This is the first official glimpse of Volkswagen’s challenger for the 2017 World Rally Championship.

The 2017 Volkswagen Polo R WRC has already been spotted testing; indeed, the VW Motorsport squad has been working on in since the middle of 2015. Though the car’s form is exaggerated in this teaser sketch, the similarities between it and the test car are clear to see.

A raft of new technical regulations is being introduced for 2017, which the Polo has been designed to. The engine produces 380bhp, up from 320bhp; an electronic centre differential has been added; the track is 50mm wider and the whole car weighs 25kg less. There’s greater aerodynamic freedom too, so the 2017 Polo has sprouted even wilder wings and skirts.

Volkswagen joined the WRC in 2013 and won the first of three successive Manufacturer titles. Lead driver Sebastien Ogier has won three titles on the trot, too.

Volkswagen Motorsport boss Jost Capito said: “The 2017 regulations include many spectacular technical innovations for the World Rally Championship. [The cars] will be considerably more dynamic, whilst at the same time being safer. The key between now and the start of next season is to achieve the best possible prerequisites to allow the 2017 Polo R WRC to be as successful as its two predecessors.”

Some drivers have expressed reservations about the new generation of cars, suggesting the combination of high downforce and a centre differential will make them less spectacular to watch. There are safety concerns, too, as the significantly higher speeds the cars are capable of could add to the danger for both drivers and spectators on stages.

Citroen’s new C3-based machine is due to start testing shortly, as is WRC returnee Toyota’s Yaris. Both Hyundai and M-Sport Ford hope to get their cars running before summer.

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By Only Motors