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Track test VW Polo WRC: zero at 100 in 90 meters

Bodo Kräling
Track test VW Polo R WRC
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E hra-Lessien serves as a testing ground for the world champion car in the World Rally Championship, the Polo WRC. The handling track is reserved for the Wolfsburg small four-wheel drive on this day. But the almost 400-meter-long straight on the otherwise angled course is enough to fully enjoy the rocket-like acceleration of the compact rally car.

Rocket launch in the VW Polo WRC

Those who want to get off the start quickly , first of all has to inform the Polo WRC that it's about the sausage. VW test driver Dieter Depping, the German rally champion from 1994, 1996 and 1997, explains from the passenger seat which steps are necessary.

  1. Set the motor mapping to level 3, 4 or 5 with the rotary knob on the steering wheel . This is how the ALS (anti-lag system) is activated. The 1600 turbo then converts accelerator commands into propulsion with absolutely no delay, because the turbocharger always provides full boost pressure in ALS mode. The digital tachometer still shows 2,000 revolutions. But the sound now has a dull, rumbling timbre.
  2. Depress the clutch and engage first gear. The transmission acknowledges this with an enterprising clatter.
  3. Turn the 'Rev-Limiter' rotary head on the left steering wheel spoke until the number 6,000 appears in the display.
  4. Pull the handbrake.
  5. Full throttle! The engine howls and chatters at 6,000 revolutions at the limiter.
  6. Let the clutch click. And don't forget: let go of the handbrake!

The dragster spectacle can begin: the 1,600 cc turbo engine roars with all its might. Despite the hard-tuned asphalt chassis, the rear bends a bit. For a few moments all four wheels spin on the damp slope. Then the Polo WRC storms off like a rocket-propelled Usain Bolt.

The gears of the extremely tight six-speed gearbox have to be reloaded practically every tenths of a second. The gear steps are only 600 to 800 revolutions. No problem, because upshifts are made under full load, without the clutch.

The gears slip precisely. The gear lever, however, demands determined gripping. If you ignore this, you risk tooth loss. The latest possible switching time is easy to see. At around 8,000 revolutions, the display on top of the steering column turns blood red.

315 hp at 1,200Kilos curb weight

'The Polo takes 3.9 seconds from zero to one hundred', says engine manager Donatus Wichelhaus. 'He only needs 90 meters for that.' But the Polo WRC is also making impressive progress beyond the country road limits. In any case, faster than one would expect given the data - 315 hp at 1,200 kilos curb weight. Around four kilos per horsepower - that's comparable to a Porsche 911S.

But in terms of longitudinal dynamics, there is hardly anything left to be desired. Of course, it has to be said that the Polo engine could easily do twice as much if an air restrictor with a 33 millimeter diameter wouldn't rob most of the air it breathes. Additional throttling for the direct injection engine: the regulations limit the boost pressure to 2.5 bar.

Sixth gear is also used on the straight. Not completely turned out, because the polo debutant behind the suede flounce suddenly suffers from a hare-footed throttle in view of a small curve and the greasy slope. So there are only around 160 km /h at the braking point. Braking hard before the 90-degree left turn.

Oha, almost too late. The front wheels lock briefly. So: reduce the pedal pressure a little. At the same time, quickly downshift into second gear. Because it works without a clutch, you can brake with your left foot. Very convenient. Okay, the pace is right. Well, not quite. A little too fast. The Polo pushes easily over the front wheels.

Ogier with special driving technique

VW test driver Dieter Depping on the The passenger seat doesn't show that he thinks this way of cornering is mediocre at best. He says nothing. The three-time German rally champion is a real gentleman in the horsepower industry. He later explains the driving style of world champion Ogier: 'Just before entering the corner, Seb tugs the handbrake very lightly, only very briefly. This brings the rear end in the desired direction. And he can accelerate again very early.'

The guest at the Polo WRC is comforted by the knowledge that even a talent of the century like Ogier needed a little more than half an hour in his early days to learn such tricks - and to reproduce them flawlessly even on the narrowest of slopes. Especially since the current generation of world rally cars has to get by with simple, almost archaic technology when it comes to all-wheel drive by order of the rule-makers of the FIA. Only mechanical differentials are permitted on the front and rear axles, and a center differential is even categorically prohibited.

The rigid through-drive naturally results in severe understeer, especially in tight corners, unless the driver resolutely counteracts it. A few years ago, the 4WD systems of the World Rally Cars were electro-hydraulically controlled. Back then you could practically get onRealize any desired driving behavior at the push of a button. Seen in this way, driving fast in a WRC has now become significantly more demanding.

VW Polo WRC optically a power cube

However, the new generation of World Rally Cars scores in terms of appearance. Regardless of whether Fiesta, DS3 or Polo: The WRC outfit turns the good basic models into real boom. Mighty widening, greedy cooling air gaps and tightly filled wheel arches - no question about it, the compact Polo power cube looks great.

Because of his insatiable hunger for victory and the ruthlessness with which he fought his opponents, the racing cyclist earned himself Eddy Merckx once nicknamed 'The Cannibal'. This honorary title would also fit perfectly with Sébastien Ogier and his world champion work machine, the Polo WRC. Ten wins in 13 World Cup appearances (nine of which by Ogier) and both world titles. You can hardly achieve more - especially not in a debut season. For the Citroën squad, so spoiled for success, last five consecutive brand world champions, only the crumbs that fell from the table at the big VW feast remained.

Volkswagen Motorsport made a real rocket start in the 2013 World Cup. And if not everything is wrong, it was at the same time the initial spark for a new era in the world championship: VW's dominance in the rally world. It could last a long time.


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