With Volkswagen leaving the WRC there is a lot up in the air. Where will the drivers go? Will sponsors jump ship too? Could this spell the end of WRC?
I admit, that was clickbaity, but keep with me. Dieselgate has already claimed the Endurance racing program and now has caused the end of VW’s wildly successful WRC program. With VW being the Manufactures champion along with employing the championship driver the last 4 years there will be huge gaps to fill. Red Bull’s GRC Beetle seems to be still be getting the go ahead, for now...
VW came to WRC at a time when WRC was in a dwindling state with little factory dollars and sponsorship in the mix and it seemed to ignite the race with Citroen and M-Sport. This provided a boost to the viewership and an infuse of dollars. VW has done very well since entering in 2013, winning 622 of 980 entered stages. The high ups at VW are spinning it as not a total loss since they have been so dominate.
It does seem like not all will be lost in a broader sense or VW in rally as the development of a Polo R will continue and could be spec’d in WRC II. It is a shame that we will not see that unreal 2017 VW WRC car turn stages in the hands of Ogier or Mikkelsen under the new FIA packages that allow for faster cars.
With Toyota re-entering the mix in 2017 it is possible that they could sign the big free agents of Mikkelsen, Ogier and Latvala. With the new rules of allowing three drivers per team instead of this years two it could make for some very deep teams. I would be shocked if at least one of them didn’t “Find new roads” with Toyota. Hyundai could look to fill out there lineup on both teams and push for there first manufactures championship in there awesome 2017 i20 WRC. Ogier could return to Citroen meaning him and Chris Meeke, who has had his best year to date, could be on the same team. Ogier could also call it a career on a high note and move on to something else leaving WRC with a big gap at the top. The other two drivers are anyone guess though, Mikkelson drove WRC Ford’s from ‘06-’08 so maybe M-Sport is a likely new home. Latvala, who has driven for Abu Dhabi, M-Sport and formerly VW could be anywhere!
It still too early to see how this shockwave will all play out but its safe to say its the start of a new chapter. The outlook would look bleak without new players like Toyota entering the mix but the loss of the most successful team is something it may take a while to get over. As far as the drivers go, there is likely a scramble to land these guys in full power stage already! Rally Australia will be one for the record books!
Lumpy44 is a free-lance goof writer based in the Great White North. Any questions or critics can be posted here and will be answered in order of flattery.