Jetta Rally car seems an unlikely basis for a competitive rally car. But in the late 1980s, VW’s motorsport engineers managed to morph the affordable front-wheel drive family car into a potent rallycross and Group A rally contender.
This unique racing Jetta combined an advanced all-wheel drive powertrain, customized suspension, and weight reduction regimen showing the stodgy model’s hidden potential. Let’s explore this odd yet effective motorsport creation.
Pikes Peak Inspiration
Inspiration for pushing the Jetta’s performance limits came from VW’s prolific record-breaking achievements at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb in the 1980s. To set new best times up the mountain, VW’s rally team devised extreme horsepower and traction upgrades for the Golf platform.
In 1987, engineers transplanted this cutting-edge all-wheel drive technology and turbocharged inline-5 cylinder making over 600 horsepower into an unlikely test bed – the humble Jetta coupe – creating the Rallye Concept Jetta. Despite just two doors and front-drive origins, this one-off Jetta proved insanely quick up Pikes Peak.
Spawning a Jetta Rally Car
Looking to build on the Pike’s Peak Jetta’s success, VW Motorsports saw rallycross and Group A rally racing potential. They developed a new series production-based Jetta GT coupe model integrating key competition components into a turnkey package.
The new Jetta GT rally car retained the potent turbo 5-cylinder now making over 220 horsepower. All-wheel drive traction and locking differentials improved grip on loose surfaces while racing suspension, brakes, and stripped interior shed weight. VW now had a legitimate rally Jetta ready for national and international events.
Rallycross and Rally Success
The early results proved promising from 1989 onward, as rallycross driver Franz Wurz raced the Jetta GT to several wins over more established European makes. In German national rallies, the Jetta also fared well thanks to tireless refinement by VW’s engineers.
On the Acropolis Rally in Greece, Franz Wittmann piloted a Jetta GT to an impressive overall podium in the Group A era, defeating legendary Lancias and Mazdas. VW’s rally Jetta demonstrated versatility beyond its affordable family car marketing.
Jetta Rally Car Laying the Foundation for the Corrado
By 1991, VW ended the Jetta GT rally program to focus engineering might on the upcoming Corrado sports coupe. But the Jetta GT’s progress aided the all-wheel drive Corrado’s development as VW’s new rally weapon for the early 1990s before the brand withdrew from the WRC.
The one-off project remained influential even if the seriously quick Rallye Concept Jetta’s madness never reached production. Unlocking the Jetta’s hidden potential previewed just how far VW could push its mainstream sedans.
Engineers certainly proved ordinary Jettas were capable of the extraordinary in the right hands. This moonshot mindset persists in performance variants like today’s Golf R high-output hatchback. For VW engineers, no model lacks hidden motorsports possibilities when fully optimized.