Erm, so I posted something the other day about my dislike of Sebastien Ogier. Then, a day later, VW says it’s pulling out of the WRC at the end of 2016. Now, I know I said I’d like Seb to bugger off somewhere else, but I never wished for the entire team to vanish! But alas, that’s the burden ‘dieselgate’ has put on the company, evidently.
It’s obvious that the German motoring group, VAG (stop giggling) is trying to save cash by getting rid of some expensive projects. A case in point being Audi’s 18 year involvement in WEC, which will also be no more as of the end of the year. Volkswagen Motorsport’s WRC efforts are next to fall in front of the accounting firing squad.
Volkswagen Motorsport – Going, gone…
It’s always sad to see something like this happen. Even more so when it’s for purely fiscal reasons. After all, it’s not like the Volkswagen Motorsport division has been a failure. With top talent, numerous championship wins and cutting-edge cars, VW has been a fan favourite since entering. But, as of the end of this year, it will be consigned to the history books. Sad times.
There was hope the team would be granted a single-season extension. The idea here being that the team could get some use out of the 2017 specification Polo R WRC. Apparently though, that idea was shot down in the meeting. Yes, it costs money to run a car and a team. But to just ignore the huge cost the 2017 car undoubtedly came at? That doesn’t seem like solid business sense to me. But I’m not Sirlord Alan Sweeter. So what do I know?
Volkswagen Motorsport – No sense
There are other elements that don’t make sense, but overall it’s the decision to shut it down entirely that baffles the most. Surely, in the wake of ‘dieselgate’ you need something out there to promote the brand in a positive way? Motorsport is exciting, fast and full of thrills. It’s a break from the norm. It’s gripping. Many would argue the WRC is the epitome of those qualities. Is that not the kind of thing you need in order to show a brand positively? Once this has gone, all we’ll be left to ponder is the very scandal they’re trying to move away from. It’s a bigger evil than the WRC is a positive. Without that positive, small by comparison though it may be, it will soon be forgotten.
The main problem, however, is for the staff and the drivers. VW has said it will attempt to retain the mechanical staff by putting them on other company projects. Probably engineering wing mirrors for the Beetle. Hardly exciting. Still, they should keep a job, so that’s good. As for the drivers, the outlook is less positive.
Despite the news, I stand by my opinion that Ogier should bugger off else where. Though he probably won’t. That means he, Latvala and Mikkelsen will all be looking for a drive next year. Ogier is a champion, Latvala and Mikkelsen are proven winners. They are going to be wanted. But by who? And as a knock on, who will potentially lose their seat to these guys? Will there be a shake-up in the Toyota camp – the team returns next year and it’s going to want to make a splash.
Volkswagen Motorsport – What about Skoda?
Finally, there’s the concern for Skoda Motorsport in WRC2. Does VW’s departure put Lappi, Tidemand and Kopecky on borrowed time? I’d say it does. The cost of running a WRC2 team isn’t a million miles away from that of a WRC team. But the exposure isn’t as great. Surely that spells bad things for the team? I sincerely hope not, but it’s possible. More than possible in fact.
The bottom line is that this is a huge blow for the WRC. VW’s reasoning is there, but it’s selfish. It’s going to rock the sport in a more than significant way. It’s especially painful considering the resurgence in fan interest of late – something the sport has been in desperate need of for a while. In a perfect world, the dust will settle, drivers will find teams and all can carry on as usual. Oh, and Ogier will bugger off, too.