A success story: Volkswagen in rallying

Volkswagen can look back on a successful motorsport history


By Olivier Ferret

8 December 2012 - 20:45
A success story: Volkswagen in (...)

When it lines up in the FIA World Rally Championship from 2013 onward, Volkswagen will add another chapter to its successful history in rallying. It was back in the 1970s when Volkswagen began developing rally cars based on the first generation of Golfs, and it was not long before the manufacturer had its hands on its first national rally titles, such as the one in Germany. The brand celebrated its international breakthrough with the second generation of its bestseller: Kenneth Eriksson/Peter Diekmann (S/D) won the title in the newly created Group A World Championship at the wheel of a Golf GTI 16V in 1986. The media attention repeatedly focussed on “David” in the 200-hp Golf taking on the mighty “Goliaths” of the Group B class, with their 500-hp plus prototypes. World Champion Volkswagen played a pioneering role with its productionbased Golf GTI 16V: Group A became the new pinnacle of the World Rally Championship in 1987, when the unreserved and cost-intensive Group B was abolished. Eriksson/Diekmann won the Rally Ivory Coast that year, while their fellow Volkswagen pairing of Erwin Weber/Matthias Feltz (D/D) – also in a Golf GTI 16V – also caught the eye with two podium finishes in Argentina and the Ivory Coast.

In 1989, Stig Blomqvist/Björn Cederberg (S/S) claimed another podium finish in the Golf GTI 16V at what was at the time by far the longest and most demanding event on the World Championship calendar – the iconic Safari Rally. One year later, the pairing of Weber/Feltz was back on the podium having finished third at the challenging Rally New Zealand in a Golf Rally G60.

Volkswagen enjoyed its greatest successes in motorsport after the turn of the millennium. The manufacturer’s most recent motorsport history is dominated by the era of Volkswagen on the marathon rally scene. From 2003 onward, Volkswagen concentrated the works side of its activities on outings at desert rallies, particularly the Rally Dakar, which Freddy Kottulinsky/Gerd Löffelmann (S/D) had already won in a production-based Volkswagen Iltis back in 1980. The first machine charged with bringing success to the German manufacturer was the two-wheel drive Tarek buggy, followed in 2004 by the four-wheel drive Race Touareg prototype, both of which featured innovative TDI diesel technology. Jutta Kleinschmidt/Fabrizia Pons (D/I) won the two-wheel drive class on Volkswagen’s return to the legendary marathon in 2003, finishing just ahead of their team-mates Stéphane Henrard/Bobby Willis (B/GB). From then on, Volkswagen’s success at the toughest marathon rally in the world just kept on growing in size from year to year. From 2004, the team achieved an ever-increasing number of day wins with the Race Touareg, as well as places on the overall podium from 2005 on, before completing an impressive hat-trick of titles in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Giniel de Villiers/Dirk von Zitzewitz (ZA/D), Carlos Sainz/Lucas Cruz (E/E) and Nasser Al-Attiyah/Timo Gottschalk (Q/D) were Volkswagen’s winning crews at the first three “Dakars” ever to be held in South America.

Volkswagen can also look back on a successful motorsport history on more traditional racetracks. The basis for this success is formed on the one hand by innovative one-make cups, and on the other hand by the company’s success with production-based models. For example, the Scirocco Cup was responsible for producing talented drivers like Manfred Winkelhock in the 1970s, while the Scirocco itself has also claimed class victories on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, courtesy of its innovative drive concepts.


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