VW SA launches S2000 rally cars
Not something you see every day – three fully liveried, top-class rally cars raising Cain, and a lot of dust, in a private Cape Town vineyard and nobody complaining.
It was probably the best kept secret so far this year in the motoring world: VW SA elected not only to show off the new VW Golf Cabriolet but also to surprise the assembled media by tagging on to the event the launch of the three S2000 cars and their crews entered for the 2012 SA National rally series.
VW has been running pretty much the same cars for seven years and has won six championships with them – now the automaker is looking for a seventh and reckons the fully South African-assembled Polos have the cloud to do it.
FRESH FROM UITENHAGE
VW SA’s managing director David Powels, during a breakfast function on a hill-top at the Warwick wine estate near Stellenbosch in the Western Cape, said after the dust had settled and the cars were neatly lined up and parked: “These cars are the new hope of Volkswagen on the South African rally scene.
“They were fully built at our plant in Uitenhage and assembled with lots of passion. Motorsport is in VW’s genes but it doesn’t work unless the man at the top if behind us.”
The new cars coincide with 30 years of rallying participation by VW in South Africa.
By “man at the top” he was referring to VW’s top management in Germany (and perhaps himself!) which is co-operating not only with the South African rally-car operation but has also supplied a European crew for one of the cars – made possible by the unexpected departure of SA rally icon Jannie Habig from the team a few months ago.
POLOS THE NEW PLAYERS: This is the first picture of the 2012 VW Polo S2000 rally cars - built entirely in South Africa - that will compete in the SA National rally championship.
Up-and-coming Hollander Hans Weijs and Belgian navigator Bjorn Degandt will crew car No.11. Car 4 will be handled by VW stalwarts Enzo Kuun and Guy Hodgson and No.8 by Hergen Fekken and Pierre Arries.
Mike Rowe, head of Volkswagen Motorsport in South Africa, said: “The inclusion of Hans and Bjorn in the team is part of the Volkswagen Group's young driver recruitment programme. This creates a perfect opportunity for VW Motorsport in SA to link in with the recruitment programme and help us to strengthen our relationship with Germany.”
Weijs and Degandt are not new to rallying. Weijs entered a motorsport talent-search aged 17 back in 2004 and has become one of Holland's biggest names in rallying –2008 he became the first Dutch driver to claim a World Rally championship point.
Kris Nissen, director of VW Motorsport, added: “I’m delighted that our relationship with VW SA Motorsport has enabled us not only to exchange technical expertise but also to exercise the best of our young talent - Hans and Bjorn.”
The three cars, for the first time, are not production-line vehicles that have been deconstructed and rebuilt to rally standards. Instead, they were built from scratch using bodywork and chassis produced in Uitenhage.
This new generation competition vehicle, VW says, was assembled from the same components as South African road-going Polos though each component was “tweaked and modified as required at each stage in the production process to create a purposeful and task-focused rally competitor”.
Powels said: “The cars could have been built in Europe but in fact the bodies were all made here. So, they are home-grown – but with German components.
“Motorsport is important to prove VW’s engineering and technological excellence, and reliability. It is important to our business plan and is about ‘a team’ – and a good team is needed to meet VW’s target of becoming the world’s biggest automaker by 2018.
THE HOT SEAT: Not your usual VW Polo - stripped and strengthened, this is workplace for three SA rally crews in 2012 and beyond.
“It is also important for the whole ‘team’ – the whole organisation – to be competitive with 60 brands and 1300 models now available in South Africa. Motorsport is vital in such an environment.”
The Polo S2000 is assembled piece by piece, starting from the floor, then welded and bolted together to create the finished product. Under the skin is a non-turbo, two-litre, four-cylinder engine. The 97kg aluminium-block engine drives all four wheels, as per S2000 regulations, and is mated with a Sadev 4/45 gearbox.
The engine is capable of 250Nm at 7200 rpm and drive is through a six-speed sequential gearbox fitted with Powershift to, VW said, “make the Polo S2000 capture the imagination of rally fans as its gear-change ‘gun-shot’ will ensure it has one of the most distinctive sounds on the National rally scene.
The cabin electronics are completely different to those of the preceding cars. The new EFI systems are mated to 2D-supplied new generation electronics and a power module which manages all of the current flow in the car. The wiring harnesses are made to aircraft specification and tolerances and are down to 1mm throughout.
So, VW says, the 2012 Polo S2000 rally car is not an evolution of its predecessor, the Polo Vivo S2000. “It is a new beginning making use of the latest techniques and race technologies to continue the legacy started by the original.”
We wish the cars (and their crews) the best of luck...
And the “old” cars? Nope, says Mike Rowe, they haven’t been sent to the scrap heap; instead, they will compete in a new class, the S2000 Challenge, created to enable privateers to rally in a highly competitive environment.
“There is one BP Volkswagen Polo Vivo entry and two private cars for the class this year. These are all previous generation Volkswagen Polo Vivo S2000 rally cars – proven championship winners which are well-tested and reliable on the National rally scene.”