car had been testing as recently as this week, Motorsport.com notes.
The Polo GTI R5 used for rally, however, will stay in production for customer teams. Spare parts and customer service will be handled by Volkswagen in Hanover, and the company remains committed to ensuring the competitiveness of this car for now. However, Volkswagen will not be entering any factory-backed Polo GTI R5 entries of their own.
[Correction: An earlier version said that VW will not guarantee parts and support for the existing TCR car after next year, but this has been amended to clarify that they will.]